Book Review: “Be Ours Forever” by R. C. Murphy

This is Ms. Murphy’s first book to be published in actual paper. You might think that in that case I’d go easy on her in this review. Especially since she’s not only a friend but also knows where I live. Bah! Honesty demands the truth, angry authors be damned! Besides, honest reviews will make it easier for her to get better, and since I like her writing, I want it to improve. Though I will be sleeping near a dog and checking for poison needles the next few weeks.

Be Ours Forever is a story about love, power, trust, outdated conservative political entities, telepathic group sex, sadistic monsters, nontraditional family units, and lots and lots of vampires. Seriously, there’s a whole mess of vampires in this story. The plot is kicked off by the question of whether or not the sole named human character should change and become a vampire. It’s that kind of book.

The genre is given as “Paranormal Romance”, but I kept thinking of it as “Fangbanger Porn”. An outline of the book might go: Introduction, Body Horror, Sex Scene, Torture, Torture, Torture, Sex Scene, Resolution.

Physically, the book is well-made, a large paperback the size of a hardcover that’s comfortable to hold. The binding hasn’t shown any problems yet, and I tend to be tough on those. It’s a lot shorter than I expected, only 154 pages. I read most of this story when it was being serialized on Murphy’s blog, and didn’t realize how short the chapters were in that format. Maybe paper books are just more demanding?

While I like it overall, Be Ours Forever still has some problems. I’ll start with the worst and work my way up so I can finish this on a high note. Since there’s exactly one print edition of this book I can cite page numbers to the inevitable consternation of future readers who are reading it somewhere else. Have fun working out what I’m talking about, future people!

If I were going back in time to recommend one thing for R. C. Murphy to do before publishing this book, it would be a complete re-write of the first two, maybe three chapters. Read them carefully, note down everything that happens, wait a while to let the memories fade and then write from scratch using those notes. This book starts off weak, though the good news is that first chapter is as weak as it’s going to get.

What I think happened there is that this originated as a serial on her blog, one chapter per post, often with months in between posts. I think during the time in between she was also working on other projects and generally just becoming a better writer. And it shows; early on each chapter is noticeably better-written than the last. When I was on the second page I said to myself, “She’s a much better writer than this, isn’t she?” And she really is, now. But back when she wrote those early chapters she was still honing her skills. By the third or fourth chapter you’re no longer getting yanked out of the story to figure out who’s speaking (page 21, I’m looking at you!) and can just pay attention to the plot.

An editor probably should have caught “counsel” in the place of “council” on page 67. Okay I’m just nitpicking on this one, but it made me laugh when I read it. Also highlights that our trio had no lawyer or advocate of any kind during their trial (perhaps “ordeal” would be a better word), they could have used some counsel when they dealt with the council.

R. C. Murphy has a strange tendency to refer to men and women as “males” and “females”. This may just be a pet peeve of mine, but it feels awkward, unnatural and dehumanizing. At first I thought it was deliberate, to indicate that Brenda thought of these individuals as animals or monsters, not people, but later on we have a character mournfully say that a deceased friend “was a good male. A good friend,” which was just bizarre. This usage appears in the sample excerpt from Enslaved, too, so it’s not just this book. Weird.

The preferred method for dealing with uncontrollable vampires (Page 62!) made me laugh out loud as soon as I tried to imagine it actually working. A few pages later we find that the vampires control at least a little magic, so maybe that’s how it works. How Gertrude was dealt with makes more sense.

Speaking of Gertrude, the first, and I think only, time her name is mentioned we are told that after a hundred years as a vampire only fire is certain to kill them, but later a character presumably much older than that dies of a severed spinal cord. Okay, so only fire is certain while other things still might work, but if you can reliably tell that a vamp ain’t coming back so soon after the injury then you must know enough to reliably kill them in other ways, just do whatever it is that causes that. I’m not sure that really counts as a mistake though, and it could be a sequel hook.

That segues nicely into something I both love and hate about vampire stories in general: Explaining how they work. There’s usually a point in any vampire story where someone lays out how vampires work, most often someone in the know explaining things to someone who’s just learning this for the first time. This is an important scene since vampires probably have more variation in their powers, weaknesses and general nature than any other monster in fiction. It tends to be a short, dense scene where something boring that you need to know is worked in as quickly as possible.

With perhaps a tiny exception in the third chapter, Be Ours Forever skips this dull-but-generally-necessary exposition entirely. We get Brenda’s perspective, and she doesn’t know much. We learn with her, bit by bit, a little about how vampires work, and we know very well that we don’t learn everything. This is probably the biggest advantage of the fast pace of the story, neither we nor Brenda have time to study up on things, we have to learn as we go.

The pace really is quick, too, the plot is off its leash and moving full speed almost right from the start. In the early chapters it stumbles a bit, weaving drunkenly like someone who tried to go from laying curled up in the ground to a dead run without standing up first, but finds its balance soon enough.

Although short, this book is dense. I’ve read books four or five times as long that had about the same amount of story, though generally more character development. There’s the feel of a large, interesting world that we’re only getting a tiny glimpse of, for example there’s a brief mention of a  place being hidden by a “veil” that sounds like magic, and we never hear anything more about it. The characters feel that way, too, we don’t find out much about them, but the conversations hint at interesting pasts and complex relationships. We don’t really see any of them in their comfort zones at all, it isn’t until the very last chapter that we get a glimpse of their ordinary daily lives.

I’m not generally a fan of romance stories, too often it feels forced and the entire world seems to have an unrealistic interest in the personal relationships of the main cast, as if the world revolves around them. Be Ours Forever takes this idea and runs with it, making it a plot point that people are taking such interest in their love lives and using bizarre vampire biology to justify it.

There’s a moment near the end of chapter 4 where it looks like the reason the vampire council has taken an interest in their family is the fear that they’d be embarrassingly lovey dovey. We learn more practical reasons for the Elders’ scrutiny later, but I found myself thinking that before Prop 8 made gay marriage a national issue, I’d have found it laughably unrealistic. Now, when I regularly read the words of those who professionally meddle in the family lives of others because they feel uncomfortable about them, it seems entirely believable that a hidebound group of old world monsters would act in such a way.

A common theme throughout is power. Brenda muses that for all the crazy supernatural things vampires can do, it’s the willingness to act that represents real power, and that being afraid of someone gives them power over you. It’s fitting that she should be the one to tell us this, through her narrator’s voice, because she is easily the weakest character in this book. The power of her trio consistently hinges on her, and she is the one who must find the strength to wield that power.

 

There are lots of fun sentences scattered around the book and interesting imagery. I particularly liked a character stopping to pet some torture devices on her way through a room.

Also, in the words of a celebrated poet, “The sex scenes are fucking hot.”

In the end, it’s a fun read that has some cheesy lines, most of them Nico’s, some dark moments and some sexy bits. It’s too short for anything more than moments or bits, unfortunately. And it is unfortunate, the book takes place in a transition, this is really the story of how one story ended and another began. I found myself wanting to see what happened next.

Murphy’s said a few cryptic things about a possible sequel or prequel, so maybe we’ll get to see how Brenda met Nico, or learn about Rich’s early life, or perhaps we’ll learn what happened next in their new lives. I hope so.

This isn’t high-art literature by any standards, but it’s fun and I’ve read worse that led to sequels and publishing tours and movie adaptations. I have every reason to think that this will be the weakest book R. C. Murphy ever releases. (Does she release these stories, or simply taunt them until they escape on their own?) She has a lot of imagination, a fun way with words, and a seemingly bottomless supply of interesting characters. If we can just teach her to type “women” and “men” when she’s referring to people she’ll have a subculture following in no time.

In the back of the book is a sneak peek at her next work, Enslaved, which looks like an interesting take on the incubus concept. I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by telling you that Murphy’s incubi are slaves. I’m awful curious who enslaves them and to what end, though. Or how they’re summoned, for that matter. Come to think of it, there’s a lot I’d like to know there, that was a good teaser, I guess, it has me looking forward to that book.

Be Ours Forever is $9 on Amazon. You can also buy it in ebook for two bucks. I prefer the paperback, myself. When I tried to underline passages or scribble notes in the margin of the e-book, well, things got a little awkward.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on August 1, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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