Stainless by Todd Grimson has the subtitle “A Modern Romance.” I’m not sure I’d call it a romance. I would definitely call it a tale of obsessions. Both obsessive love and obsessive hate played a role in this story. And compulsion. I certainly felt compelled to finish once I’d started.

Human beings have found a surprising number of addictive substances to cure their addictions. Morphine was once thought to cure alcoholism. It was a case where the cure was just as bad as the original disease, since it replaced one addiction for another.

Stainless opens with Keith, a former junkie, describing how he was cured of his heroin addiction. A vampire bit him. Justine needed a human to take care of her house during the day, to drive her around looking for people to bite at night. In other words, Justine needed a Renfield. She picked Keith because he clearly had nothing to lose. Vampire bites are addictive, but it’s a much more functional addiction than heroin, at least if the vampire chooses it to be. It can also, of course, also be fatal.

Keith used to be lead guitar player for a hot rock bank, SMX. But just because the named sounds like “smacks” doesn’t mean he actually used to do smack. The drugs came later, after his girlfriend killed herself and her other boyfriend decided it was Keith’s fault. So he sent his goons over to break Keith’s hands. Without his music, Keith finally did descend into the drugs that everyone thought he’d been doing all along. And that’s where Justine found him. Doped up, strung out, and on the edge of suicide.

She saved him because she needed a pretty “Renfield” who wouldn’t give any more of a damn about life or death than she did. After 400 years as a vampire, Justine was nearly as strung out as Keith. But her survival instinct was a bit stronger. Being an apex predator will do that. And Justine has managed to forget a whole lot more than she remembers of her 400 years of “living.” It makes things easier.

But because Keith doesn’t care whether he lives or dies, he doesn’t pass judgements on Justine’s behavior. Slowly, these two extremely wounded creatures build a shaky bridge towards each other, based on mutual need. They need each other to have a reason to go on living. People have found love in stranger places.

Love makes everyone vulnerable. Even vampires.

And there’s a new vampire in town. Someone from Justine’s past. Who is so, so very good at exploiting vulnerabilities. Human vulnerabilities and vampire vulnerabilities. And he’s been waiting years to strike back at the vamp who made him. His time has come.

Escape Rating C+: I got sucked into this book. Pun both intended and not. The story started out slow, but once it picked up steam, I couldn’t let it go, or it didn’t let me go. The ending was inevitable, but it was the right, true and correct ending. Some stories are like that, there’s just no other way for them to go.

Stainless had to be set in LA, because the Hollywood movie myths played a part in the story. The evil vamp’s history in the shady background of Hollywood was definitely integral to the plot. But I also kept thinking that the whole “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse” concept served as a kind of meta-background in my head as I read.

As interesting as all the obsessions were, there were just a few too many points of view. Not just the action, but the actual point of view kept switching from Keith to Justine to David (the bad vampire) to different members of his minions, to the doctor who wants to use Justine’s “blood” as a healing agent, and around and around. It was too easy to get lost among the shifting POVs.

And speaking of David…the bad vamp was not just born during the Hollywood of the 1920s, he was over-the-top melodramatic like a Hollywood set from the 1920s. Or at least he was to my tastes. Yours may vary.

For more of my thoughts on Stainless, head on over to Book Lovers Inc.


ARC Review: Stainless: A Modern Romance by Todd Grimson

Format read: Uncorrected print proof provided by the publisher
Release Date: January 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 225 pages
Publisher: Schaffner Press
Formats Available: paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Schaffner Press, Barnes & Noble, Independent Publishers Group


Resurrecting a horrifying and romantic narrative that broke fresh ground for its genre, this soon to be re-released novel sets a vampire story in contemporary Los Angeles—the pleasure dome of late 1990s sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll culture. Unlike the vampires that came before her, Justine does not shun crosses, she watches horror movies on television, and she sets upon her prey in an almost apologetic way, never killing her victims but leaving them unconscious instead. She soon finds herself entwined in a very human sexual relationship with Keith, a down-on-his-luck rock guitarist whose hands have recently been mangled by a gang of drug dealers. Justine nurtures Keith out of his depression and drug addiction as he in turn becomes her lover and accomplice in her nocturnal predations. The relationship between the undead and the living is realistically and tragically portrayed as Keith acts both as Justine’s enabler and unwitting nemesis and, in this classic role reversal, ends up having to destroy the one he loves in order to save her.

My Thoughts:

This was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

Although this story was subtitled “a modern romance” I didn’t see it that way. I read it as a story about co-dependency and obsessions. Which definitely made the “modern” part of the subtitle truer than true, but kind of nixed the romantic aspects. Not that a whole lot of romantic relationships don’t have their co-dependent aspects.

But it’s the obsessions that drove the story for me. And I kind of got compelled to finish it. So maybe I got sucked into the obsessions a little bit, too.

Keith starts out as a washed up guitar player, and a heroin addict. The vampire Justine picks him up off the streets and gets him addicted to her, instead. They start out as two people who basically don’t care if they live or die.

But Keith’s problems are human problems. His ex-girlfriend committed suicide, and her other boyfriend (yes, it’s complicated) blamed him. Said other boyfriend sent his goon squad to break Keith’s hands and plant drugs in his hotel room. The broken hands ended Keith’s career as lead guitar player for a major rock band. Ending his music ended the only life he cared about.

But by making Keith an addict to whatever her vampire serum was instead of smack made Keith a functional addict. It gave him time to heal the emotional damage. Time really does heal all wounds. As Keith heals, he comes out of his comatose state of depression and starts to connect to the world again. But he’s alone most of the time with a very beautiful woman and a very dangerous secret.

As Keith connects to the world, he comes to life. Not just physical life, but emotional life. He’s young, handsome, and he needs her. Justine falls in love with her “Renfield”. Love gives her world the life and color and meaning it hasn’t had for centuries. Justine and Keith become obsessed with each other, as new lovers often do. It makes them vulnerable.

But Justine has been a vampire for 400 years. She’s survived by forgetting a lot of the things she has done. One of the things she has forgotten is that she made another vampire in LA. One that she shouldn’t. Not because it’s forbidden or because there are any rules or because vampires are even organized, but because this guy was a monster when he was human, back in the 1920s at the dawn of Hollywood.

Becoming a vampire didn’t make him much more of a monster, just a more powerful one. His obsession is Justine, the vampire who made him. He wants, no he needs to be the most powerful vampire in LA. And he wants to be sure that no one can contradict all the stories he tells. The only way that can happen is if he takes Justine out of the picture.

So when a young doctor discovers Justine’s secret, Justine is open to the idea of finding a cure for Keith’s damaged hands. And it sets the scene for her old enemy to use that vulnerability to rain destruction on them all.

Although I felt compelled to finish Stainless, there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me. The changes of point of view between Justine and Keith, the doctor Tamara and her fiancée Patrick, and the second vampire, David, and his minions, can be confusing. And there are a lot of points-of-view to follow. It’s easy to get lost. The melodramatic aspects of David’s evil did reach “over the top” proportions for me, although that’s a matter of personal taste. I might have liked the story better if David had been less of a stereotype, because one of things that made Justine interesting was that she wasn’t a stereotypical vampire.

The ending is the only ending possible. It’s inevitable and it’s exactly right.

I give Stainless three stars.

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