This collection will appeal to those who enjoy vampire stories and erotica -- if you're looking for straight erotica, be warned that this stuff can get pretty violent and weird. It delves a bit too much into the Goth scene at times, but still outdid collections like Hot Blood. Overall, it was an enjoyable and erotic read.
I bought this after reading the original Love in Vein anthology and was impressed once more. The stories range in how they delve into vampirism and vampires themselves and usually involve some form of erotica. While I am not normally a fan of erotica, this book and it's predecessor were both worth the money I spent on them. The authors that provided the stories in the book are varied nd show very different and distinct writing styles, some I like, some I do not but still find the stories and the ideas behind them interesting. I would give this one a 2 fangs up, but I found a couple of the stories a little substandard. However, it is still worth reading.
At first i was unsure if i would like it, because Poppy Z. Brite had only edited it and i was really looking forward to reading some more of her stuff after reading Lost Souls, Wormwood and Drawing Blood, but as i started to read it i realized that since she did edit it, that the work was very similar to hers. there were a few stories in the however that were VERY bad and i would recomend skipping them, some being "kinyo no fun"-icky. and hmmm.....the really long one something "sundering wineskins..." or something. horrible. but as a HUGE poppy fan, i was impressed overall and really look forward to the next one.
I have read some other reviews of this collection of eighteen short stories which took issue with the sub-title for this volume of "tales of Vampiric erotica". The readers pointed out that this was not really accurate as not all the tales involved vampires or were indeed erotic in content. I find such reviewers make a fair point. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think that compiler Poppy Z. Brite was brave to be eclectic in the subject matter involved in these stories - it would have been boring if she had slavishly adhered to the erotic vampire formula in choosing the tales. Before I started reading, I suspected that I would be facing a collection of stories from writers who had watched too many sexy vampire television series or listened to too many Nick Cave, The Cure or Bauhaus albums. Having said that, I found that most of the stories were not to my taste and that this collection as a whole was a disappointment.
It starts well with a Neil Gaiman story "Snow, Glass, Apples" which I could imagine being turned into a comic book. Gaiman is a poetic, stylish writer and this was well-written. However, it relied for most of its impact on turning on its head the expected fairy story and once you realised what was happening, any suspense was lost and it moved slowly towards an inevitable climax, which was rather over-egged. In this case, less would have been more. So, not perfect but still one of the better stories here and full marks for a great idea. Caitlin Kiernan's "Bela's Plot" was disappointing - as a Lugosi fan I wanted to enjoy it but felt that it never really got off the ground. "Armies of the Heart" by Christopher Fowler also promised more than it delivered. It was one of the few stories here that had real pace but the denouement did not deliver the punch the author obviously intended.
The next two stories "The Fly Room" and "Ceilings and Sky" were not pleasant reads, there was something repugnant about them and I found them neither erotic nor scary. "The Subtle Ties That Bind" was obviously intended to be erotic but left me cold and, on first reading, I found it hard to understand what it's point was. "When Memory Falls" had some good writing but again the climax (no pun intended) left a lot to be...desired. "The I of the Eye of the Worm" was very well-written and had an interesting South African setting and a dreamlike, poetic quality - it is one of those stories that I felt would be better the second time it was read. "Stigmata" had another interesting setting - the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris - and built its tension like a thriller but again disappointed with a somewhat predictable ending.
"The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins" by Brian Hodge is the best story in the book. It is the first story by the author I have read but it made me want to seek out more of his stuff. For the first time in this collection I felt I was going to learn something new. The writer skilfully tells a tale of horror, myth and religion which has its roots in the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Its subject matter is controversial, particularly for those who are religious, but it was a tale of depth that dealt with true emotions of horror, dread and guilt. "I'm Not Well, but I'm Better" by Pat Califia was a superior story, one of the best in this anthology, by turns extremely funny and bloody. The story is told from the point of view of the sexy vampiress and I found it a believable characterisation. One of the most entertaining tales on offer here. "Kingyo No Fun" was pretty revolting and no fun. The next story, "First Date" by Richard Laymon was another of my favourites and I can see why editor Poppy included it. I can say no more without giving the neat twist away but I greatly enjoyed this one. "To Have You With Me" is the kind of story that makes me want to throw a book out and as someone who enjoyed Ray Bradbury and isn't into book burning that is an unpleasant sensation to get. I accept the author may have been trying to give an insight into a particular kind of person who normally gets no sympathy but I found it repugnant. "Dusting The Flowers was, I felt, in a similar unlovely vein (!) and I also disliked it intensely. Maybe I have just had enough of serial killer stories - film and TV have done this theme to, er, death. "Bloodlight" I found pretty pointless and somewhat boring. "The Privilege of The Dead" I found to be rather pretentious and not my glass of red stuff at all.
All in all then, based on a first reading I would give this three stars. Of course if you read it you may totally disagree with me and love the stories I disliked and hate the stories I liked. I guess with stories in this vein it all comes down to a matter of....taste (cue eerie cackle and coffin lid slamming sound effect!)
I thought Love In Vein II was merely 'okay' until I read Brian Hodge's and Pat Califia's submissions. That's what made this book truly amazing. I highly recomend it, though some parts, I admit, are a little inane and repetitive. Once you get hooked, though (and I know you will!), I suggest following with Brite's collection of short stories, "Wormwood."