I received this book from the author through goodreads, and must thank her for sharing her work with myself and other members of the book junkie community. I enjoyed reading this very much, and appreciate the opportunity to share my own personal opinions.
I was intrigued by a line in her interview where she stated that she 'was not afraid to have the characters be melancholy' (paraphrased) True to the authors stated intent, Love and Lust entering the lives of her characters did not instantly fix everything that was wrong in their little worlds, lending a valuable realism to a very fantastic theme. Indeed, I was far more drawn to the work for this.
I do, however, feel as though it left me wanting. While Natsumi's statement in a Goodreads interview that "[Ophelia] lives a stagnant and boring life. She comes in to her own with the help of Casimir and Nina. We see her break free through sexual exploration and the conversations Ophelia has with the two. At the same time, we see her struggle with breaking from mental and emotional stagnation" is not false, there could have been much more in the writing to show this. As is always the peril of a novella, often times these developments in Ophelia's mental and emotional character were eclipsed by the swift forward progression of the plot. Several points of importance were presented as a single thought or sentence, downplaying the significance of their nature. Although in the erotica genre, this is often necessary to get back to the actual erotica, I include this argument because of another part of Natsumi's Goodreads interview where she states: "I've found that a lot of what's on the market right now doesn't have much character or plot development. I can't write a story without really meaty characters, because those are the types of stories that I crave. I know this is an erotica, but I probably could have classified it as something else."
As written, I do not agree with the last part of her statement, but I do not doubt that there are plenty of places where the story could have moved away from the confines of the erotic genre and been fleshed out with more development of Ophelia (i.e. How her mind works is evident in the prose, but there could be much more of why in there.) Were this to be elaborated upon and expanded into a full length novel, I am certain that Natsumi could successfully straddle the chasm between sever genres, while still delivering the things that fans of each come to expect in their books.
I loved her approach to the vampire lore. I always have loved to see new variants on old mythos and legend, and after the massive let-down of sparkly vampires who shall remain unnamed, Casimir was a welcome reprieve. Dark, forceful, vaguely evil and yet not without redeeming qualities, Natsume blends the prefect amounts of lust worthy man-meat and deadly mystery to produce a mixture of fear and wonder when considering the character. Ophelia is often swept forward by the events unfolding, but is only a helpless observer in her own life where her emotional disposition would naturally have her allow others to take the lead, and does not blindly allow herself to be steered at all times, making her depression seem very realistic. Nina is a strong contrast, full of vitality, and bleeding light into the dark setting enough to make everything more realistic.
And the steam. The Steam. The actual erotic scenes in the book play out quite nicely. Each has a different feel to it, and the emotions that the characters would be feeling given the circumstances of the plot around them all pay into the bedroom antics. Often times I find in the erotic genre, there is a story that gets put on hold while people have sex. Natsumi avoids this pitfall splendidly, with the sex being both a primal, animalistic need at times, and at others motivated by the thoughts and emotions of the characters.
Because I feel there is much room for growth, I can only give this novella a three star rating. The potential beneath the surface can clearly be seen, and with time and experience, I look forward to a bright future in Eva Natsumi's erotica career.