Review: Bloodlust & Bonnets – Emily McGovern
by Emily McGovern
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
Genres: Graphic Novel
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
From the creator of the hit webcomic My Life As a Background Slytherin comes a hilarious graphic novel pastiche of classic Romantic literature led by a trio of queer misfits—and several angry vampires.
Set in early nineteenth-century Britain, Bloodlust & Bonnets follows Lucy, an unworldly debutante who desires a life of passion and intrigue—qualities which earn her the attention of Lady Violet Travesty, the leader of a local vampire cult. But before Lucy can embark on her new life of vampiric debauchery, she finds herself unexpectedly thrown together with the flamboyant poet Lord Byron (“from books!”) and a mysterious bounty-hunter named Sham. The unlikely trio lie, flirt, fight, and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled. Both witty and slapstick, elegant and gory, Emily McGovern’s debut graphic novel pays tribute to and pokes fun at beloved romance tropes, delivering a joyous, action-packed world of friendship and adventure.
Wacky regency vampire queer shenanigans? OK, I’m in. And while this certainly delivers on all of the above, there’s not much else to it.
When Lucy – “I’m a spirited young lady flouting the gendered expectations of her time, but in a cute way!” – accidentally murders a vampire, she’s flattered to be invited into a “secret ancient immortal vampire cult” by the stylish Lady Travesty – that is, until Lord Byron (in a kilt and sporran no less) shows up, kills the vampire, and invites her to be his sidekick. Lucy can’t decide between being on a vampire hunting team with the narcissistic Lord Byron and intriguing Sham, or joining up with Lady Travesty and becoming a dashing seductive vampire in a fabulous dress (with pockets!).
First off, this is pretty hilarious. Besides the general send-up of regency tropes (there’s a ball! they go to Bath!), there’s a psychic eagle, a magical Scottish castle (named “Castle” of course), and a rich husband-murdering woman named BB, who’s probably my favorite character in the whole book. Plus, it’s a bit queer. Lucy’s bi – she kisses Lord Byron, but she’s more interested in Sham, who answers to she/her pronouns but when asked if she’s a girl or boy, answers “yes.” The art style is simple and cute and fits the tone of the book – especially the blood splatter that looked straight-out like MS Paint’s sponge brush – and the characters still manage to be expressive despite their only facial features being an eye and a unibrow.
As for the negatives, my main issue with the book was that it’s long – over 200 pages – and pretty much all of those 200 pages have a lot of text on them. The scene above – which I still think is pretty funny – is actually a mild example, as some panels were overwhelmed with text bubbles. I read an e-ARC in Adobe Digital Editions, and most panels were completely unreadable without a lot of constant zooming on my iPad, and it was only marginally better on my laptop. In addition, while part of the charm is that it’s rambling and the characters don’t stay on task (“let’s go to a ball! ooh, whiskey!”) by the time I was 100 pages in I was confused as to what the plot actually was.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but it was an overdose of wacky madcap humor for me. If that’s more your wheelhouse, I’m sure you’ll love this novel!