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REVIEW: Working Stiffs Anthology

Working Stiffs

Note: This anthology is currently out of print. We recommend checking with the individual authors for story availability.

Genre: Paranormal, Romance

LGBTQ+ Category: Bi, Gay, Poly, Pan

Reviewer: Tony

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About The Book

Not all vampires are idly rich. Some of them have day jobs. Er, night jobs.

In a world struggling to come to grips with the existence of vampires, where reactions range from excitement to fear to determined disbelief, these vampires are just trying to make ends meet. Some of them do mundane work—like waiting tables or driving a cab. Others have more prestigious careers in medicine and crime prevention. But what all their jobs have in common is people. Unpredictable, interesting, frustrating, hostile, helpless, tasty people.

Whether they’re pouring drinks, answering phones, hacking into a computer system, or serving up the perfect food/wine pairing, these working stiffs are too busy to fall in love. Or are they?

This International Workers Day, celebrate by sinking your teeth into thirteen awesome stories about vampires at work. Because even the undead have to earn a living. Proceeds benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Bad Blood by Lyra Evans

  • Bad Decision by H.L Day
  • Call My Number by Megs Pritchard
  • Dial a Vamp by Roberta Blablanski
  • Fangs for the Memories by Sadie Jay
  • Fire and Ice Cold Skin by Mel Gough
  • How To Keep an Author (Alive) by AJ Sherwood
  • Graveyard Cops by Crystel Greene
  • Life Hacks by Eliott Griffen
  • Long Haul by Tanya Chris
  • Off the Menu by R.J. Sorrento
  • Overexposed by K. Evan Coles
  • Quality Assured by Edie Montreux

The Review

Working Stiffs is a collection of thirteen vampire stories with an HEA or HFN ending. All the stories have two main characters, one who is a vampire with a conscience, and one who is a human male who is about to find out what it is like to have a vampire male lover.

Most of the stories concern either the Vampire Council or the Vampire Agency for Mortal Professions (VAMP), directly or indirectly. Both organisations are supposed to protect the human population from nonconsensual blood donation or worse, and provide an environment vampires can work and live in. There is a laudable consistency in treatment of vampires across all the stories, with some variations on the themes and some telling exceptions that show how vampires may avoid being policed. Unsurprisingly, successful bad behaviour is usually carried out with humans looking the other way, particularly if money is changing hands. Nothing new there.

This is not all lovey dovey stuff by any means, although there are some beautifully described love stories, not all along the line of love at first bite. Boy, is there something to be gained from letting a vampire feed on you. Let’s just say it can be messy and memorable. 

Now to the individual stories:

‘How to Keep an Author (Alive)’ is a very sweet love story between a gorgeous caring vampire and a rather absent-minded author who likes to take his research to new heights. It is funny and charming and unexpected on a lot of levels. 

‘Long Haul’ is about finding love when all thought of anything good happening was not on either Vlad or Silver’s agenda. Both were going to just live until they came to the end of their roads. Silver’s was going to be short, as he is HIV positive and too poor to get treatment. Vlad, on the other hand, is a vampire used to the idea of a cold life getting colder still. When they are brought together, they discover other possibilities and the promise of a future together. The ending is just great, both funny and romantic.

‘Overexposed’  is a crime story concerning Noah, a crime scene photographer, and Danny, a bakery manager. Danny is a witness to a crime scene and becomes a target. Noah steps in and offers him a safe space to stay. They think they know each other, and there is an unacknowledged attraction between them. What Danny doesn’t know is that Noah is a vampire. There is also something nasty going on back at Danny’s apartment block. This is an enjoyable story, but I think Danny would have a valid reason to complain to the NYPD, and not about placing him with a vampire. The vampire thing works out just fine for both of them.

‘Dial-a-Vamp’ starts off with Wyatt taking calls as a phone sex operator. He is tired of life, or should I say eternal death. At least until Caleb, a caller with a vampire fettish, gets through. Things start to look up for Wyatt in the trouser area, until someone else breaks in on the call and things cool off for a while. Don’t worry – things definitely heat up after that. This story has a lovely erotic turn, and fun is had by all the characters involved.

‘Off the Menu’ has a new vampire sous chef at odds with a human sommelier he has to join forces with for a food tasting event. Johnny is a vampire in denial. He does not feed on humans, but there is something about Nate that may make him change his mind. Tha, or just allow himself to kill the irritating human and be done with it. Let’s just say that they come to an understanding in the best possible way, after a few false starts.

‘Fangs for the Memories’ concerns itself with the consequences of an anti-vampire religious upbringing. Rollie is one of the humans, and he lives with the memory of having staked his vampire boyfriend Alex after being brainwashed by his parents and Church. He is surprised to find Alex is not dead. Not dead for one of the undead, that is. Rollie is a changed man and supports vampire rights. Before he can pursue the chance of renewing their relationship, he needs Alex to help him save his ex-boyfriend from some less-than-friendly vampires. This is an exciting story with a bit of violence and some ghoulish humour thrown in.  

‘Call My Number’ is another call centre story, but this time it’s all about IT support. Maximus is the vampire working on the IT support desk and Ross is his frequent caller, his human, in Max’s mind. There is more going on than just IT support, as you will find out. Maybe it would be better if even more was going on and the story was to grow in size. It is fairly complete as it is though, and is an okay read.

‘Bad Blood’ is an intense story set in an emergency department at a hospital, and is centered around Alec and James, both doctors on the night shift. Alec has no choice, as he was turned into a vampire when he was in his final year of med school. He can’t work during the day, so all he can do is ER work, even though he dreamed of more. It’s not stated but I’m assuming he was not a consensual victim, but he is making do and he does get to drink the out-of-date blood. That’s not so great, as it happens. Another issue is the company – James to be clear. James comes from a wealthy background and has wanted for nothing, so why doesn’t he move on? The two constantly wind each other up until they finally confront one other and tell a few truths. There is no going back, and I’m happy for the pair of them. It’s no walk in the park, as there is a miscarriage, an issue with silver poisoning, anti-vampire sentiment, and hard-working doctors up against it all. I said this is an intense story, and it is, as well as being quite brilliant.

Silver poisoning features in ‘Graveyard Cops’ as well, as two cops try to fight the good fight during the night. Jesse is a vampire cop hiding in plain sight, and Lico is his partner. Lico does not believe in supernatural stuff, and that includes vampires, until he has no choice but to believe. An attack on Jesse means Lico has to do everything he can to save the life of the man he has been secretly carrying a torch for. There is some hot sex and some emotional coming to terms with the situation the two find themselves in – something Jesse never dreamed of, but which Lico definitely has. Not that he was dreaming of having a vampire who bottoms for him. Still, he’s not going to complain. Nor am I.

‘Quality Assured’ is another call centre story. Kellan and Derek both work for the Medicorp call centre, dealing with health issues. Kellan’s job is to make sure the employees follow procedure and don’t put others at risk.  Derek works nights, as every vampire should, and he is up for review. This is going to be a night to remember for both of them. There are obstacles for them to overcome if they are to survive, climate change being one of them. When you’re nigh on immortal, getting humans to clean up their act is an imperative. There is some fun to be had considering who is worthy of being turned.

‘Fire and Ice Cold Skin’ involves a man made homeless by a fire and a fireman who offers him a place to stay overnight. A connection is forged between them. Well the sex helps, for sure. The man, Drake, is a vampire and is gone when Ryan, the fireman, returns home after his next shift. Ryan does not want that to be it and tracks Drake to his place of work. Things are going to be difficult for them – Drake is some kind of sex worker / prostitute – but they decide to make a go of it. This story is an introduction to the pair and threatens to be continued. Probably a good idea.

‘Life Hacks’ is set in the corporate world of undercover arms deals but Josh does not realise that. His job is to protect his employer from hacking and data theft. Vin is a hacker who is bent on breaking through all the security and bringing the company down. As well as doing that, Vin wants to save Josh, who is innocent of anything underhanded, from becoming the scapegoat when things go down. Poor Josh has a lot to take on board. He works for gun runners and he is falling in love with a hacker with poor body image who happens to be a vampire. This is a tense and exciting ride with a number of secrets to be revealed.

‘Bad Decision’ is about just that, making a bad decision. The bad decision is not about deciding to give blood to a vampire, but how you choose to go about it. Liam wants to to experience the sexual high that giving blood to a vampire brings. Alessandro is the taxi driver who picks up a soaking wet Liam and takes him where he wants to go, against his better judgement. Alessandro is a vampire with a conscience, and he knows what goes on at the club Liam enters. Alessandro finds he cannot leave Liam to his fate and mounts a rescue, at no small cost to himself. This is a dark tale about the worst vampires out there – the ones who prey on humankind for their own perverse desires. It is not for the faint-hearted, but there is a light shining in the darkness and it is in the not-so-dead heart that lurks in Alessandro’s breast.

I must say that by the halfway point of this collection, I was getting a bit weary of hot vampire sex so I slowed down and took my time, interspersing the stories with some other fiction. That let me appreciate how well all these stories are written and how well the main characters are put together. I can already tell that I’ll be revisiting these stories a number of times in the future.

The Reviewer

Tony is an Englishman living amongst the Welsh and the Other Folk in the mountains of Wales. He lives with his partner of thirty-six years, four dogs, two ponies, various birds, and his bees. He is a retired lecturer and a writer of no renown but that doesn’t stop him enjoying what he used to think of as ‘sensible’ fantasy and sf. He’s surprised to find that if the story is well written and has likeable characters undergoing the trails of life, i.e. falling in love, falling out of love, having a bit of nooky (but not all the time), fending off foes, aliens and monsters, etc., he’ll be happy as a sandperson who has just offloaded a wagon of sand at the going market price. As long as there’s a story, he’s in. He aims to write fair and honest reviews. If he finds he is not the target reader he’ll move on. 

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