Title: Behind Blue Eyes
Author: D. M. Wolfenden
Genre: Gothic Horror, Vampire, Romance
My Rating: 2/5
Trigger warnings for sexual assault, abuse, and rape.
Cain was born in England in 1917, when he returned home from the war his mother was different; she had been changed by a vampire who had preyed on women.
There came a point where his mother felt there was no choice…Cain had to be turned as well.
After watching his mother die he changed his way of thinking, his way of feeding, he tried to reclaim some of his humanity for her, it was not easy as he was fueled by rage against the one that had changed her, he wanted his revenge and nothing would stop him.
After he was attacked he came across a young girl, thirteen year old Mia whose innocence was slowly being taken away from her, they needed each other, and both their lives depended on it.
The world is a very bad place for Mia and she was about to find out just how bad it could get.
This review contains major plot spoilers.
The first thing I must say about this novel is that it is in dire need of an editor. The grammatical and formatting errors throughout the text continued to pull me out of the story, forcing me to stop and read sentences several times before I could understand what was being said. Wolfenden also used British terms and slang quite frequently throughout the story, which also caused me to stop a few times (especially for terms that I didn’t know). The third person omniscient point of view was clunky and most often destroyed any sense of suspense or surprise at plot twists. It did a lot of telling the reader about what was going on, but very little showing, leaving nothing for the reader to interpret or infer on their own. Wolfenden spends a lot of time on details that I don’t really care about, especially when it comes to side characters. There were dozens of them, all given names and short histories that were explained even though they had no bearing on the plot or what was happening. When Mia ran into the hospital to search for her mother, we are given a couple of sentences describing how Sue, who works reception, is painting her nails red. It was completely needless. With so many side characters given, I often had no idea who they were, because while they were all given names, very few were given significant purpose.
On the other hand, scenes that need to be fleshed out are glossed over or skipped altogether. I would have loved to see Cain coming home to his mother and dealing with her depression. I would have also liked to have seen Cain and Helena meet and how their friendship grew. These, and many other details, were completely skipped over despite how important they were to the plot and Cain’s story. This led to me feeling little to no connection with any of the characters, especially those outside of Cain and Mia. I didn’t understand how Mia made her friends at school or what brought them together at all. Characters were often introduced and then thrown out after the chapter, having no lasting impression on the story.
Until about three-quarters of the way through the book, I was excited because I thought that this was not going to be a vampire-human romance story. Instead, I was intrigued by the relationship that Cain and Mia seemed to share, which read to me as a father-daughter relationship. With Cain having lost both his wife and child, I thought it was interesting to watch him interact with Mia and treat her like a daughter he had lost. So, when she became older and sexually viable, it was very weird and awkward watching Cain become interested in her romantically and vise versa. It felt wrong and forced. I think if Wolfenden had explored a true familial bond between rather than a romantic one, it would have really set this book apart from other vampire stories and offered a lot more to the reader that hasn’t been done and tried hundreds of times before.
While Cain seemed pretty well fleshed out, his behavior towards Mia felt downright creepy and unhealthy. He obsessed over her, constantly watched her, and his reasoning for his behavior wasn’t very sound. When he and Mia first met, it seemed hardly believable. Yes, she saved his life, but that didn’t explain why he was so completely enamored with her. Mia was supposed to be thirteen when this happened, but she read as if she were eight or ten years old. She barely reacted to the fact that there was a man covered in blood with his body half-charred in the middle of the woods, and acting way too naive for someone of her age in that situation. I also didn’t understand why she became so attached to Cain after a single day. Perhaps if she actually had been eight years old, I would have sort of understood why she felt that way, but she was a thirteen-year-old girl. It didn’t make sense.
There were a couple other plot holes that left me pulling away from the story and thinking, “Really?” I didn’t understand why Jess, Mia’s mother, didn’t care that her husband of three years called her daughter by the wrong name and never bothered to call her Mia or Salmia. When Jess dies at the end of the story, I also didn’t understand how exactly the managed to land so that the bedpost went through her, nor did I understand why she died so quickly when Cain was staked and burned alive and still managed to live for two or three days before getting blood to rejuvenate him. I guess that could be blamed on the fact that she was freshly turned, but it still seemed very inconsistent. Cain gives up his search for revenge and self-awareness inexplicably and instead devotes his life to stalking Mia wherever she goes. At the very end, Cain has a dream of Chris, another vampire, taking off Mia’s head, and then wakes up just when Chris comes to the house and is going to do that exact same thing. Is he psychic? It was established very early on that these vampires didn’t have such extraordinary abilities, so this seemed like a cheap trick to shock the reader.
My biggest problem with this story was Mia. Mia is a very flat character with little to no personality other than maybe nice and naive. Throughout the story, Mia is sexually abused. She is molested by her step-father, nearly sold as a sex slave, and then raped by Vasile. Despite all of this, the only consequences she suffers are occasional nightmares. She has no fear of intimacy or sex, which is highly common among people who have suffered just one of these events, let alone all three. The constant sexual assault became boring and old very fast, and I think replacing any of these with some other trauma would make her story a lot more interesting. She is completely reactive, doing nothing for herself and relying completely on Cain to swoop in and save her every time. When she finally decides to stand up to her abusive boyfriend and take matters into her own hand, she is beaten so badly that she’s put into a coma for five days, and then realizes that, yes, she does need Cain to continually save her. Mia is agonizingly naïve and weak throughout the story, despite all that has happened to her, trusting everyone and suspecting nothing. She also has no kind of addiction problem after recovering from her coma, despite the fact that she was smoking marijuana laced with cocaine for almost nine months.
Her entire character is completely dependent on Cain saving her and providing for her. Once he offers her the ranch, she throws out all her dreams of becoming a veterinarian. She tells him that he’s the only thing in her world that matters, and she doesn’t care if she has to give up everything to be with him. That is a huge red flag of an unhealthy relationship, especially coupled with his constant stalking of her. Once she is in a romantic relationship with Cain, she throws out all her other dreams and cares nothing for the family and friends she has left.
With all of that said, this story is not lost. Vasile was an awesome, irredeemable bad guy, and I loved it. At no point did Wolfenden try to give him a sob story or a reason for his madness. He was pure, unadulterated evil, and I was thankful to see that when so many books try to make their villains sympathetic. The novel did a good job at allowing some escapism, and I constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. Though many of them were cliché, the novel did have some interesting and good plot points in it. This story could be turned into something genuinely good, but it needs a lot of revising with both the grammatical and structural issues as well as the plot and character development. In another couple of drafts, this could be a good, interesting, dark story, but there are some major issues that need to be addressed first.