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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

'Letters For Lucardo' by Noora Heikkilä

From the BLURB:

Ed Fiedler is a common man.

61 years old and employed as a scribe in a royal palace, his most regular client is Lucardo von Gishaupt, a forever-young aristocrat . . . and member of the mysterious and revered Night Court. When the eternally 33-year-old Lucardo and the aging Ed develop feelings for one another, both are forced to contend with the culture shock of a mortal man's presence among the deathless, the perilous disapproval of the sitting Lord of the Night Court, and Ed's own ever-present mortality, threatening to bring an end to their romance in the blink of an everlasting eye.

‘Letters for Lucardo’, written and illustrated by Noora Heikkilä is the first graphic novel in a planned four-part series from Iron Circus Comics.

I first heard about this book in a round-up of the best graphic novels and comic books of 2017, put out by The A.V. Club – a pop-culture website I greatly admire. I actually marked quite a few of the listed works for eventual purchase, but this one jumped out at me because it was marked as an LGBT+ vampire romance (and I do loves me some vampire and paranormal romance). So I decided to start here, and boy – am I glad I did.

However. I will say that in the condensed listicle style, A.V. Club did not warn that ‘Letters for Lucardo’ is an erotic graphic novel. They just said; “Heikkilä’s skill with expressions and body language are a little overwhelming” which I clearly brushed over (though to be fair, I could have deep-dived and found their original review which did stress the fact of ‘explicit erotica’). Because, yes, this is *explicit* erotica that I was not prepared for. I mean … I liked it. Heck, I loved the whole thing! While also blushing profusely and counting my lucky starts that I devoured this in bed with the flu and not, say, on the train during a city commute like I’d originally planned to.

Not only is this a vampire romance; it’s a vampire May-to-December, interracial, gay romance. Ed Fiedler is the 61-year-old human and scribe to Lucardo von Gishaupt (who has been 34-years-old for a few decades now) who is from an elite and mysterious society called the ‘Night Court’. The book begins with Lucardo admitting he has developed feelings for Ed over the course of a working relationship, and the book dives right into their first kiss and follows Ed’s giddy falling for the young vampire …

But as the two men fall deeper and deeper in love, Ed in particular has to deal with both the culture shock of Lucardo’s vampiric background (and the divide between their socio-economic standings), and the encroaching fact of Ed’s own frail mortality on their romance.

I loved this book. What’s really wonderful about it is how it deals with the emotional side of paranormal romance, minus action-thriller additions (which is really where most books about vampires end up existing). I mean, to a certain extent, all vampire romances are May-to-December ones. Edward was 100+ years-old when he meets 17-year-old Bella Swan, despite them both looking like teens. But in ‘Letters for Lucardo’ this fact is not taken for granted, but rather becomes a tender and heart-wrenching exploration of love surpassing all bonds.

Creator Noora Heikkilä’s author-bio at the back really hints at what this entire series is focused on, and portrays so beautifully;

She’s interested in stories about romance, creating soft spaces in rough lives, communication being an essential part of relationships and society, and the thought that nobody is too old or unskilled to start learning something new.

As to the erotic aspect … oh, boy! It’s probably up there with  ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color’ by Julie Maroh, and intensely hot. It doesn’t feel gratuitous, because it is so gorgeously harmonised with the entirety of Ed and Lucardo’s burgeoning romance and feelings for one another, but if you weren’t expecting it (like I wasn’t) I can imagine it’s a slight shock. A happy-shock, but a shock.

I also really loved the gentle fleshing out of the universe here – the alternate historical setting, in which the vampiric Night Court is a fact of life and their worship is both secretive and high-society. It does have a ‘Twilight’ Volturi feel, which I actually really appreciated because though I am a fan of those books (proudly) I will say that that whole world-building often felt like a giant missed opportunity, and I feel safer in wherever Heikkilä’s story is taking us.

Though a slim book one (of only 139-pages) this story packs a real emotional punch, and I am now so happily invested in this romance. But what’s really frustrating is – there’s nothing else quite like it. I mean – I did not know until I read ‘Letters for Lucardo’ that I needed LGBT+, interracial vampire romances in my life, STAT, but now here we are. And there truly is nothing else out there – in graphic novels, books, TV or movies – that quite fit the bill. AND – I am also having to deal with the fact that Book 2 of this planned four-part series isn’t out until second-half of 2018. I now have this void that ‘Lucardo’ left, and no way to fill it except with more of Noora Heikkilä’s overwhelming gorgeous story.


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