A destitute maidservant must choose whom to love: her vampire mistress or the woman trying to save her life. In the Dream House meets The Ghost Bride in a provocative tale of seduction, violence, and despair from lesbian dark fantasy author Lianyu Tan.
1927, colonial Singapore
Monsters don’t scare Gean Choo. And there are monsters aplenty among the Europeans on sultry Singapore island, all of them running away from something—or someone.
When she starts her new job as a lady’s companion, she can’t imagine falling for the impassioned, demanding mistress of Ambrosia Hall, nor the gruff, brooding woman who serves as her lady’s majordomo.
The latter holds her heart; the former, her body, blood, and loyalty.
Both want her.
Both need her.
And one of them will die for her.
The Wicked and the Willing is a standalone, F/F steamy historical gothic horror vampire novel with a love triangle, a choice of endings and no cliffhangers. This novel contains two mutually exclusive endings, although most of the story is not interactive. Due to the mature content and dark themes, it is intended for adult readers only. It contains potentially disturbing scenes and an abusive romantic relationship between two women. See https://lianyutan.com/content-warnings/ for more information.
A Note From the Publisher
Lianyu is Malaysian Chinese Australian and lives with her wife in Australia. She loves to hear from readers and you can find her as @LianyuTan on most social media platforms. Subscribe to her newsletter for free bonus content and short stories: https://go.lianyutan.com/subscribe
Highly recommended. 👌
--TJ Dallas, author of The Bartender's Pride
Dark and violent, with exquisite tension and beautiful attention to details... You won't be disappointed.
--Kathleen de Plume, author of Dragon Queens
Readers are given a choice to choose our own ending and take sides. I chose my "perfect" ending. Which would you choose?
If you like dark stories with a romantic element, I cannot recommend this book enough. It does not shy away from blood, gore, or feels.
--Megan Johnson, Goodreads
An amazing dark fantasy...
Do not expect fluffy or warm and fuzzy
Lianyu Tan will show you no mercy.
--Victoria Tsao, Goodreads
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 30 members
Historical, gothic, vampiric wlw romance set in 1920s Singapore? Fantastic!
The title and premise really intrigued me so I was so enthralled to read this. I really thought the writing was exquisite, and sad and dark as their stories are, the characters are very interesting to read about.
The tone and storyline flowed very well. It goes without saying that be prepared for adult themes and blood/gore/death.
The most surprising part I found was that I did not know that the ending was a choice before going into this! I made my original choice and then went ahead and read the other.
I really loved this one
Thank you, NetGalley and Shattered Scepter Press! Five out of five stars.
Please, *check the content warnings* on Lianyu Tan's website (https://lianyutan.com/content-warnings/#wicked) before reading this book!
This book is very well-written in how it gets to you, and truly kept me engaged throughout. Should I have read it during pre-finals week, when I have a lot of work to do? Absolutely not, I should have saved it to read later as a treat. Did I? Again, absolutely not. I kept turning the pages, wanting to know what happened next, and before I knew it, I'd reached the endings.
Each of the three main characters-- Gean Choo, Po Lam, and Verity Edevane-- are written in a distinctly different voice. Gean Choo's is more hopeful, more earnest, pliant and resilient. Po Lam's is steeped in guilt and reluctant care. Mrs. Edevane's was possessive, hungry; I felt almost an abhorrent slick in her mindset, seeing how she viewed the world and the people in it.
I also very much enjoyed the length-- it gave more time for character arcs, which felt quite natural. I also like the choice of both endings, and in the end, I'm a softie, and chose Po Lam. Gothic and painful and beautifully-written, it could not serve as any stress relief (caught up as I was), but was a fantastic distractor.
I received an ARC from the author via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own.
The last couple days have been rough, reading wise, with multiple books I thought I’d surely like not clicking. I found myself seeking something a little different, a bit bold, something that would help me channel the rage of the last couple days from the news (not to mention the ironic epic fail of my last historical romance DNF).
The Wicked and the Willing was that book for me. I’ve never read anything by Lianyu Tan before, but the premise of a sapphic horror-romance in colonial Singapore excited me. This leans heavily into Gothic vibes, even name-checking some well-known Gothic classics that clearly influenced the genesis of the story.
Structurally, it’s unique, as it allows the reader some level of choice in the outcome, mitigating one of the biggest issues with love triangles. Meanwhile, each of the prospective love interests is well-fleshed out, allowing the reader to get a full perspective of each in all their flaws. Verity is delightfully villainous, and yet, it was hard not to become invested in her character, even with all her darkness and the toxicity of her interactions with others (including both Gean Choo and Po Lam). She’s a wonderful, deliciously villainous foil to the always-redeemed Byronic heroes (vampiric and not) who magically change for the love of the innocent heroine. And Po Lam is in a similar situation as Gean Choo in serving Verity, and that provides a point of bonding for them.
Gean Choo is a naive Gothic horror/romance heroine. She doesn’t have a ton of backbone, which does make it even more ironic that the readers get to choose the ending for her, as it’s like she doesn’t have the spine to make the choice for herself. That largely made her chapters the least interesting. However, I can understand things from her position of being in servitude to someone and feeling bound to them, especially if there’s an element of psychological control due to manipulation.
This book is quite long, word count wise and page count wise, but it enraptured me from page one and didn’t let me go. It’s fast-paced and pretty much action packed.
Given the amount of sensitive content, this book is definitely not for the faint of heart. I strongly recommend checking out the author-provided content warnings here before proceeding. However, I would also say that if the book intrigues you and you enjoy sapphic horror-romance.
A dastardly dive into a darkly woven world. Three lust-laden women find themselves obsessively daydreaming about one another as they traipse about an elegant mansion with different roles to uphold. A wild ride from start to finish. I found myself rooting for the exact wrong type of creature. To say the very least, this book is quite scandalous.
"A destitute maidservant must choose whom to love: her vampire mistress or the woman trying to save her life.In the Dream House meets The Ghost Bride in a provocative tale of seduction, violence, and despair from lesbian dark fantasy author Lianyu Tan."
A dark vampire romance between three women set in the 1920s? Sign me up!
Right away I was super intrigued by the idea of a vampiric society living among humans since the beginning of time and seeing that society unfold. Tan is a master at world building while not making it the main focus of the book. The main focus being romance blossoming between the three main characters in a house of evils and constant threats.
Gean Choo is a hardworking and sacrificing young woman with a good heart and clever mind. Her narration is some of the best moments in the story and she is a delightful heroine to follow. She isn't as naive as we assume she is as proven to us by her actions. She's a dreamer but she is realistic as well. She is constantly at war with herself in regards to her dreamer's heart and her brains logic. This war rages on throughout the story and as each chapter ends we're alongside Gean Choo as she finds a new medium between the two.
Verity is the mistress of the house, a vampire exiled and hiding a mysterious past. Tan does a wonderful job of giving the reader an inside look into Verity's mind and thus her intentions and true feelings without showing her hand entirely. The readers know, if they've read the book synopsis, instantly that she isn't human and how she uses her intelligence to gain what she wants. Yet knowing this and being reminded by small details doesn't come across as boring, repetitive, or at all as if it's ruining the pace and intrigue of the plot. I think Verity is one of my favorite characters in terms of her devolving. While she's never truly as human as she wishes to present herself, she is in the beginning at least aware of her lack of humanity. She is aware of the cruelty of vampiric society and even appears to set herself apart from them by abstaining from feasting on humans too often or by keeping thralls. But as the book goes on and she settles into her own comfort and forgetting what had previously led her to the realization that she was losing her humanity, she starts to become the monster she so hypocritically raises her nose at.
Po Lam is Verity's right hand woman (though it seems to be out of circumstance than any other sense of real loyalty of love for the woman) and runs the household during the day. She is strong, reserved, and jaded. Her jadedness makes sense given her past and the state of the world and it's treatment towards poor women especially during the time. But her jadedness doesn't cover up the softness of her heart, not fully anyway. With her jadedness comes a deep understanding for others' struggles. She risks her own life for Gean Choo by trying to help her escape Verity's plans. She's aware of what that could mean for herself, but she's willing to do it anyway if that means looking out for Gean Choo even though they haven't known each other for long. Her growth was one of my favorite parts to read and I found myself rooting for her the most.
The love triangle, though I'd say it's more of a interest triangle as love is not the first emotion that pulls all the characters together, is well written. I found myself switching between Po Lam and Verity as the one for Gean Choo depending on their chapters and interactions with her which isn't something I can say for other books with love triangles. Part of the intrigue of the relationship with Verity and Gean Choo is that we know Verity isn't the healthiest person for her, it's exceptionally clear in the way she physically harms Gean Choo without second thought yet Verity wants to protect her from others and loves her in her own twisted sense. But is that love or is it possessiveness and wishful thinking on part of Verity? As time goes on the tension builds and the fear of Verity grows with you as the reader.
Verity's abuse towards Gean Choo isn't subtle but the way that Tan follows it up with what Gaen feels “could be a worse punishment” illustrates quite a telling and topical picture of how victims of abuse view the situations they placed in.
Meanwhile with Po Lam there is a clear respect and care that she feels for Gean Choo though she won't admit it. She's risked her life on a handful of occasions by sharing information that might get her killed if she upset Verity. She has shown constant concern despite her earnest that she cannot allow herself to get attached to Gean Choo.
I love the way that growth and strengthening of Verity is contrasted by Gean Choo's own withering. While Verity becomes whole once again we see the slow suffering of Gean Choo as she begins to weaken. Gean Choo might be surrounded by gifts and “admiration” of Verity however she is also losing a part of herself. She's losing the relationships she has with Po Lam and the other staff members. And as Verity becomes a worse version (or maybe the true version of herself) we see the goodness of Po Lam reveal itself more. She becomes more outwardly protective and kind to Gean Choo despite her wanting to keep her heart safe from the potential of losing her.
I immediately fell in love with the writing style. It's full of color and rich detail that enhances the reader's experience. It's familiar as well, as if the author is speaking to me directly though this is the first time I've ever read their work. Each word seems to be chosen with care, sentences painted together to create art. One of the best examples of this is in the simple descriptions of Po Lam and Verity's body warmth and language from Gean Choo's perspective. How Po Lam is always warm to the touch whereas Verity is always freezing, how Gean Choo associates those differences with their personalities. This repetition and association of warmth and cold is a beautiful juxtaposition of the character's qualities and personalities.
It happens again when Verity wishes to lay together with Gean Choo as compared to when Po Lam and Gean Choo were put into a situation where they shared a room. Verity's desire and wants are smothering Gean Choo, though she doesn't express any discomfort, and it's clearly different from Po Lam giving enough space for Gean Choo and allow for her to make any moves.
The plot, players, and prose all work well together to keep readers interested. I kept picking up the book even after I told myself I should take a break, because I was so earnest to continue where I'd left off. I would say it's a medium paced novel but there are certain areas that most definitely read as faster paced. The author does a wonderful job of building tension and suspense as I described in my prose section. That tension never truly goes away as we know that Gean Choo is always in danger even if Verity's affections seem genuine. There are threats from other vampires, from Gean's past, as well as her own emotional battles. The blend of romance and thriller is most definitely paced well.
As far as critiques (or “problems” as I call them in my review style and notes) are concerned, we are given warnings for content and triggers three times before the start of the book. This story is meant for mature audiences with some very dark themes and tropes, so judging problematic elements will be different than how I typically review other books. I honestly didn't have any critiques for this book and am giving it five stars. I enjoyed every moment of it and would whole heartily recommend this book. But please check the trigger and content warnings before you pick up this book.
As I stated in my “Problems” portion of my review one of the first aspects of this book I'd love to praise is the very clear list of trigger and content warnings given. The publishing house and author clearly care about the readers well being going into The Wicked and the Willing. I appreciated that very much and though I was aware that the stated elements were going to present it didn't diminish from the impact in the story in the slightest. I felt that the abuse, the sexual assault and the murder were all handled in a very nuanced way that never left me feeling as if Tan was throwing it into the story for the sake of it. I especially loved and appreciated the way that the trauma was discussed towards the end of the book between Po Lam and Gean Choo. This is the first romance novel I've read in recent memory that had the characters talking to each other during sex to check in on what the other's boundaries were, constantly asking for permission, and even having discussions of kinks after the fact in order to make sure the partner is comfortable. I loved seeing this so easily weaved into the scene and I think it's so important especially in dark romance!