March 2023 Review: Johann by Grae Bryan – love it

Cover of Johann by Grae Bryan

“Johann” is another one of those M/M fantasy romances I’m reading as comfort books. And this one is even more special to me, because Johann, one of the MCs, is possibly autistic.

But first things first.

“Johann” by Grae Bryan is actually the fourth book in a series about vampires finding their fated mates. And yes, it would be better to read them in order, simply because the inside jokes are much more fun that way.

My favorite character in “Johann”

Obviously, my favorite character is Johann himself, or Jay, as he prefers to be called. Jay is an old, old vampire who hasn’t seen much of the world. He comes across as quite naive, really, but that’s because he has such a zest for living that he considers everything an adventure. And he is so clearly autistic in his mannerism and thinking that I absolutely adore him. (I’m on the spectrum myself.)

For example (this is from another book in the series, “Lucien”), Jay actually pokes a cactus, knowing it will hurt. Because the pain means, it’s real and he is truly there to feel it.

He is also mercilessly kind. He waves to everyone, human or pet. He talks to everyone and throws out compliments, again to everyone. In fact, he utterly charms Alexei, the second MC, when he adores Alexei’s eyes (hazel) and hair (multicolored).

Of course, Johann (as well as Alexei) carries deep scars from emotional abuse from the centuries he spent as a companion to an ancient vampire lady. Naturally, those scars will come to the surface during the story, and will be healing at the end.

What I really liked about “Johann”

The story is told in third person and past tense (which I prefer), from the viewpoints of the two main characters. They don’t always alter, but PoV is indicated at the beginning of each chapter. That makes it really easy to follow the story.

I also love how all the characters from the previous novels appear as side characters. You can see how their relationship has grown in the meantime. And even some other side characters poke their heads in again, which is always fun. It turns Hyde Park, the fictitious town the stories are set in (except “Lucien”) into a place that’s populated by recurring people, and that gives it a more real feel.

In particular, I love how the author uses props to indicate the characters’ moods. Jay, for example, loves the little bell on the door of the coffee shop where he works (Death by Coffee, what an awesome name!), while Alexei is grumpily annoyed by it. Oh, and Death by Coffee is a setting that sees much use in the series, as well.

The basic plot of “Johann”

Well. This is a romance novel, so of course, the couple meet, dance around each other, fall in love, face difficult obstacles and have a happy ever after.

In this case, the obstacles arise from both Jay’s and Alexei’s past, with vampires from Jay’s old, awful den causing most of the trouble. Turns out that there are agreements which Jay decided to keep secret, because he wanted to pretend he was free – for a year. And when a vampire comes to collect, things get dire quickly, with Alexei paying the price.

Even so, the story is never totally brutal or gory. This is cozy fantasy, in a way, which is why I enjoy reading it. Right now, I cannot deal with dark or too harrowing.

If you enjoyed the books by AJ Sherwood that I mentioned earlier, you’ll love Johann and the entire series. Definitely recommend!

The book is in Kindle Unlimited, you can grab it here: Johann

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About Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is an author, dreamer, and coach. She has published several short stories in English and German, as well as one novel in German. In 2013 she started self-publishing her work. In 2014, she has won two awards for her short story "Sequoia".
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