Undead And Unwed
by MaryJanice Davidson, fantasy (2004)
Berkley, $5.99, ISBN 0-425-19485-X

It is to my understanding that this book is originally published in a shorter format by Ellora's Cave. MaryJanice Davidson has rewritten the book and expanded the book to its current longer length for Berkley. Rewriting a book is tricky, and in the case of Undead And Unwed, the start of a new vampire comedy series, the book has a "filler" feel to it, especially during the later half of the book.

Chick-lit style of first person narration techniques, vampire romance clichés used in a lighthearted manner in some attempt to poke gentle fun at vampire fiction, and lots of 'Shipper elements are fast becoming the formula for the latest "in" thing in the vampire romance genre: comedies as per the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris and tailored for romance readers by authors like Lynsay Sands and Katie MacAlister. Ms Davidson has a much more adroit sense of wit than Ms Sands and even more so than Ms MacAlister in that she doesn't rely on her heroine behaving like vapid idiots to milk the laughs from her readers. Undead And Unwed doesn't offer anything new in terms of breaking new grounds, but it's easily one of the more well-written books the vampire comedy trend has to offer. Now if only there's more substance in the story.

Our heroine Betsy Taylor dies when she's hit by a car while trying to save her useless cat. She should've gotten a dog. But she wakes up later and realizes that she isn't dead yet. So she has gotten fired earlier and nobody seems to care that she just turned thirty, and now she's an undead. Life can get worse, right? Well, it can, when she realizes that she's a vampire now and two powerful vampires want to "court" her because with her unusual abilities to stay out in the sun and her better control over her vampiric nature, she would make a lucky vampire son-of-a-gun a mighty consort should he choose to be the King of Vampires. And both Eric Sinclair and Nostro want to be king. Eric, however, is hot and sexy while poor Nostro looks like Bela Lugosi with bigger nostrils. So of course Nostro is bad and bumbling while Eric is the usual alpha hero type with a harem of swooning women at his beck and call.

The humor of this book is sharp and fun, the jokes on vampire stereotypes work very well, and for a while I am really enjoying myself. But it doesn't take long before I start to feel restless. The book doesn't seem to be going anywhere - it soon becomes nothing more than episodic chapters of Betsy's Adventures in Planet Fangoria. Ms Davidson doesn't seem to be able to vary the pattern of these episodes, to the point that these episodes follow a very noticeable pattern: the heroine encounters a situation, whines and complains in some attempt to be cool, and get down to business. Repeat and rinse. Betsy's wisecracks soon become very predictable as well to the point that she doesn't seem to much else to make her interesting. In fact, her Valley Girl way of speaking soon starts to grate on my nerves. By the second half of the book, Undead And Unwed has a clockwork feel to it. If the author has varied her pacing, the structures of her scenes, and expanded her characters' speech and behavioral pattern beyond a few fixed patterns, this book would be more enjoyable for me.

The romance is quite meager, although the book doesn't shy away from sex scenes. I find this book very mild for a former Ellora's Cave book, however - did the author tone down the love scenes? I don't mind the lack of romance here as I expect the author to take the time and explore Betsy and Eric's relationship in future books. Readers not keen on investing time and money on another series should be aware however that this book may not satisfy them if they want a fully-fleshed romance to unfold between its pages.

To be honest, I find Undead And Unwed funny at many places but it's actually quite an ordinary vampire comedy. I won't be averse to reading the next book in the series, but I do hope that the author introduces some much-needed story arc and makes some improvements that will prevent the book from faltering in pace and momentum the way Undead And Unwed did. All in all, this book is a decent start of a new series, and I hope that things will only get better from here.

Rating: 75

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