HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77613-9
Fantasy Romance, 2010 (Reissue)
This is my first TBR Review Challenge in months that saw me actually read something without being distracted by stuff one typically does while moving house. How appropriate, the theme is holiday, and hence, Christmas with a Vampire. From the copyright dates, I’m assuming that the five stories were previously published elsewhere, and hence this is another one of those anthologies quickly cobbled together by publishers to allow themselves and the authors to get some extra money come the new year.
I could be wrong, though, as this one was published during the urban fantasy bandwagon days, a stark time when everyone churns out similar stories featuring the same kind of characters in hope of making the same money as the stars of the genre in those days. Since I buy nearly everything I review, all I can say is I don’t have enough money to waste on following all those stories. Hence, me wondering by the end of this anthology whether I’m supposed to have read previous longer stories that had come before some of the stories here.
Merline Lovelace kicks off the “He Came Up at Christmas” show with A Christmas Kiss, which is bizarre because the author is trying to adopt a sassy chick-lit kind of voice here and I’m far more used to her being the more serious author of military romance and romantic suspense. It’s like seeing Grandma Edna donning a one-piece bikini in the bright of day and trying to seduce the terrified pool boy – it’s quite disconcerting. This one is about a vampire, Delilah Wentworth, who has developed a lisp due to an accident that ends up with half her face swelling up, being mistaken by the Oklahoma State Trooper Sergeant Brent Cooper as someone who is under the influence of… stuff. This one tries to be some cutesy comedy but the whole thing comes off as a flimsy excuse for the two characters to have sex, the end. Our heroine is far more interested in the hero’s hemoglobin than anything else, mind you.
Oh, and I laugh when the hero claims to believe that Delilah is a vampire after checking a few websites online. Then I remember that many of the supposedly wild conspiracy theories thrown around by Alex Jones turn out to be true in their own way, and go hmm.
Lori Devoti’s story is called The Vampire Who Stole Christmas, but unlike what the tone of the title would have me think, this one isn’t some sassy comedy. It’s about this guardian angel heroine, Aimee Polk, who spends the entire story trying to rescue a dog and later, trying to rescue our vampire hero, Dylan Hunt. Kidding, no vampire hero is going to be called something so mundane. He’s Drystan Hurst. He wants to humiliate her fiancée by getting at her, since Drystan bears a grudge against that family. Is this one part of a series? I have no idea why Aimee wants to marry a guy she spends so little time and has so little chemistry with, and it’s tedious to follow her since her entire personality is a walking savior complex with a pair big breasts. Drystan eventually starts whining melodramatically about how he is amoral, darkness, wangst, and rabbit season, and the whole thing is unintentionally hilarious. This is a good thing, mind you, because aside from her bra size, Aimee is flat, flat, flat and his emo angst offers a nice distraction from the rest of the bland story.
Linda Winstead Jones has the most coherent story, Sundown, which also feels like a standalone and complete tale in its own right. Abby is the oldest and most respected vampire in this part of Alabama, so when she lays down the law that the human clients of her bar are not to be killed, the other vampires obey. Only, a human is killed when this story opens, Abby is going to find out which POS is responsible while trying to keep Detective Leo Stryker – no, not a porn star, despite his name – from finding out too much about vampire business. This one is alright, and I love the chemistry and sexual tension between the hero and the heroine. However, the identity of the killer is a huge letdown, as this person is a tired and overused trope in fantasy. Earlier, I was hoping that the author wouldn’t make this character the villain, as it would be too obvious and even clichéd but oops, it just has to that character, sigh.
Lisa Childs presents Nothing Says Christmas Like a Vampire, and like Lori Devoti’s story, the title may suggest that this one is a sassy comedy, but it is actually something completely different. Sienna Briggs is weeping and wailing over her dead grandmother when a vampire shows up and insists that she must come along with him. Why? The usual: he has to protect her, yadda yadda yadda. Good lord, this one goes on and on and on despite having very little happening on the pages, aside from the hero being suffocating in his protectiveness and the heroine acting like the most hapless wounded dove that ever lived. Seriously, open any random page in this story and chances are, Sienna is either weeping, wailing about how hapless she is, and flailing around in weepy haplessness. This is the longest story in this anthology, and it’s also the one that resembles Chinese water torture the most.
Finally, Bonnie Vanak closes the show with Unwrapped. It’s the shortest story and it’s also the most packed. We have a werewolf heroine and a vampire hero, some back story between them, some lore about their species, some betrayal, something about love… there are just way too many things here for a story with such a limited number of pages, and I end up feeling that I need to read the longer stories in the series – whatever it is – in order to get the whole picture. This one and Linda Winstead Jones’s story are easily the most polished stories in this anthology, but this one leaves me feeling like I’ve just read a short snippet of a far longer tale.
Christmas with a Vampire isn’t a badly written anthology, and two stories save this one from being a total one-oogie material. I still won’t recommend this one, though, unless one is really desperate for a vampire fix. Save this one for the time when you need something a little nicer than a piece of coal to fill up a stocking.