LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 0-505-52555-0
Paranormal Romance, 2005
On the bright side, the heroine Nell Harris isn’t a putrid bucket of stupid like the heroines of the previous books by this author. There is, however, a little boy in this story that acts like ten of the heroines of those previous books combined, so much so that Damian’s antics overshadow the already flimsy plot and turn this book into Yet Another Stupid People Story by Katie MacAlister. Sometimes it’s as if the author just has to shoot herself in her knees in one way or the other in her books.
The plot of Sex, Lies, and Vampires isn’t much. Nell travels to Prague under the instructions of her benefactor Melissande Banacek. Nell expects to translate the inscriptions of an old armor but upon her arrival, she learns that Melissande expects her to help her break a curse and rescue Melissande’s nephew Damian. Nell is a Charmer – someone who can magically ward or break curses – but she is reluctant to tap into her powers after a failed experimentation in her past led to disastrous results. In the middle of the fun, the vampire Dark One, Adrian Tomas or the Betrayer, shows up to drag Nell away from Melissande. So who is the good guy and the bad guy here? Since Adrian is the hero, I’ll let you do the tough brainwork necessary to figure that one out.
This is a very rushed book on both the parts of the author and the editor and it shows. There are many scenes in this book that go nowhere just as there are irritating overuse of the same phrases and words again and again throughout the book, as if Ms MacAlister is so struck by her perceived brilliance at coming up with some “charm school” pun that she sees fit to beat the pun to death by overuse – nothing an editor who isn’t asleep could have told the author to tighten up or polish, surely. Compounding to the slipshod writing quality is the fact that this book is very thin on plot. The plot, somewhat ironically, contains more canon than the plots of the previous two books but the author rarely skims the surface of her canon, instead having the characters running around rehashing or repeating the same things again and again like a case of some ADD folks struck with some Memento-like mental condition that causes them to have no idea that they are repeating themselves.
But that is fine. That is alright. And then Damian shows up and I can imagine why people would want him dead, gone, vaporized into particles of stinky ions, whatever, just die Damian, thanks. Good heavens, this irritating pipsqueak is surely a valid reason for infanticide. In the meantime, Nell is less annoying than she could have been, as I’ve said, while Adrian is the arrogant guy who keeps secrets just to generate conflict just like the last few heroes in this Dark One series. Strangely enough, “interchangeable” isn’t a word that Ms MacAlister overuses in this book. While Adrian being bound by service to a demon could have made him an interesting conflicted hero, the author chooses to sweep all this aside with a simplistic “Really, he didn’t mean to do bad things so he’s a good guy, wheee!” justification on Nell’s part for her loving him.
At the end of the day, Sex, Lies, and Vampires is in some ways better than the previous books in the series, what with the heroine being less irritating and the canon coming off a little more strongly than before. However, the author often focuses too much on her puns and one-liners at the expense of plot development, just like how one could concentrate too much on the trees and lose sight of the forest. While her scary fangirls will continue to plaster Amazon with ridiculous reviews insisting that Ms MacAlister’s vampires outclass Anne Rice’s, the fact is, this book isn’t going to change the fact that this book is a badly-written half-baked rushed job whose potential and promise far outweigh the actual execution of the story.