Friday, May 25, 2007

"The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires" by Katie Macalister

After reading the latest of the Aisling Grey series (and being severely disappointed by it), I was hoping that Katie would have found her way back to what she does best, comedic paranormal romance. Sadly, I don't think she's there yet.

The basic plot of this book, and I'm using "basic" very loosely, is that scientist Portia Harding accidentally summons a virtue, a being of the Court of Divine Blood, and receives this particular being's gift, that of control over the weather. A mysterious handsome stranger, Theo North, starts pursuing her (kidnapping her at one point), in an attempt to help her pass seven trials that she must undergo to be accepted as a virtue in said Court. Also, he's hoping that when she gets her status, she'll grant him an exculpation, so that he can become a full member of the Court. See, Theo is a nephilim, the child of an angel and a human, and as such is not allowed Court membership without a pardon, as it were.

This being a Katie book, though, that outline of plot is nowhere near enough to explain the book. During one of her trials, Portia literally fries the physical being of a demon. That results in a punishment, one that Theo accepts in her place (he is her champion, after all, which I thought was only something that happened in medieval times, but there ya go). Theo has his soul ripped from him and becomes a Dark One, therefore the title of the book. Yes, Dark Ones are vampires, but they can have their souls returned through the sacrifice of a Beloved, and yes, you guessed it, Portia just happens to fill that role as well.

Let me sum it up in a nutshell - THERE IS TOO MUCH GOING ON IN THIS BOOK! I really wish authors would remember that we want to connect to the characters and care about them. There's no way to feel that there's any danger if we don't, is there? There's no reason for us to root for them, for us to want them to fall in love, for us to want them to be happy, if we can't feel like we know them. And quite frankly, I wasn't feeling that with this book. There was too much action and not enough character development, and that action felt really, really rushed. I mean, Theo is a nephilim, then BLAM - he's a Dark One. There's a subplot about Portia not having faith, which is alluded to by a childhood in a religious cult - why not develop that more? I'd like to know what really happened to her back then to make her so skeptical of everything. Why have Portia go through all these trials and tribulations if she doesn't want the power given to her? And much to my chagrin, there wasn't much in the way of humor, either, something that I have loved about previous books by this author. Sure, there are a few funny moments, but nothing that had me laughing out loud like before.

The best way for me to explain this is the following, I think. The heroine in my favorite KM book, The Corset Diaries, is Tessa Riordan. Tessa is a full-figured, strong-willed, yet vulnerable woman. She is funny but also caring and sympathetic. I liked her, and I really could imagine that if I were to run into her somewhere, I would sit down and have a drink with her. She was written as someone that I could see myself being friends with. Portia Harding is logical, skeptical about the paranormal, and around my age. Those are the only things I have in common with her. I didn't feel much friendship towards her friend Sarah, more like the treatment of an overenthusiastic puppy. I didn't believe that she was in love with Theo. I probably would not even notice Portia on the street.

That's why this book didn't do it for me. I want to like the characters, but ultimately, I just didn't care what happened to them. If you like the wacky paranormal romance genre, you might like this better than I did. But if you want to fall in love with your characters as much as they do with each other, I'd skip this one.

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