Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"The Vampire Shrink" by Lynda Hilburn

Oh Amazon, you have seriously let me down on this one. It showed up in my "recommended for you" list, and it sounded interesting, so I bookmarked it on my Wishlist. Then I waited and waited for either the library to pick it up or my book store friend to find it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the library did pick up a book of hers - book TWO, so I kept waiting. Finally, the book store friend reminded me that some of the items on said Wishlist were well over a year old and could be obtained through the ILL system, which I finally did. I still had to wait almost a month for this to show up, so when it did, I jumped right into it.

Sadly, it was not worth the wait.

On the surface, it's an intriguing idea. Denver psychologist Kismet Knight is a scientist. She believes in quantifiable data, and is sure that her newest client, Midnight, is suffering from the usual mental problems when she shows up in the office in full Goth gear. Kismet is a bit surprised when Midnight begins talking about vampires; Midnight seems to be obsessed with the "master vampire", a man named Devereux. Kismet believes that Midnight is merely a young woman obsessed with an older man, one whom she suspects might be taking advantage of the vulnerable girl.

Much to her surprise, Kismet is visited by Devereux at her office one night. Of course he's drop-dead gorgeous, and the doctor finds herself attracted to him, while believing that he, too, falls under the mental illness umbrella of vampire delusions. However, as they talk, it becomes apparent that he is truly concerned about Midnight and wants to protect her from another vampire on the scene, Bryce. Yep, age old plot - Midnight has been flirting with Bryce in an attempt to make Devereux jealous. Midnight has several friends in the "vampire" community, and Kismet offers to counsel a few of them. She's intrigued by the mass "vampire"hysteria, but she's also looking for material for a new book.

She gets a bit more than she bargained for, though, when Midnight shows up at her office with her friend Emerald in tow. The young girl is obviously very sick, and when another "vampire" patient, Ronald, shows up for his session, Kismet insists they take Emerald to the hospital. According to the ER doctor, she's lost a lot of blood, but they believe they can stabilize her and that she'll be OK. While waiting for this news, Kismet meets FBI profiler Alan Stevens; he's come to investigate Emerald's "illness", and tells Kismet that she may be a victim of a serial killer, one that's responsible for over 30 gruesome deaths. He also tells her to watch out for the vampires, which completely throws her.

Meanwhile, Devereux keeps showing up at her office, and she finds herself starting to wonder if vampires are real. It's obvious that he's a good guy, one way or the other, but bad things are starting to happen. Is Bryce the killer? Or is Devereux putting on a good act? What about the mysterious "Brother Luther" that keeps leaving threatening messages on her machine at home? Could he be the killer? Is Kismet herself in danger?

It doesn't really sound all that bad, does it? Well, there are several problems with this book, the least of which is the writing itself. Kismet is supposed to be an educated, somewhat sophisticated woman, one who has a scientific, rational mind. But as soon as she meets Devereux, she starts to sound like an infatuated teenager. And it's not just him - the FBI agent, Alan, is also super-cute, not to mention the ER doctor, some guy she met at a conference, and her ex-boyfriend who shows up in town. I mean, really - there are no ugly men in Denver all of a sudden? She also keeps mentioning how it's been two years since she's last had sex (when the smarmy ex dumped her for an astrologist), and now her libido seems to be in overdrive. That's what I kept thinking, that she sounded like a horny teen girl, rather than a mature woman of 30-something. Sigh.

And when it comes down to the actual "romance" of the book, well, it's not very romantic. The author seems to be overly fond of using actual clinical terms for certain body parts, something not normally seen outside of erotica. Now, I'm not a prude, and I don't mind those words, but in this context I found it especially jarring. Here's a pretty good example of what I'm talking about, a scene that gives you the idea but doesn't actually contain the graphic body part language. "Walking to the bathroom reminded me, again, what happened to muscles if you didn't use them. The area between my legs was tender and sore, which was to be expected after considering the size of the object that'd been jammed in there." Yeah, that's how I would describe a romantic morning after, wouldn't you?

What's sad is that there's a small hint of what this book could have been. In one scene, an actual vampire has a session with Kismet. He's come to discuss his problem with blood, namely, that the can't stand the sight of it. He can drink it just fine, as long as he doesn't see it. During the session, they talk about the first time he had a problem with it, and of course, there's a very good underlying reason. That is what I expected from this (with a dash of romance). Think about it - it would have been like the shrink on the "Sopranos", but with vampires. What an original idea! Several books have made mention of how difficult it is for vamps to exist for hundreds of years without going mad, which totally makes sense. How cool it would have been for this book to go in that direction, rather than the multitudes that it did.

Perhaps the author herself says it best on the inside back cover of the book. After mentioning that it's her first full-length fiction piece, she says, "...like all my stories, it crosses genres. It's an urban fantasy romance w/mystery elements, sex, dark humor, and a contemporary vibe." In other words, it's trying to be all things for all readers. And quite frankly, it just doesn't work. Skip a session with book and find something else to read.


Lynda Hilburn said...

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy my book. But I appreciate you taking the time to post a review.
Best, Lynda Hilburn

Traci (aka the Bookbabe) said...

I'm sorry, too, but I appreciate you leaving the comment - means someone is reading my blog!