Book Review

Love Bites by Margaret St. George

F

Title: Love Bites
Author: Margaret St. George
Publication Info: Harlequin April 1995
ISBN: 037316582X
Genre: Paranormal

Boy, did I have high hopes when I read the cover copy and the excerpt for this book. Check out the back copy:

Trevor d’Laine’s sexy voice seduced her every night with his late-night radio talk show. So Kay Erikson couldn’t pass up the chance to be his personal assistant — despite his insistence that he was a vampire.

Vampires didn’t wear faded jeans. And they were dark and brooding, not vibrant and fun.

Not bad, huh? Vampire radio host with sexy voice and his personal assistant? Vibrant and fun? Could be pretty good. So check out the excerpt on the first page:

“I’m a happy vampire. Happier than you can guess. I like having time to read every book that ever interested me, time to visit every monument ever erected, time to sample every pleasure available to night people. I’m invulnerable to disease or accident. I’ll never age, never die. Why would I want to give that up?”

Seriously, I am, or I was, so intrigued. Even with the heroine challenging his happiness with the idea that immortality and vampirism have their downsides, I was intrigued by the possibility. A happy vampire? Pleased with his immortality, and enjoying everlasting life and youth? Bring it on! Aren’t you a bit weary of the uber-emo vampire and his mournful, angsty self? I love paranormal stories, romance or not, even if I am vampired-out. A book about a happy, giddy vampire? Please. It’s so rare. Lately I’ve found myself looking for less-angstful vampires, and haven’t found many.

I tried, for example, one of the Argeneau books, and I had to stop reading it. One, the one I picked featured a heroine with absolutely no personality, who turned into a most irritating Mary Sue at the end (she adjusts to vampirism effortlessly and faster than most, and SURPRISE she’s a NINJA! Ok, not a ninja. A martial artist. But still. No conflict + Mary Sueism + Surprise Ninja? COME ON NOW.) And two, every time the explanation of vampirism was given by one of the vampiric characters, which, if you’ve read the books, is predicated on the existence of “nanos” in the bloodstream, I had a most disturbing mental image: how DO Nanos fit in one’s capillaries? What about headphones or an attachment to play the Nano in your car? Or a case to keep it from getting scratched? What then? If your vampirism is based on millions of little iPods flying through your veins, wouldn’t that get a little painful? I love me some Macs, too. I’ve personally lusted in my heart for an iPhone, despite my unwillingness to tie myself for two years to a sub-par wireless carrier, and I’ve been a faithful Mac laptop user for years, but give my bloodstream over to Steve Jobs? I don’t think so.

And despite the presence of hippy colored iPods dancing through their bloodstream, it seemed, despite the comedy of the plot itself,  many of the vampires in that series as well take themselves entirely too seriously. Hence I was light-my-panties-on-fire excited to meet a happy vampire. Gleeful undead! Whee!

In fact, I was SO eager to get me some giddy vampire action that I was willing to spend a healthy portion of my normal limitations of belief. Here is the receipt for my purchase:

Receipt for Expenditure of Belief

No, I’m not kidding. Their quest: to seek the Crystals of Change. NOT because Trevor wants to return to mortal status, because he doesn’t — and has a marvelously sound reason for not wishing to do so. They seek the Crystals of Change because it would tip the balance of power in Trevor’s favor, as he is the current elected president of International Vampires, or IV, for short.

No, I’m not making that up.

If IV possesses the Crystals of Change, then anyone who doesn’t want to be a vampire, happy or otherwise, anymore can change back, presto crystally-like. I don’t know how it works; I didn’t read that far because once Trevor and Kay started jetting around the world questing after the Crystals of Change and staying at luxury hotels all over Europe, and Kay started putting her life on the line because she loves him, even if he won’t return to mortality for her, and they started saying “Crystals of Change” with great emo-rific earnesness, the whole damn illusion of happy vampire staked itself and crawled off into the sunrise to die in a sound of death that can best be described as “Pfft!” The minute they started Crystal of Change hunting, the emo, it was back. It was back and bigger and badder than ever. Gone was the silly air-guitar playing, the references to his ponytail, his joie de un-dead-vivre. It was emo-city, with dark, longing looks and much angst and I developed a major case of the “Oh, fuck its” and stopped reading.

It was almost like there were two books,  one featuring an off-the-wall vampire who’s the administrative head of an international unifying body of vampires (one that makes them promise not to feed on mortals) and another featuring a questing emo-riffic vampire atoning for his own immortality and seeking the power held in the mythical Crystals of Change.

And COME ON NOW. Crystals of Change?! I was so willing to toss most of my insistence on at least a moderately close parallel to reality until the hokey name kept reappearing.  What’s next, Skeksies and those loafy mammoth harmonizing creatures from The Dark Crystal? Does Kay have wings?

So needless to say, this book isn’t graded. However, even though I didn’t finish the book, I have been ruminating on the topic, and asking the types of questions I usually don’t presume to ask. Is it possible to have a character who is a vampire who isn’t maudlin, depressive, emo and angsty? Is a happy vampire possible, despite the necessary questions of immortality, bloodsucking, and the frailty of mortal existence? I don’t know. I’ve been pondering it, and maybe the idea of vampirism and an immortal life as a parasite is just too much emo to ever get over emotionally. As one character in this book says, vampires either outlive those they love, or out live the love itself.

However, I can’t give up my secret hopes for a happy, or at least mellow and positive vampire hero.

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    It’s a spoiler to say this, since the revelation that the story is talking about vampires is the punch at the end—but I published a short story in Electric Velocipede #13 that had happy vampires.  In fact, it had vampires so awesome and popular that you have to go through a ridiculously long application process to become one, because EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE THEM.

    This came directly out of the standard trope of “Make me like you!” “No, my existence is too horrible!” ::staple hand to forehead::  Me, I says, what if the response was, “Of course you want to be like me!”  What if you took angst out of the equation?

    It’s a silly story in many respects, but I had fun with it.

  2. 2
    Nifty says:

    You know, Stefan from Patty Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson is relatively mellow and doesn’t seem like a negative dude.  You could try that series.  Of course, he’s a secondary character, so that could explain his apparent lack of angst.

    I do wonder sometimes if today’s automatically offer book deals to EVERY paranormal whatever that crosses their desks.  “Vampires?  Check.  Please sign the contract on the dotted line.  If your book sells well, you can sign another contract…in blood!”  (The blood of unhappy romance readers who would LOVE to see something other than paranormal romances on the shelves.)

  3. 3
    Nifty says:

    Er…that would be “if today’s EDITORS automatically offer…”

  4. 4
    NkB says:

    No, even if you had a vampire that was happy or at least content with being vampire, The Official Rules Vampiric Noveldom state that said vampire has to be either evil, immoral, a soulless monster who will chew your face off, or all of the above.  That’s because the entire point of the vampire myth (as interpreted by the ORVN) are that there’s a price for eternal beauty and youth and it’s too high.  TOO HIGH, I TELL YOU!!!  Even by Beverly Hills standards.

    I don’t mind the emo vamps too much.  It’s the Laurell K. Hamilton-style vamps that start to get on my nerves after a while.  You know, the ones who like, “Sex!  Sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex!” all the time.  Srsly, what’s the point of even having sex if your entire race is immortal?  Do not understand that one.

  5. 5
    Susan says:

    I just finished reading Halfway to the Grave.  Bones (the main vampire) seems fairly cheerful. 

    And I have to admit – I like paranormal romance/chicks-kick-butt books.  I’m picking up the latest Kim Harrison from the library tonight – yay!  But it truly is amazing how many vampire/supernatural books are out now.

  6. 6
    Mina says:

    This month’s “Writer’s Digest” is all about the rise of the paranormal romance.

    Laurell K. Hamilton Interview:
    http://writersdigest.com/articles/interview/laurell_k_hamilton.asp

    There’s also a story (not available online) about the popularity of genre fiction. The weird part is how paranormal romance is listed as a sub-genre of SF rather than of romance.

  7. 7
    Flo says:

    I’m surprised no one saw this… Crystals of Change… come on people!  USE THOSE WARPED MINDS OF YOURS!

    *clears throat importantly*

    It is… CoC!

    COCK!  HAHA! HA! HA!

    Get it?

    ….

    Don’t hurt me!

  8. 8
    Gail Dayton says:

    (The blood of unhappy romance readers who would LOVE to see something other than paranormal romances on the shelves.)

    Someone did a very interesting non-scientific “bestseller list survey” on Romancing the blog recently: http://www.romancingtheblog.com/blog/2008/02/21/romance-pie-a-la-mode/
    on how many the various romance genres that spent time on the USA Today list. And paranormal romance (which actually does include more than just vampires) had 65 slots on the list over the 16 weeks surveyed. Romantic suspense had 67, and historical romance had a whopping 79.

    So paranormal romance isn’t the “only” thing out there. And I find it impressive, how strong historical romance is doing.

    It would be interesting to me to see how many of those paranormal bestsellers were vampire books. Especially since vampires are probably my least favorite sub-sub-genre in paranormal, though paranormal is one of my favorite subgenres.

    Just an FYI, I’m going to have a new book coming out from Tor next March (yes, that means 2009) which will probably be titled NEW BLOOD. But it’s NOT a vampire book. It’s blood magic.

  9. 9
    Flo says:

    To echo Gail (btw I just bought 2 of your books wee!) there have been more and more books with solid stories in either fantasy/sci-fi/paranormal stories taht are being sold as “romance” but really have a heavy emphasis on story.  Rather than the quick and dirty HEA.  I’m hoping it’s a trend.  As it is I’m done with vampires as main characters for a very long time.

  10. 10
    oakling says:

    I feel the same way about vampire angst crap. (And I love your receipt!) I’ve been reading the Betsy-the-queen-of-the-vampires series by MaryJanice Davidson, and it might suit your cheerful-vamp needs… the protagonist may not always love being a vampire but she’s pretty perky about it overall, and a lot of the other vampires are very vamp-positive too :)  The problem with those books is different; there’s just a lot of pacing issues, and a certain amount of telling instead of showing (possibly caused by the fact that the author is publishing like a trillion books a year now in several series)…. but worth checking out and at least better than this one!

  11. 11

    Perhaps he had one of these new cellphones that run on blood?

    Seriously, though, isn’t half the point of writing vampires the idea that it’s not reversible? Doesn’t be able to stop being a vampire whenever you want kind of remove the point? “Oh dear, we seem to be out of milk, but no matter, I’ll just zap myself with the ol’ Crystals of Change and run down to the store to get some.”

  12. 12
    handyhunter says:

    If a vampire is happy and well-adjusted (and presumably not out killing people every night, because if she or he is happy about that…), why would the character have to be a vampire at all?

    The problem I was having with vampire romances is that the vampires weren’t dark or alien enough. It’s not so much that I want more brooding and angst, but if they’re set up as these dangerous (but for the love of the hero/heroine) creatures, then imo the possibility of the vampire going darkside should be believable. But then, of course, the problem is if the character is too dark, it may not make the HEA believable.

    So I stopped reading vampire romances and started watching the Whedonverse again (where HEAs are the stuff of fantasy).

  13. 13
    Marta Acosta says:

    Well, hell, Sarah, I knew you didn’t actually read by books.  (My vampires are very self-satisfied, but they think you could be more accomplished and better dressed.)  Because otherwise you wouldn’t have given me a grade worse than a book about a UNICORN! 

    I’m having a conniption fit as we e-speak.

  14. 14

    I’m a HUGE fan of non-angsty vampires. In fact, I wrote three full books about them. General consesus from publishers? Not dark enough. Ugh. Come on, what’s funnier than dating a vampire?

    Anyway, I think Jeri Smith-Ready has a great new (not angsty) vampire book coming out any day now!!! Jeri? Are you here?

  15. 15
    Miranda says:

    Henry Fitzroy in Tanya Huff’s Blood Price books is happy in his vampirism. Also, a good Catholic boy :)

    In the books, he’s a romance writer. One of my favorite lines was his wishing his heroine to kick the hero ‘in his windswept desire’.

  16. 16
    Jennifer says:

    I think The Angst(TM) of vampire stories comes from having a mismatched pairing, with one vamp and one non-vamp. And the fact that one way or another, you’re going to have to even up the sides in order to have an HEA. (I’m guessing in this case, Mr. Happy Vamp gets made into a human and Likes It in the end. Whee.) Ergo, you need some kind of reason for there to be conflict and drama.

    That said, I find werewolf angst to be SO MUCH WORSE than vampire angst, and that’s my sore point. *growls at Richard Zeeman*

    Captcha on this one: living53

  17. 17

    I find the vampires in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series run the gambit.  There are happy vampires, moody vampires, and twin-set pastel wearing vampires.

    Now, I admit I have been a long time fan of this series and I lived in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana so culturally the whole thing is very close to me and I think I get a lot of the humor based on that cultural understanding. So I don’t know if I love them so much because they are just that good or they are just that good because I love them so much.  But! You can find happy vampires in her books.

  18. 18
    Tina says:

    I find the vampires in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series run the gambit.  There are happy vampires, moody vampires, and twin-set pastel wearing vampires.

    You beat me to it!  I was going to say that with one notable exception (and it was part of the plot, so fair enough), the vamps in Harris’s Southern Vampire series are pretty darn satisfied with being a vamp.  The weres are mighty happy (for the most part) with being were.  I can’t think of any real woe-is-me, except for the occasional “being able to read everyone’s mind really isn’t what it’s cracked up to be” from Sookie, and frankly, she’s got a point.

    It’s probably why, over all, I just really love this series.

  19. 19
    Kate Nepveu says:

    Christopher Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story is a comic and therefore fairly non-angsty story of a newly-turned vampire and the guy who loves her.

    There’s a sequel that I haven’t read.

  20. 20
    Jessica G. says:

    I’m not feeling the love for category romance.  I may just send a good one your way.  I read a ton of them, and a lot are not great, to say the least, but it’s amazing what some authors can do with strict guidelines and word counts.  As for the fad for paranormal, which I guess this pre-dated, maybe it’s not suitable for HEA category limitations.

  21. 21
    Silver James says:

    Charlaine Harris’s books are pretty light-hearted despite the ‘evil doings’. And Elvis as a spaced out vamp made me snort Diet Coke out my nose.

    I read Lynsay Sand’s “Single White Vampire” (Book 3 of the Argeneau series) first and found it entertaining. I tried to read a second in the series and gave up. It didn’t live up to the first one. (I believe Books 1 and 2 were ‘prequels’ written after SWV.)

    I wish publisher’s automatically offered contracts for books about vampires! I have to admit that I rather like more mundane vampires (I have a hero who is a college professor – honorary Ph.D because he happened to live the history he teaches) and then get into their heads – What’s it like to fall in love with someone and bury them, lifetime after lifetime? Do they finally just quit loving and/or caring because it hurts too much? *blinks* Uhm. Sorry. *returns to subject at hand*

    I’ve just started reading the Mercy Thompson books but Stefan does seem to be fairly squared away, as does Henry Fitzroy, as mentioned above (at least from what I saw of him on Blood Ties, the series based on the books on Lifetime).

  22. 22
    Aimee says:

    here’s where i checked out:

    “…time to visit every monument ever erected”

    heh heh heh.  erected.

  23. 23
    platedlizard says:

    Ironic, I’m right in the middle of reading Hirano Kohta’s Helsing, and Alucard is definitely happy with his vampirism.  Seras is fairly conflicted, but she’s just too naturally cheerful for her to angst for too long. It’s a manga, not a romance novel though. Heh.

    In Robin McKinley’s Sunshine Con isn’t what I would call angsty. He’s dark, sure, but that’s more a result of the fact that he’s so freaking alien. He seems to be fairly well adjusted to being a vampire, not happy or unhappy about it, it’s just what he is.

  24. 24
    Wry Hag says:

    To me, some literary traditions are just plain sacrosanct. 

    I’m irritated by all the vampires-integrated-into-mainstream-society books that are out there.  I’m irritated by how freakin’ pedestrian these beings have become.  (When Lugosi-as-Dracula said, “The creatures of the night, what music they make,” he wasn’t referring to bloody rock stars!  Or corporate executives or mimes or downhill skiers or urologists or Mormon politicians, ferdachrissakes.) 

    I NEED my shadow-dwellers. Skulking, brooding, menacing and mysterious—and capable of double-toothedly redefining the term sexual ecstasy.

    Their moodiness is damned understandable, too.  I’d be Queen Bitch of Ornery Mountain if I had to put up with an eternity of the shit I deal with in the course of one measly year alone.  So don’t expect them to dish up one-liners like Henny Youngman.

    Diss not the hurtin’ units that are traditional vampires.  They have their crosses to bear—so to speak—and I think they do it with great aplomb.  (Ooo, I like that word.  Haven’t had a chance to use it in a while.)

  25. 25
    Emily says:

    I’d like to recommend A. Lee Martinez’s Gil’s All Fright Diner.  It’s got a low-key romance, a balding vampire with a potbelly, a werewolf, a crazed teenager who is trying to bring the nexus of evil into the world.

    It’s a crazy, zany book and LOTS of fun.

  26. 26
    megalith says:

    Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s vamp hero is not terribly emo. The premise there is that over his thousands of years of existence Ragoczy has actually grown to be more humane than the humans who view him as a monster. It’s the vamp as the ultimate outsider throughout history.

    Her series is not for everyone, though. It’s heavy on the history and philosophizing and short on the sex and death.

  27. 27
    handyhunter says:

    In Robin McKinley’s Sunshine Con isn’t what I would call angsty. He’s dark, sure, but that’s more a result of the fact that he’s so freaking alien. He seems to be fairly well adjusted to being a vampire, not happy or unhappy about it, it’s just what he is.

    But that’s not a romance book.  I love Con and Sunshine (book and character), but their story doesn’t really follow the romance novel pattern.

    I’m irritated by how freakin’ pedestrian these beings have become.

    Yes! That’s what I was trying to say.  If they’re going to be non-bloodsucking, non-dark immortal beings, why not just make them something other than a vampire?

  28. 28
    Anonym2857 says:

    I’m a total wuss where vampires are concerned. You can blame Dark Shadows, my mom and a traumatic experience from my childhood. I try, but just can’t. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie – not even the TV show) scared the bejeebers out of me, and I was in college when that came out. So it’s pretty much a given that I am clueless about the specifics of vampires, other than the standard sleep all day, come out at night, avoid stakes and garlic, etc.  I did actually read Love Bites back in the day. And even tried to re-read it when I knew Sarah was going to do so, just to see if I would see it the same way she did.  Alas, life was just too stressful to find the courage to deal with vamps too, so I put it aside before they ever started around the world escapades.

    I wonder, though, what Maggie’s perspective was in writing this book. I mean, back in 1995, was there a big market for romantic vamp novels?  Horror, maybe, but romance?  I did a search on Byron and came up with about 35 category romances that deal with vampires – most of them either part of the short-lived Shadows line (Maggie Shayne cut her teeth so to speak in vampire books there) or the more recent ones, like from the Nocturne and Temptation lines. There are only 568 vampire books listed, and most of them are relatively recent. Other than the Barnaby Collins ~shudder~  books of the 60s and 70s, there really weren’t many vamp romances to speak of.  Back in the 90s, it looks like there were roughly 4-6 vampire romances a year – combining both mainstreams and categories. 

    Love Bites was part of a series called “Heartbeats,” with various other-worldly types of characters – angels, vampires, genies, etc.  I wonder how much any of the authors knew about the accuracies of the subjects they wrote about.  I’m guessing (but have no clue) that the authors were just writing something ‘otherworldly’ to be different and not aiming for accuracy.  Maybe the publishers were just doing a variation on the theme, like when they’d do modern day fairy tales or classics. 

    Not saying they shouldn’t have gone for accuracy… I’m just saying.  And while that one will never be a favorite of mine because I’m such a vampire wuss, Margaret St James (aka Maggie Osborne) has written some fine stories – both contemporary and historicals.

    And again, I am not saying I agree, because I don’t – I’m just throwing it out there – but I remember reading on some listserv or other a few years after this book came out where one woman was defending Love Bites as having the consummate hero because of the personal sacrifice Trevor made to be with the woman he loved.

    Uh huh.

    Diane

  29. 29
    english pixie says:

    Link in my previous comment about the cell phone that runs on blood went wrong somehow, I’m really sorry – I put my webste url into the form above and the link in the comment box but somehow the two merged to form one wrongly-directed creature. Sometimes I hate technology.

    Here’s the blood-phone link: http://www.physorg.com/news122819670.html

  30. 30
    Cat Marsters says:

    Ooh ooh, I know a non-angsty vampire!  In fact, if you look to your right, you may see an ad for it.  Amelia Elias’s Chosen has a vampire hero who’s patriarch of his clan, slays the bad guys, yada yada, and also leads hokey vampire tours around New Orleans.  He’s not unhappy about being a vampire, in fact he cracks more jokes than any other vamp I’ve read (and I’ve read lots).

    But you know, I sat and tried to run through my own vamps last night when I read this, and most of them have a few issues.  Masika in She Who Dares wasn’t angsty…but she was an assassin with a scarred face.  She wasn’t really hugs and bunnies.

    I’m also with whoever mentioned to context: in 1995, how many paranormal romances were there?  BTVS the movie had only recently been out (and flopped), there was no surfeit of Buffy/Angel/Dresden/Medium/Blood Ties/Hot Brooding Paranormal With Great Line In Snappy Comebacks on Primetime TV.

    Having said that, can I submit my own personal favourite, Spike, as a happy vampire?  He was so happy he tried to stop the world from ending so he could go on enjoying Manchester United.

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