La Vida Vampire
by Nancy Haddock
Cover Artist: Aleta Rafton
Review by Sherin Nicole
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425219959
Date: 01 April 2008 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
After two hundred years buried in a sliver bound coffin, Vampire Princess Francesca Marinelli can only think about one thing: Wal-Mart shopping! Good thing they're open all night.
Francesca (pronounced fran• cess-ka) is about as far from your normal vampire as powdered sugar is from cocaine. She drinks sweet tea, surfs, drives an aqua SSR and—here's the biggy—gets nauseous at the smell of blood. Thank heaven for Starbloods' caramel macchiato synthetic or she'd be one hungry bloodsucker!
All in all Cesca just wants to live a normal afterlife. To this end she becomes a late night tour guide ¬who'll show the vamp-curious around St. Augustine, Florida's ghostly haunts. She's an instant sensation and her first tour group is almost as strange as she is. There's a pair of freaky Frenchies, gun totting aunties, a tow-headed cherub with decibel issues, a mutinous meanie and, lastly, a man so "aw shucks" country he's begging for the nickname Gomer. Gol-lee! Talk about your motley crew. Somehow Cesca survives the innuendos, threats and hidden agendas to deliver a successful first outing. Alas, an average girl afterlife is just not in the cards.
A few days later, one of her inaugural tour members turns up dead and, of course, our girl is the prime suspect. Adding heat to the mix is her introduction to Deke Saber the Vampire Killer, whose snide attitude and scintillating good looks immediately get under Cesca's skin. Further complicating things, Saber is a government agent specializing in the supernatural which makes him the natural choice of bodyguard when the Vamp Princess becomes the target of assassination attempts. Dang! What's an undead girl to do…?
I'm torn with this review. At it's best La Vida Vampire is a quirky, entertaining romp but at it's worst it's a "what if Sookie Stackhouse was a vampire" tale—complete with psychic powers—that doesn't quite reach the high notes of Charlaine Harris's heroine. Perhaps it is because of this comparison that I could not enjoy it as much as someone who has never read the Southern Vampire Mysteries might.
At times Cesca's "not your average vamp" routine comes off more contrived than compelling character trait. Yet, she did make me laugh and I cared about what happened to her. The mildly Latin flavored Saber suffered from the same problems. On the surface he should be a cool leading man but he didn't seem to have more than two dimensions. Still he made me laugh and had some nice one-liners. On the other hand, his love scene with Cesca reads like a demo for the term "two minute lover". Fizzle no sizzle.
Nancy Haddock is imaginative in her set-ups and has a humorous take on reversing vamp stereotypes. Her central mystery comes together well while keeping you guessing, yet it lacks the depth to make you truly invested in the outcome. She also chooses to include foreshadowing of books to come through secondary characters: Cosmil the wizard, Pandora the were-cat, and Triton the shape shifter, but they're inclusion is too weighty to be a teaser and too light to work as a subplot leaving you dissatisfied. Finally, the climatic scene ignores some rather obvious outs that would have put an end to the supposed danger faster than you could say "rollback savings".
See what I mean? I'm torn. I can't say you won't enjoy this new take on a vampire's tale. But, would I recommend it to a friend? Maybe. Maybe not. Let me know what you think.