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Review: The Reluctant Vampire (The Argeneau Vampire series #15), by Lynsay Sands

TLDR recap:

Harper isn’t looking for a new life mate, having just lost his first one during her turn.  Drina knows who her life mate is, but she’s not willing to scare him away with any rash announcements or behavior.  They all have bigger problems anyway when someone starts attacking the vampires living in Port Henry.  Who is the intended target?  And has the dreaded no-fanger Leonius found them, or do they face a new threat?

***** This review is spoiler-free.  =)  Read on with confidence! *****

    • Title: The Reluctant Vamire
    • Series: The Argeneau Vampire series – book #15
    • Author: Lynsay Sands
    • Prominent Characters: Harper, Drina, Stephanie
    • Recommended reader age: 17+
    • Sexual content level: Moderate-to-heavy, somewhat explicit

Thoughts:

The Argeneau Vampire series is one that runs hot and cold for me.  Some of the books I really like a lot and would read again.  One of them I dislike enough to give a rating of 1-Stake (which, to date, I’ve never done) and the rest I think are just so-so and only worth reading once.  This book, The Reluctant Vampire, falls into that last category: I have no plans to read it again.  However, the plot and characters did have their moments and at times it was amusing, tender, suspenseful, and shocking.  I think if the setting had been different, I’d have been less conflicted about it…

Usually, I like to save my quotes for the ‘Memorable Quotes’ section below, but I think this one nicely sums up why I’m disliking this book, and the few that have come before it in the series.  “I thought I lived in goddamned Mayberry with a bunch of Aunt Beas and Andies.  Who knew Port Henry had so many homicidal nutcases running around?”  The homicidal nutcases don’t bother me (because pretty much nothing in Lynsay Sands’ stories ever resembles a truly homicidal nutcase – they’re all too prissy), but the Mayberry-like town does.  Aside from excessive use of the word “peer”, I rather enjoy some of the European and American Argeneau books, but all the ones that have been set in Port Henry have rubbed me wrong.  I read about vampires to get lost in the exotic atmosphere and experience characters I wouldn’t normally meet in real life, but the sleepy little town of Port Henry really does resemble Mayberry.  As much as I enjoyed The Andy Griffith Show when I was growing up (in a small town, mind you), I do NOT want to re-experience it as an adult, especially not in my get-away-in-an-imaginary-world free time!

Something else I’d like to point out to new readers of this series is the author’s over-use of the word “peer”.  Do a word count on “peer” in The Reluctant Vampire.  This term is used more than seventy times- that’s 7-0!!  At least once in EVERY BOOK, all of the major characters (and most of the minors) “peer” at something.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about big, bad, strong vampire men, one of the last things I envision them doing is curiously peering around corners and out of windows.  They level stares, they glare, they gaze and take in… but they do not do dainty things like peer all over the damned place!  UGH!  This really drives me batty.  After 15 books, I’ve come to associate the word “peer” with the Lynsay Sands stories, and I have to keep myself from rolling my eyes every time I see it.  Seriously.  *takes deep breath*

Ok, enough complaining about Ms. Sands’ writing quirks.  *wink*  On to the things I did enjoy!  One of the common complaints about this series  is that the later books have no driving, over-arcing plots to keep the reader invested.  This most recent binge of stories in Port Henry has come off a little flat, but looks like it might be rebounding now with the elevation of the recent threat of Leonius, and of possible new developments with edantates (vampires without fangs).  Stephanie, the immature young teenager who is viciously and forcibly turned in an earlier book, makes some definite progress in this story, and I was satisfied to see the direction Ms. Sands is taking it in.  Assuming they get the hell out of Port Henry (which probably won’t happen until after Teddy’s book, the next in the series), the Argeneau series might be able to recover some of its momentum and flash.  I reaaaally hope so.

As far as the chemistry between the primary couple, it’s intense and well-written.  At first I worried about how Harper would progress throughout the story, but he turned out to be a great character, with patience, forethought, passion, and courage.  Drina is also a satisfying character, with her fiery temper, do-anything attitude, and quirky misunderstanding of American wildlife and slang.

Memorable quotes:

On horror movies…

And while Drina had dipped into enough male mortal minds to know that the majority of them seemed to think about sex every fifth or sixth heartbeat, she was quite sure even they wouldn’t think it clever or exciting to drag a female away from the safety of the herd to indulge in a quicky when dismembered bodies of friends or partygoers were falling all around them like a Canadian winter.

Ah, the exuberance of mortal teens!

“Man oh man, that was – Man!” he yelled, reaching them, his eyes round holes of shock and awe as he eyed Harper.  He flew his hand through the air in an arc as if emulating the bottle’s trajectory.

“And you were like waaaaah.”  Mouth open, he mimicked Harper diving for the bottle, and then shook his head, and said, “Man, you kick ass.  That was freaking amazing!”

From Harper to Teddy (seriously, an elderly sherriff in the equivalent of Mayberry knows what “FM boots” are?  I don’t buy it!)…

“You know about FMs?” Harper asked with surprise over Drina’s head.


If you like The Reluctant Vampire of The Argeneau Vampire series…

If you enjoyed The Reluctant Vampire and the Argeneau Vampire series for the behavior quirks of its main characters, you might also like The Southern Vampire Chronicles (Sookie Stackhouse) series by Charlaine Harris.  Sookie has a tendency to be stuffy and prissy in her I’m-not-running-for-my-life morality moments, and there is a large cast of vampires to get to know.

If you like the Argeneau series for its large cast, you would probably also enjoy the Dark series by Christine Feehan.  The stories start to feel somewhat similar after a while (like with the Argeneau series), but they do move around and allow the reader to experience different cultures and areas of the world, and the passion between characters is generally satisfying.

Another series, with a more traditional type of vampire (the romantic kind, not the dracula-horror kind!) is Midnight Breed by Lara Adrian.  I recommend this series for lovers of the Argeneaus, because it has multiple stories dedicated to different couples, with many of them guest-starring in each others’ books, and a similar feel to the connection developed between the couples.

Final thoughts:

I Reluctantly give this book 4 Fangs.  It was a close thing, mind you, considering how much I really dislike reading about Port Henry.  If I’m going to have to suffer Mayberry personalities, at least give me the splendor of Europe or the excitement of a Romantic Times Convention.  That said, this book was a fun read and it did make me laugh at times.  It also has decent action scenes (but nothing really scintillating) and seems to be guiding the plot arc down a new, unexpected path.

If you are a fan of the Argeneau series, of course you should read this.  If you are not currently a reader of the series, then I wouldn’t start with this one (and AVOID AVOID AVOID the very first one too!!!  That’s my 1-Stake book).  If you don’t care about series and just want a fun read, crack this book and sit down for a cozy read.

Rating:
4.0 fangs: BITE IT, but beware peering villains!

Related links:

http://www.lynsaysands.net/ (The Argeneau Vampire series website)

http://www.charlaineharris.com/ (The Sookie Stackhouse series website)

http://www.christinefeehan.com/ (The Dark series website)

http://www.laraadrian.com/ (The Midnight Breed series website)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andy_Griffith_Show (The Andy Griffith Show <Mayberry> wiki page)

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Fangtastic Friday: Hot summer reads, Romantic Times awards, & Mr. Romance 2011

When the heat of summer hits (especially in the south!) and all you can think of as you pour yourself out of your car is how fast you can get into an air-conditioned building, relax & chill out with a steamy little story or four.  *grin*  Yeah yeah, I know there are TONS of great books that are probably releasing this summer that I’m not mentioning here.  Hey, I can’t read all the time – I gotta eat and sleep and work too!  =P  These are the upcoming sequels to the stories I’ve reviewed (and intend to continue reading) on this site:

  • May 3: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris – read an excerpt here
  • May 31: The Reluctant Vampire (Argeneau Vampires #15) by Lynsay Sands – read an excerpt here
  • May 31: Kiss of Snow (Changeling/Psy #10) by Nalini Singh – read an exerpt here
  • June 7: Hunt the Moon (Cassie Palmer #5) by Karen Chance – read an excerpt here
  • June 7: Hit List (Anita Blake #20) by Laurell K. Hamilton – read an excerpt here
  • June 28th: Deeper than Midnight (Midnight Breed #9) by Lara Adrian – read an excerpt here

The famous Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention was held earlier this month, and a few of my favorite authors were honored.  Here are some of the award nominees and winners:

Career Achievement Best Author Awards (winner in bold):
  • Urban Fantasy: Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Rachel Caine, P.N. Elrod, Simon R. Green
  • Paranormal: Amanda Ashley, Rebecca York, Maggie Shayne, MaryJanice Davidson, L.A. Banks
Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Awards (winner in bold):
  • Vampire Romance: Blood Born (Linda Howard, Linda Jones), Lover Mine (J.R. Ward), Eternal Kiss of Darkness (Jeaniene Frost), Cross Your Heart (Michele Bardsley), Devoured by Darkness (Alexandra Ivy)
  • Shapeshifter Romance: Serpent Moon (C.T. Adams, Cathy Clamp), Touch of Seduction (Rhyannon Byrd), Whisper Kiss (Deborah Cooke), Play of Passion (Nalini Singh), In the Dark of Dreams (Marjorie M. Liu), Day of the Dragon (Rebecca York)
  • Paranormal Romance: Lion’s Heat (Lora Leigh), Bonds of Justice (Nalini Singh), Water Bound (Christine Feehan), Bayou Moon (Ilona Andrews), The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook), Living Nightmare (Shannon K. Butcher)
  • Paranormal Fiction: Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever (Molly Harper), Truly, Madly (Heather Webber), Undead and Unfinished (MaryJanice Davidson), My Way to Hell (Dakota Cassidy), Something Wicked (Michelle Rowen), Haunted Honeymoon (Marta Acosta)
  • Urban Fantasy Novel: Magic Bleeds (Ilona Andrews), Total Eclipse (Rachel Caine), Chosen (Jeanne C. Stein), Dust (Joan Frances Turner), Mob Rules (Cameron Haley), Double Cross (Carolyn Crane)
  • Urban Fantasy Protaganist: Archangel’s Kiss (Nalini Singh), Spider’s Bite (Jennifer Estep), Battle of the Network Zombies (Mark Henry), Death Blows (DD Barant), Stormwalker (Allyson James), Red Hot Fury (Kasey Mackenzie)
  • Scotland-Set Historical Romance: Seduced by a Rogue (Amanda Scott), Taming the Highland Bride (Lynsay Sands), The Chief (Monica McCarty), Seduced by a Highlander (Paula Quinn), The Devil Wears Plaid (Teresa Medeiros), One Night in Scotland (Karen Hawkins)

And of course, it wouldn’t be a RT convention without the annual crowning of Mr. Romance.

Here’s this year’s winner, Len Gunn…

And the rest of the hotties…

Hope you enjoyed the eye candy… see you next week!

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Review: Born to Bite (Argeneau Vampires series novel #13) by Lynsay Sands

TLDR recap:

In this 13th novel in the Argeneau vampire series, Ms. Sands wraps up the story of Nicholas from book 12 while introducing us to long-awaited-absentee-father Armand Argeneau (who has been referred to throughout the series) and solving the mystery of Armand’s three dead wives.  This book is true to the series, so if you normally enjoy the Argeneau books, you’ll probably enjoy this one too… just don’t go out of your way to read it.

  • Title: Born to Bite
  • Series: Argeneau Vampires – book #13
  • Author: Lynsay Sands
  • Prominent characters: Armand Argeneau, Eshe
  • Recommended reader age: 15+
  • Sexual content level: Light to Moderate

Premise:

Armand Argeneau has lost his last three wives, and a pregnant daughter-in-law, to suspicious circumstances.  Either someone seriously has it in for his lady loves, or Mr. Argeneau is playing a very nasty game.  Now, Armand’s son Nicholas’ life is on the line and unless the killer is found, Nick faces execution for the murder of an innocent mortal woman, which he was framed for 50 years ago.  Armand’s brother Lucian, one of the oldest immortals and a member of the ruling North American council, sends one of his Enforcers, Eshe, to investigate.

Thoughts:

This series, overall, is light and fun.  A good way to describe it might be “quaint, with a little priss” (the males are generally at least a couple hundred years old, so they’re old fashioned, and one of the author’s favorite words seems to be “peer” as in “she peered from beneath her spectacles”).  Some books are better than others though, and this one was sort of middle-of-the-road for me.

The “universe rules” for this series is fairly unique.  The closest well-known example I can compare it to is Twilight, except the “vampires” are technically still human… super-humans actually.  They descend from Atlanteans, where they used their advanced technology to create nanites that, when injected into the bloodstream, healed a person of all injuries before deactivating and passing out of the system.  An unforeseen side effect of the nanites was immortality.   Instead of deactivating when they’d healed the damage they were programmed for, the nanites stayed in the system and kept the host bodies at peak conditioning, healing even the effects of old age.  Anyone exposed to the nanites becomes permanently infected, including children of infected people.  The result is a race of “immortals” who all appear to be in their mid to late twenties and are in peak physical condition.  The cost of this perfection is blood – they have to drink several pints of blood each day to feed the nanites and keep them from eating their own internal organs for food.  Over time, they’ve evolved to possess more tools to help them hunt and feed the nanites… hence, the typical extra strength, superior vision and hearing, mind reading, and retractible fangs.

Something else unique to this world (at least as far as I know), is the concept of “life mates”.  Immortals can read the minds of most mortals and even some other immortals, particularly those that are younger or weaker.  However, rarely, the nanites in a host will identify an ideal partner for that person, and the paired immortals will be unable to read each others minds.  It leads to spectacular sex, which they pass out from for the first several months, shared dreams, and a fairytale-like relationship.   This actually makes for some interesting stories when one of the pair is a normal mortal who knows nothing about these Atlantean “vampires”, but when both partners are already immortal and know the deal, it’s a little boring.  Armand and Eshe realize they are life mates, and just fall in together without any conflict, doubts, or other hurdles that make a story interesting.  There’s drama in the plot of course, since someone is trying to kill them both, but the relationship itself falls a little flat.  I’ve found that throughout this series as well – the books I enjoy the most are the ones where one of the pair is mortal.

You might also like…

I’m still trying to find some other author or series this is similar enough to.  So far, no luck in the paranormal romance field, but Johanna Lindsey’s Malory novels are similar in the bodice-ripper category… similar humor (in the good Argeneau books – the bad ones are just bad) and familial ties.  The “vampire” part of the story sometimes plays a big part, and sometimes impacts it very little so that some of the novels are excellent and a really great read and some of them (like this one) are just kind of meh.

Memorable quotes:

From the author’s website, a perspective on life (this is a long one):

I feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland… “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late for a very important date!” Speaking of Alice in Wonderland (it’s on my mind now since the one with Johnny Depp recently came out) this quote by the Red Queen is relevant here too. “It takes all the running you can do, to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” Gosh! Just typing that made me tired. So… my first thought to this quote was, what about changing direction instead?

Here’s a great example of this. My sister Jackie (Yes, she has the same name as Vincent’s lifemate…<g>) recently took golf lessons. Now she has taken golf lessons before and has always been frustrated as no one really seemed to be able to help her improve her game. During her first lesson, the golf pro had her take a few test shots to show her form and swing and before he could say boo, she said “I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me to slow down my swing. But I’ll tell you right now that advice has never helped me. I’ve tried and tried and tried but when I slow down my swing, I get worse.” The golf pro paused and said “To make you slow down your swing would be pointless as it goes against who you are. You are the type of person that is normally late because you take on too many responsibilities. You walk, talk and drive fast so why would it be any different with your golf swing? You have a strong, fast swing (more like a man’s swing) because you want that ball to go somewhere now, not later. That’s who you are. Now all we need to work on is to make sure it goes in the right direction, consistently.” And with that, her game has improved substantially. The point here is that all these ‘pros’ kept giving her the same bad advice (you’re a woman thus you should be swinging slower… daintier) and never thought outside that box. We can try as hard as we can but if our approach is wrong then all that effort is pointless. In the end we may need to change direction to get it right.

Born to bite…

The motorcycle roared into the diner parking lot, spitting up gravel, then eased to a halt beside Armand’s pickup.  He had a moment to get a closer view of the array of lights on the machine before the engine fell silent and the rider disembarked.  The woman was tall, at least six feet, and she appeared to be all lean muscle in the black leather she wore.  She also moved with the predatory grace of a panther.

“She looks like she was born to ride,” Armand murmured, his eyes devouring her.

“More like born to bite,” Lucian muttered.

Armand glanced curiously to his brother.  ”Why so annoyed?”

Lucian’s mouth twisted with irritation, but he admitted, “I told her to make herself less conspicuous.”

Final thoughts:

If you have never read any books in this series and want some background on the characters and story line, then I highly recommend you either skip the first one (A Quick Bite), or read books 2-8 or so first, then come back for #1.  The writing for A Quick Bite is abysmal, and I nearly put it down before I was halfway through.  The author has some annoying writing habits, like using a descriptor too often or continually using the same slang noun ad nauseum instead of switching it up and keeping the dialogue fresh.  If I were friends with Ms. Sands, I’d buy her a Thesaurus for Christmas.

Here’s something fun to end with…

The title of this book, Born to Bite, is a play on the famous biker phrase “born to ride” and the personality of the heroine.  Eshe is a leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding, kick-butt Enforcer who (supposedly) has spunk and character.  I say ‘supposedly’ because she starts out with more spunk than she ends up with, and her personality seems to get lost in the overall story arc, but the intention was a fun and creative one.  =)

Rating:
3.0 fangs: BITE IT… if you are just looking for something entertaining to read.

Eh, whatever.  Read it or don’t – this one won’t change your life nor make you feel like you wasted too much of it.

Related links:

http://www.lynsaysands.net/ (Argeneau series website)
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk (Johanna Lindsey Malory book list)


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