How to Vex a Vampire
by Alice Winters
[VRC: Vampire Related Crimes 1]
Getting into the vampire-only detective unit was the easy part; what’s going to be more difficult is dealing with my new partner, an ancient vampire who keeps threatening to eat me. The unit has never had a human in it, and Marcus—or as I like to call him, Fangy McFangface—would really prefer to keep it that way. He’s grumpy, short-tempered, and broody, but I have a way with words and I know he’s starting to like me, even if he swears he’s not. But what he doesn’t know is that I didn’t join the unit because I was tired of being a homicide detective, I joined because there is someone after me. They’ve already taken enough from me and I’m afraid they’re going to take all of me if I don’t find someone to help. That’s all Marcus was supposed to be, but now, he’s so much more and I can’t imagine my life without him.
The moment the pesky human walked through that door, I knew I had to get rid of him. He’s charming and almost everyone else instantly loves him, but he doesn’t understand how risky it is being part of this unit as a human. But as I get to know the stubborn man, I learn that perhaps he’s not as naive as I once thought. And maybe he’s what I needed to realize there is more to life than just work and my dog. A group arises who is threatening to disrupt the alliance between the humans and the vampires, but Finn is the one who shows me how strong that alliance can be and reminds me why it’s worth protecting. When threats hit closer to home, I realize I would do anything for Finn because he’s brought so much joy to my life—and because he’s mine.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Finn is… very excitable. Very excitable, and apparently incapable of taking pretty much anything seriously. He was endearingly snarky for about the first half of the book, but as things built and his snark went along at pace, it got old. There’s the subplot of his vampiric stalker to provide gravitas, but that was never satisfactorily set up; said stalker is just a bogeyman, too vague to even impart a sense of tension.
Marcus should be the opposite of excitable: a vampire who’s hundreds of years old and a high-ranking police detective. So why does he eventually start to sound exactly like Finn? (Or just juvenile. I nearly abandoned the book when he started talking about Finn being “icky”.) There were parts where it was a string of dialogue exchanges in which I had to read back and count out how many times it had switched since the speaker was last identified to figure out who said what.
The supporting characters were just as bad, like the snark was a communicable disease. Finn’s adoptive also-hundreds-of-years-old vampire father was apparently a bad example for Finn growing up, as they also sounded similar. Really, everyone sounded similar; there were no really well-defined voices. They were either snarky, argumentative, or whiny, but it was situational rather than character-driven.
I could’ve even forgiven the unrelenting snark if the character relationships had been interesting. Unfortunately, they weren’t. Even Finn and Marcus were meh; there was no sense of sexual tension between them, even while they were actively having sex. It felt almost like reading a clinical description of intercourse, wrought with dispassion. The “sexy” dialogue also left something to be desired:
“And that brooding look you get? Makes my penis rise.”
“Ooh! Unsheathe that mighty weapon from your panties, you hot hunk of man!” I cry.
I’m still not sure entirely what happened in the story. Something about drugs? That made vampires go crazy? But there were also other drugs that were the vampire equivalent of meth and heroin having a crack-addicted baby? It all seemed to wrap up in the end, but the ride to get there was lackluster and forgettable. I’m fairly certain there were loose ends, too, but I wasn’t invested enough to keep track of all of them.
I never really felt engaged by the writing, which was riddled! with! exclamation! points! and errors. (For one: hangers are for clothing, hangars are for planes.) Dialogue tags were as overenthusiastic as the snark (dialogue was being cried left and right), and I cannot overemphasize the abuse of exclamation points. It’s like there was a discount on them at the punctuation store and all sales were final.
I almost abandoned this book so many times from the halfway point on, and ended up skimming swaths of it in the end. I think I was so disappointed by it because there were parts in the first half that I enjoyed–I read some of it in public and had to stop myself from laughing out loud (hence two stars instead of one)–but those parts were overwhelmed by the relentlessly-growing issues the longer the book trudged on.
tl;dr Snark is good in moderation, but it’s no substitute for tension–romantic or otherwise.