Bibliophile reviews A Girl’s Guide to Vampires by Katie MacAlister

Year published: 2003
Genre: Paranormal romance, mystery
Setting & time: The Czech Rebublic, modern timeless

The Story:
Joy Randall doesn’t believe in the existence of vampires. Nevertheless, she humours her best friend Roxy – who does believe – and goes with her to the Czech Republic to seek them out. The vampires Roxy wants to find are the “dark ones”, tortured but not really evil vampires that best-selling author C.J. Dante writes about. These dark ones are always male, and they can be saved from eternal damnation only if they find their Beloved, human women who are their soul-mates. Almost immediately after they arrive, one of those dark ones makes mental contact with Joy, and she has recurring visions where she shares his feelings and he calls her his beloved. He has to be one of the three men who are fighting for her attention, but which one? There is gorgeous Dominic, the owner of a travelling goth fair; handsome, smart, likeable Christian, a local resident; and tall, sexy Raphael, the head of security for the fair.
When a fair employee, a woman who hated Joy for the attention she was getting from Dominic, is gruesomely murdered, Joy becomes convinced that she and one of her suitors are at the top of the police’s list of suspects, and sets out to prove their innocence.

Technique and plot:
I liked Joy, the heroine of this story, to begin with. She is written as a strong woman who doesn’t let anyone give her any shit, but unfortunately it turns out late in the story that she has a TSTL streak in her that at times makes her behave like she left her brain at home. It takes skill to write a gothic heroine who isn’t TSTL, and Katie MacAlister fails that test in this book. Joy’s inability to trust the man she loves is used to create the main conflict in the story, but the way it is written, it comes across as fatal curiosity rather than as upset feelings because he seems not to love her enough to tell her his secret. (I can see several different ways in which external factors could have created a better cause of conflict).

There are several graphic sex scenes in the story, most of them gratuitous, something I don't particularly like. It’s not that sex scenes make me squeamish, I just find them tedious when they don’t serve to advance the story, however hot and steamy they may be. MacAlister does get a brownie point for writing what has to be the funniest sex scene I have ever read.

The mystery element in the story is not strong. An experienced reader of mysteries will have the villain or villains figured out long before the characters (well, except one of them turns out to have known all along but needed evidence), and likewise who the dark one is, but the pleasure lies not in trying to discover these facts, but in watching Joy do so, however stupidly.

Warning: The last paragraph of the review could be seen as a SPOILER, so here is the Rating: An enjoyable paranormal romance with teeth in it. 2+ stars.

Read on only if you don’t mind spoilers.

One thing that always annoys me is when authors get the facts wrong. I know this story takes place in an alternative reality that is much like ours except vampires (and presumably other paranormal creatures) exist in it, so other things could be different as well, but it still annoys me that MacAlister chooses to present Interpol as a global version of the FBI. I don’t want to accuse her of a blunder, as it is so laughably easy to get information about that estimable institution, so I am choosing to assume she did it knowingly because it served the story. I will say no more on this point, however, as I don’t want to turn this minor spoiler into a big one.


Anonymous said…
You should add the Twilight Series in this list...
It's by Stephenie Meyer...
It's quite interesting, and a favorite among teens...
Maybe you can check it out sometime... (in case you haven't read it yet)
Bibliophile said…
Thanks, Anon,
it's on my TBR list - but since I'm not planning on buying the books, I'll have to wait until I can get it from the library.

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