Drop Dead Gorgeous
Juliet Lyons’ self-published, Wattpad series has gained mainstream attention and garnered her a contract with Sourcebooks, so potential readers should be aware that Drop Dead Gorgeous, the second book in her Bite Nights series, was previously titled Romancing the Undead. Depending on one’s mood and tolerance for fluff, it will either be one long fuzzy-headed delight or a grating experience of epic proportions. My experience put this one squarely right in the middle.
Mila Hart’s first date with a vampire turns into a disaster when he glamours and tries to murder her. Turns out the dude’s a serial killer – but fortunately, she’s saved from becoming vamp chow by Inspector Vincent Ferrer, a police officer and vampire who’s been tracking Mila’s date through the app the latter has been using to score human victims. Vincent and Mila are immediately mightily attracted to each other, but Vincent fell in love once (a hundred years ago, true, but it was pretty awe inspiring) and is not willing to risk his heart again. But they are thrown immediately back together; Mila’s date is unwilling to let the little matter of her being the only survivor of his killing spree pass by without correction, and Vincent, as the cases’ investigating officer, has been assigned to make sure Mila survives. All that chemistry challenges Vincent’s plan to keep things light between them, but Mila’s survival soon becomes a game of chance that neither of them can afford to lose.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a big bubbly glass of champagne. You know what it’s going to taste like, you know it’s going to go down smooth, you know those tropes are going to be present and perfume the whole thing. Your enjoyment of the story, as warned earlier, will depend on how much you like fluffy, frothy romance, and how broody you like your vamps.
The world-building is the best and most interesting part of the story. Gifting us with a universe where vamps are known entities who mix with humankind, the ideas Lyons presents us with are at least somewhat original. But only some of the usual vampire clichés are dispensed with and ignored; vampires can still glamour, have expanded lifetimes, are uncommonly strong, fast and deadly and can suck blood, though they don’t need it to live and for them it can be an addictive substance. Even our hero really doesn’t seem to have many superpowers beyond occasional displays of speed and strength, and that basically causes me him to read just like every other detective hero in a contemporary romance. I don’t buy that mankind would shrug and get on with business as usual upon discovering that immortal entities who can control a person’s mind dwell among us (though there are worries about vampire PR), but I do buy that someone might want to be this kind of vampire. And there’s even a way to get out of vampirism in this ‘verse that doesn’t involve a stake! But I’ll leave that to the reader to discover.
Mila is a very immature heroine, bubbly, bubble-headed and gossipy. Sometimes her verbal diarrhea is funny; sometimes it’s like being trapped in an elevator with the most annoying hairdresser ever. More concerned with the gorgeousness of her investigating detective and her Ralph Lauren jacket than the fact that she almost died, she’s a nice person but she also lives quite on the surface of her life sometimes. I’m willing to cut her some slack since she just got out of a lousy relationship (the guy admitted he was married and had two kids), but she comes off as a ga-ga teenager more than a twenty something.
I liked Vincent much better – he’s the most beta vampire I’ve ever read about, which is quite a change of pace – while having all the detective and rich businessman trappings and tropes a girl could want. He’s quite protective of Mila, which is enjoyable at times, and she’s the one who puts the pressure on for him to turn her. Their chemistry is fun, but it’s hard to imagine her naïvéte ever being a proper match for his decades-long experience. They do have a lot of funny and charming moments along the way though.
The supporting characters – all of them Supremely British, who use every single stock British-ism you can imagine – are alright. There’s the cockney sidekick to the hero who literally says “She’s a lil’ bit of all right, ain’t she?”, some stoic old-school vamps who’ve known the hero since Marie Antoinette had her head on her shoulders, and the heroine teaches English as a Second Language class to a bunch of colorful stereotypes (and one of them turns out to be a Romanian Vampire Witch. Yes.).
The narrative is almost garishly girly at first, like taking a huge whiff of very brightly childish children’s perfume. Then abruptly it ripens into a mélange of horror tropes and wicked gore, before letting the romance tropes sink back in.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a frothy, light read for those who feel like trying it. All others need not apply.