With a fang-in-neck title like Love Bites, it’s pretty clear that this vampire story is supposed to keep company with some of the more light-hearted vampire books reviewed elsewhere on this site. Unfortunately, the humor is hard to discern, the vampire aesthetic weakened for the sake of convenience, and the hero and heroine hard to care much about.
Rachel Garrett works as a coroner in the morgue. She dreams of getting on the day shift and tries not to remember that she doesn’t really have a life outside of work. One night a gunshot victim comes in and Rachel sees that before he died, he was really pretty hot. Of course, he’s not really dead, he recovers (being a vampire) and he walks out of Rachel’s life, leaving her confused and faint. A few nights later, another corpse arrives, a “crispy critter” who’s been torched. Again, Rachel notices that the corpse seems to have a heartbeat and she jumps in front of a crazed man who insists he’s going to decapitate the critter with an axe because he’s a vampire. Rachel is mortally wounded, and Etienne Argeneau, the critter in question, does the only honorable thing: He turns her into a vampire, thus saving her life.
Etienne is three hundred years old, a mere babe compared to most of his kind, but he’s been celibate for nearly thirty years. Sex is too predictable and it seems as if he’s been waiting for his “life mate,” a woman to whom he will be faithful for all time. By turning Rachel, he has committed to her as his life mate (regardless of her own feelings), and he finds himself incredibly attracted to the tall, thin redhead.
The inevitable happens: Rachel and Etienne sleep together and then wonder if they care about, much less love, each other. Rachel is at a disadvantage because she doesn’t know about all this life mate stuff, while Etienne is trying to keep her out of harm’s way from the crazed madman whom Etienne inexplicably (well, he does explain, but the explanation is lame) does not shuffle off this mortal coil. Meanwhile, Rachel gets introduced to Etienne’s family, all of whom have the ability to read her mind and know what she thinks about Etienne. Etienne himself can only penetrate her mind when he’s penetrating other parts.
Much of the book is devoted to Rachel’s learning how to be a vampire: The blood-drinking (conveniently dispensed from a blood bank), avoiding the sunlight, understanding her new strength and healing powers, and realizing that eternal life means never having to wear make-up. What’s missed is Rachel thinking that perhaps her parents might be frantic with worry since she’s been missing for a week, asking Etienne what the deeper ramifications of vampire life are (see the life mate thing above), and wondering just what anyone is doing to stop the crazed killer so she can get back to her life.
After a week of sex and blood-drinking, Etienne and Rachel get into a bad situation with the very real threat of death for one or both of them. Right after Etienne manages to extricate Rachel (at no small risk to himself), the two of them start wondering just what the other thinks of them, and this is where, for me, Love Bites almost got thrown against the wall. Did they not speak at all during that entire week? How could two moderately intelligent people (and one of them over 300 years old) not recognize that, even if neither has uttered the L Word, they have a relationship? It was not even a Big Misunderstanding, it was just a prolonging of the eventual cataclysmic reunion.
A lot of the humor fell flat, and though it sounds asinine to talk about Rules for Vampires, it seemed as if this book was vampire-lite. Forgive me if I’m a traditionalist; I’d prefer to read a vampire story wherein there’s something of a downside to being a vampire. Otherwise it sort of renders the whole tortured soul thing moot, not to mention causing me to wonder why everyone wouldn’t want to be a vampire. Sands provides an answer for that; feeding on other vampires conveniently makes them weaker. I can certainly understand why readers might like the author’s vampiric myth-busting, but for me, in doing so she took away the vampire fun. Don’t want to have your undead burst into flames in the sun? Make them just get a little weak. Prefer not to have them hunt for their food? Send it conveniently packaged in blood bags. Worried about problems with crosses or garlic? Make it into a vampire cliché in which only non-vamps believe. Think it will all get just too complicated if the hero and heroine know what each other is thinking? Make mind-reading only possible during intense sex, while random vampires can apparently gauge each other’s thoughts at any moment.
Love Bites should have been a fun, vampy opposites attract story. Instead, it failed in its attempts to be either a comedy or a compelling vampire story.