When Life Gives You Vampires
When Life Gives You Vampires is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had this year as a reader. It’s a lighthearted, cheesy, and somewhat immature-feeling story about a young woman who’s horrified to wake up one morning with pointy teeth, no reflection and a craving for blood. As one does. There’s a lot of spirit and spunk to this novel at first, but the heavy-hand with the cheese, a couple of disappointing character choices and several plot points sucked the enthusiasm out of me like a couple of ounces of O-neg from the neck of a Teaneck accountant.
Lily Baines wakes up one morning with a crazy hangover and a craving for blood – and she quickly figures out that she’s a vampire. Which is terrible news, because she also lives in the West Village and is barely employed as a web editor, for which she works the graveyard shift. Trying to figure out how the heck she became a vampire, she tracks down her friend Cat and learns that she left the local bar with a handsome man the night before – an event Lily cannot recall to save her life. She later figures out her sire is Tristan Newberry, a romance novelist who misread her telepath cue as acceptance of his vampiric bite, without realizing she’d bitten him as well. Turning Lily is against the code of the vampiric world, but now she and Tristan are bound together by their blood connection, and Lily finds herself both trying to defend herself against a vampire-slayer co-worker named Evan and other vamps looking to dust her. Can she overcome her misconceptions about herself and learn to gain confidence thanks to her vampirehood.
When Life Gives You Vampires is like spending two hours trapped in a car with Moon Unit Zappa’s chatty, motormouth, slang-squeaking ‘Valley Girl’. It veers between relatable and too cute, with an irritating narrative voice and a grating tone. When people talk about the written YA/NA vocal fry – this is it.
Lily is someone looking for her own identity – and who hates what her current identity tells her about herself. While the book deals mediocrely with her coming into her own, you have to do it all through her eyes. Her very myopic eyes. The problem with Lily is that there is, quite often, nothing between her ears. She repeatedly compares her predicament to things she’s seen in pop culture, and reads as so young that it’s impossible to believe she’s in her mid-twenties.
I must mention the book’s treatment of fatphobia, which is mainly mired in Lily’s relationship with her very lousy mother. But there is worse to be had, and it all comes from Lily’s mouth. Lily struggles with her weight way more than I anticipated from reading the book’s blurb; she’s always trying to get Spanx on her body, to flatten her curves with exercise. Now she’s stuck in a body that will always be this young but also this fat. This should provide an epiphany, but she only seems to like herself because Tristan finds her sexy, and later has an epiphany that she’s been ‘mean’ to her skinny friends for not listening to them complain about their own weight issues. Readers who go into this book expecting to avoid dieting talk thanks to the burb’s likening it to Dumplin’ will be disappointed to note that there are embarrassing moments where she has to cram herself into a pair of too-tight jeans and fasten them with a safety pin after peeling off her Spanx, which have shredded. For some, this will be relatable stuff; for others, it will teeter over the edge into humiliation porn. That is so retrograde, and such a disappointment. Also cringe worthy is the too-cute self-conscious dialogue like “I swear if I had an appendage it would certainly be engorged.”
The romance here is iffy even if you realize it’s dubiously consensual at its beginning, what with Tristan’s unsuccessful mind reading changing Lily’s life and everything. There is also a long stretch where Tristan gets way too overprotective of Lily, something she protests against repeatedly. He won’t let her learn how to adapt to the learning curve on her own, so how can she learn to take care of herself as a vampire when he won’t let her? The end result is a man who doesn’t know what he wants, which makes him almost as totally irritating as Lily. There’s the usual insta-attraction-and-lust stuff, because vampires. Lily has far more chemistry with Cat, who sticks her neck out to help while no one else is willing to, but then Tristan mind-wipes her. Yes, really. She gets her memory back but it’s one step too far in a hinky direction.
I really wish When Life Gives You Vampires was my cup of tea, but its too-light ways left me yearning for something I could really sink my teeth into.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
|Review Date:||October 9, 2022|
|Book Type:||Paranormal Romance|
|Review Tags:||Plus size heroine | Vampires|
I tried reading the start of this. I gave up when the hero was described as “a young Clint Eastwood with Indiana Jones’s styling” because I don’t know what Clint Eastwood looks like, and I wasn’t going to waste time searching for images of him and trying to apply Indiana Jones’s styling, whatever that is.
This is why it’s a dumb idea to pepper your books with descriptions of current things. I recently read, in a contemporary romance, a reference to a guy who looked like Don Draper. That’s not going to age well….
From How Not to Write a Novel :
It’s not just dating it though – what about people who have never seen that film/TV show? I recently reviewed a book everyone insisted had a Ted Lasso vibe. I know TL is a TV show but that’s all I know! I’ve never seen it. Giving such specifics not only risks dating your book, bur also risks excluding some of your readers.
I think that’s one reason I like HR. No risk of the author describing the hero as “a taller Benjamin Disraeli”.
I do know what he looks like and that moment still made me cringe.
Now I’m going to imagine the hero talking to an empty chair on a stage… :)
“Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, vamps?”
Or, “Vamps, go ahead, make my day”