Vampire romances are obviously a very hot market right now, and I picked up Wicked Nights expecting a variation on the dark, brooding, lonely creature of the night finally discovering his heart isn’t dead after all. I kind of like that story. Unfortunately, I didn’t find it here.
Donna Nolan is a New York late night talk show host with some odd listeners. Women keep calling her show to report being spirited away by non-humans to have hot, torrid sex all night. Donna thinks this is insanity talking, but somehow she finds herself in Houston investigating the Castle of Dark Dreams, the supposed headquarters for these non-human sex fiends bent on sapping Texas woman of sexual energy. The Castle claims to fulfill every woman’s fantasy, whatever that fantasy might be: vampires, sex demons, immortal warriors, etc. For one week, Donna will stay in the Castle and do her show live from outside the gift shop, and prove once and for all that these callers are mental.
Naturally, there are some in the Castle who don’t want her to learn much. Like the fact that a real vampire works there, along with a real sex demon and a real immortal warrior. Although Eric, Brynn, and Conall MacNair are posing as brothers, they’re really just three immortals willing to work in Houston as fantasy role-players for a variety of reasons. Eric is especially opposed to Donna rooting around the Castle’s dirty linens. He doesn’t want to have to move, and he doesn’t want his friends in any danger. So he starts stalking Donna, keeping a close eye on her under the pretext of showing her around.
To stir the pot a little further, Sparkle Stardust, a cosmic mischief-maker, is manipulating events as well. Ostensibly she runs the candy shop where Donna and Eric go for chocolate fixes, and she takes every opportunity to inject sex into their relationship. Not love, just sex. Sparkle’s mission in life is to match up people who are wrong for each other and drown them in hot, kinky sex until they’re right for each other. Her nemesis is a telepathic cat named Asima, who is not really a cat but…danged if I could figure out what she was. Along with a pair of voyeuristic plants, Donna is beset on all sides by people (and other creatures) encouraging her to get naked with Eric.
Let me cut to the chase. This is about the silliest book I have ever read. Every single page is about lurid, over-the-top sex worthy of a Penthouse essay contest. Donna senses Eric’s sexual heat the moment she sees him. Eric reads her mind at the same time as he scopes out her rear end, imagining all the kinky things he’d do to her. Then they meet each other. Donna is keenly aware of Eric’s incredible sexual aura; Eric wants to rip the clothes off her sleek little body and unleash his inner beast. Rinse and repeat, many, many times. The entire story is about them feeling out each other’s sexuality, talking about it, thinking about it, then doing It. There is no sexual tension. There is virtually no non-sexual relationship. Both characters spend a great deal of time thinking that they’ve never felt this way about someone before, but even that is centered on sex; Eric has never wanted to sleep his undead sleep beside a woman after sex. Donna has never had such hot, lusty sex with someone she’s only known two days. It’s a good thing there’s not much plot, because Donna and Eric would be very hard pressed (ooh, did I say that?) to fit it in (do they ever!) between all their sexual experiences.
And Eric… What can I say? He’s a vampire. He’s also a Viking and a Highlander, and slips in and out of those personas as the mood suits him. I kept waiting for him to reveal he’s a Regency spy and a Navy SEAL, too. He’s immortal and undead – although he never actually died, he just became vampire in some odd sort of puberty – and has amazing superpowers. He’s eight hundred years old, and has marshaled his powers so he can eat candy, because nothing is as seductive as chocolate. He talks in purple prose. The only thing funnier than Eric’s lines are Donna’s. She talks in Romance Novel Dialect: “I’m tired of trading barbs with you,” she tells the Castle attorney. What are they, fish?
There were so many things to mention! The online directory of all vampires’ cell phone numbers. The fantasy Donna and Eric share about having sex in the clouds and waving to the President as he flies past on Air Force One. Wearing a cat to the opera. The way Donna’s breasts grow three sizes in one of their fantasies, when she is The Bitch of the Brine, Pirate Captain. The dialogue. The fact that either the author, her editor, or their copyeditor should learn the difference between “to lie” and “to lay.”
If this story were any cheesier, it would come with tortilla chips and jalapenos. To be charitable, I’m guessing the author aimed for Over the Top Erotic. Sad to say, she overshot the mark and hit Painfully Campy Caricature instead.