Burning Up

From Boardwalk With Love

Night Games

An Original Sin

The Pleasure Master

Wicked Nights by Nina Bangs
(Berkley, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-425-20032-9
Somewhere trapped among the silliness is a decent romance desperately trying to escape.

Radio talk-show host, Donna Nolan, is leaving New York to broadcast at the mysterious Castle Of Dark Dreams in Galveston, Texas. The ratings for Donna till Dawn have been slipping lately, and her boss thinks broadcasting from a resort that caters to adult fantasies will give her show a boost. Given that her family is falling apart, she’s not real anxious to leave town – but our girl doesn’t have much of a choice.

Eric McNair is the castle’s resident vampire – and yes, he’s really a vampire. He plays the part for the paying customers and naturally being mere mortals they actually think he’s playing a part. The castle’s mysterious owner gives the OK for Donna Nolan to broadcast from the castle, but Eric isn’t real thrilled with the idea. He doesn’t need some talk-show host snooping around, uncovering the truth and sending hordes of wacko freaks their way. Not only does he have to protect his identity, but the identity of his two brothers – Brynn, a demon and Conall, a legendary warrior.

Bangs’ main characters are likeable, although Eric has a tendency to be nothing more than hot, hunky and Alpha. I also had to question his intelligence. He wants to keep a low profile yet he works at the Castle Of Dark Dreams?! How come these guys are never accountants? But he gets some depth as the story moves on, and really isn’t a terrible fellow. Donna is really the solid plus here, with her sarcastic chick lit voice and skeptical attitude. She has a tendency to fret about her dysfunctional family, but Bangs doesn’t have her heroine dwell on this too much. Our girl has a vampire to seduce after all.

Unfortunately, every time a secondary character appears it takes any sort of momentum off the romance. And since these characters have a tendency to be annoying, they also set my teeth on edge. Brynn and Conall serve little purpose except to stand around, act tortured, look hot and practically scream we-will-get-our-own-books-buy-us! The set-up is heavy-handed and frankly had me wondering why stand-alone books have gone the way of the dinosaur.

But by far the worst aspects of this story are Sparkle Stardust (no, I’m not kidding) and Asima – two cosmic troublemakers who want to set up Donna and Eric in their own ways. Sparkle is whips and chains while Asima is opera, candlelight and flowers. They’re like a cosmic Odd Couple and naturally they can’t stand each other. Asima is fairly tolerable, but Sparkle’s constant crass sexual innuendo dialogue got tiresome by her second appearance on the scene – and of course she kept showing up.

Ultimately it’s a mixed bag. Eric and Donna have some nice sexual heat, and I rather liked them by the end of the book. Unfortunately all the stuff going on around them made for a tedious read. For readers who like their vampires on the lighter side Wicked Nights may be worth a look. Those looking to avoid silly would be wise to proceed to with caution.

--Wendy Crutcher

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