Improper English

Noble Intentions

A Girl’s Guide to Vampires
by Katie MacAlister
(LoveSpell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52530-5
Katie MacAlister jumps on the vampire bandwagon in an apparent attempt to show the lighter side of the dark side. Unfortunately, the result is Dumb and Dumber Go To Transylvania.

Joy Randall and her friend Roxy are tired of looking for their soul mates, so they go to a Wiccan friend for a ceremony to ask the Goddess for help. Joy wants someone who will “send shivers of delight down my spine with the dark cloak of intrigue wrapped around him. He will captivate me, fascinate me, fold me into the air of mystery and adventure that surrounds him, making my blood sing with desire.” And he should be hung like a horse. What Joy brings to this party is unclear.

The Wiccan tries valiantly to perform said ceremony while Joy and Roxy drink and bicker and snipe at each other until finally an argument breaks out over whether or not a series of popular vampire romances is based in fact or fiction. Joy thinks the books, about Dark Ones who live in Moravia, are just fun, sexy stories. Roxy believes that every word is the literal truth, and that the Moravian Highlands are home to “men who drink blood and burn up in the sun and wander around all tormented and angsting because they haven’t found the right woman to save their soul.” (Sound like anybody you know?)

To settle the argument, Joy and Roxy head for the Czech Republic, of which Moravia is now a part, to look for vampires. Scarcely have they arrived, when Joy starts having visions. It’s as if her mind is merged with a man “whose arrogance bespoke centuries of existence” and who makes her feel as if she “were a pawn to a force [she] didn’t understand,” her mind “shrieking, screaming with the need to know what was going on.”

In fact, there are three men who might be the source of Joy’s visions. None of them is rushing to claim her as a lifemate, however, and Joy is only attacted to one of them – Raphael. Raphael is sexy and mysterious, and is keeping secrets from her, so obviously he must be a vampire.

My biggest problem with this book was the nonstop infantile behavior of Joy and Roxy. They pinch each other, make faces, and squabble constantly over every idiotic thought that meanders through their heads. It was like being trapped in a small room with two hormonal twelve-year-olds suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. They just never shut up.

Even worse, because the story is told in the first person, when we’re not being bombarded with Joy’s leaden repartee we’re subjected to her inane thoughts. They even punctuate – or perhaps ‘puncture’ would be a more accurate term – every intimate moment between Joy and Raphael.

As a hero, Raphael is doing his best, but he and Joy don’t actually spend that much time together – probably because the attempt to mix screwball comedy with the broody mystery of the Dark Ones just creates a baffling mess. As a result, since Raphael and Joy’s interaction is largely sexual, I have no idea what it was about this shallow motor-mouth that attracted him. She’s constantly giving people a piece of her mind, though, so that may explain why she’s got so little left to work with.

The author seems to realize, eventually, that the book is going nowhere, so she introduces a very belated murder plot. Joy, against the advice of everyone in the book – even the hare-brained Roxy – insists on investigating, using a level of intelligence that by now is utterly unsurprising.

I’ll give the author this, though – the story itself is not predictable. In spite of the constant homage to Christine Feehan, Ms. MacAlister has taken several turns with her story that were not what I expected. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the heroine didn’t have all the charming subtlety of fingernails on a blackboard.

At one point, Joy said she feels as though she “was in the middle of a badly written Gothic soap opera, something along the lines of Dark Shadows Meets The Munsters.” Yeah, me too.

-- Judi McKee

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