Blow Me Down

A Girl's Guide to Vampires

Improper English

The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires

Light My Fire

Noble Intentions

Zen and the Art of Vampires
by Katie MacAlister
(Signet, $7.99, R) ISBN 978-0-451-22560-3
Pia Thomason just might be my favorite heroine ever. At 39 years old, single, with an okay job and a little too much padding on her hips and thighs, she decides to take a singles tour that’s selling the possibility of romance in Europe. The result is Zen and the Art of Vampires, the seventh book in Katie MacAlister’s Dark Ones series..

The best thing about Pia is that she is a realist.  She says what’s on her mind, no matter how it may be taken by others. She embarrasses herself and is candid and honest about her views and insecurities.  Because Pia is so down to earth, likeable and flawed, it makes the unbelievable story that happens to her more delicious.

While her tour is in a small Icelandic town, Pia meets Alec and Kristoff, two tall, dark, handsome and slightly strange men – nearly a fantasy come true.  After a weird case of mistaken identity involving the local townspeople, from which Pia escapes, she comes back to her hotel room to find a naked Alec in her bed.

Pia wakes up the next morning, satisfied, to find the dead body of a woman she met briefly the night before in the bathtub.

She then finds out that she’s a pawn, caught between two groups: the reapers of a fanatical group called the Brotherhood, and the vampires called the Dark Ones, waging an old war she has been completely unaware of until now.  The Brotherhood believe she is their next Zorya, able to further their cause.  So, Kristoff, a tasty Dark One, forces Pia into a marriage ceremony to compromise the new powers she may have to use against him.  Both Kristoff and Alec are vampires, and while Alec is painted more heroically, Kristoff is definitely the leading man and Pia has a very big choice to make as both men seem to want to be with her.

So what’s a woman to do in a situation like that?  Take advantage of the situation as best she can and keep her backbone in the midst of a really weird turn of events – and Pia does just that.

Surprisingly, as a person who has never read a vampire book, I loved this story. The necessary background information about both the Brotherhood and the Dark Ones is detailed and clear, although I found the background story a little heavy and hard to absorb at times despite its clarity. The saving grace to the overly detailed plot is the main characters, with their outstanding personalities, which gave the whole book a lift.

Pia is laugh out loud funny, honest, sexy and sweetly hopeful while being tugged through a maze of odd, dark circumstances.  Kristoff and Alec are both dark and sexy, but with distinct personalities.  Both Alec and Kristoff could have easily fallen into a dull, clichéd vampire stereotype but for Katie MacAlister’s deft handling.  She debunks typical vampire behavior by character interaction, causing some especially funny moments because Pia expects something completely different than what she gets from her two heroes. 

Zen and the Art of Vampires is an entrancing story, and a very good escape.  I was a little unsatisfied by the ending, which was left hanging, but I guess I am going to have to go out and buy the next in the series…because I do want to know how this one turns out! 

--Amy Wroblewsky 

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