The Key

Lady Pirate

The Loving Daylights

The Reluctant Reformer

Single White Vampire

The Switch

Tall, Dark and Hungry

What She Wants

A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands
(Avon, $6.99, R) ISBN 978-06-077375-5
These days, vampires come in all sizes and souls: tortured and torrid, haunted and humorous. Gloomy vampire chic is giving way to the wise-cracking undead chick. Solitary nightstalkers are discovering they have more than bloodlines and ancestral lineage. They have family - large, happy, functional family. Such is the basis of Lynsay Sands's Argenau chronicles. A prequel to the earlier three books, A Quick Bite offers more of the same.

Gregory Hewitt is a workaholic psychologist, specializing in phobias. On the eve of his departure for a long-deserved holiday, he finds himself bound, gagged and wrapped up as a birthday present. But it's not a sex toy Marguerite Argeneau is offering her daughter Lissianna; it's a cure for her hemaphobia.

Lissianna's irrational fear of blood has made her far too reliant on her mother. Recently, she has been trying to assert her independence and is working at a homeless shelter where she helps herself to occasional sips from unsuspecting guests. With the prevalence of substance abusers at the shelter, this is not the safest option. She would be more than happy to undergo therapy, but not against Greg's will.

Lissiana sets Greg free. She forgets, however, to clear his memory. When her mother and her powerful aunt attempt to do so, they realize it may be too late. He knows who and what they are. Convinced that his knowledge puts him in danger from the family elders, Lissiana is determined to keep Greg safe. Together, they wander around Toronto looking for a place to hide. This gives them time to get to know each other, decide if she should turn him and consider whether they might be love-mates. But before any choices can be made, they must deal with the threats against him and the danger that stalks her.

The idea of a hemaphobic vampire has a lot of potential, comic and otherwise. Unfortunately, it is not milked here for all its worth. While being one of Lissiana's few distinguishing characteristics (a sad fact for a romance heroine), it is quite irrelevant to the rest of the story. In fact, she doesn't even need a psychologist to help cure her blood problems. Her cousin finds a much simpler solution before the book is even half-way done.

This intervention highlights the more omnipresent theme: family. Although hers takes precedence in this vampire variant on The Adams Family, one of the more amusing scenes is when she dines with his. Nevertheless, in books as in reality, too many relatives can quickly become a major irritation. The Argeneau cousins' never-ending interruptions (always at crucial moments) soon began to annoy me. I plodded on, though, touched by their show of faith and curious about a thing or two.

The writing flows smoothly, but the humor is puerile. Consider the ongoing joke about men who use cucumbers to fill out their pants. Was that funny even in junior high?

The Argeneau scoff at Dracula-inspired legends about the undead and spend a lot of time explaining their Atlantis origins and their highly evolved immune system. This could have been quite fascinating - if I hadn't read it all before in Single, White Vampire. With all the Argeneau relatives and all the forthcoming books they represent, I suspect we will be hearing about it again. Hopefully, there will be something more to bite than reheated explanations and undercooked ideas.

--Mary Benn

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