For Love or Country

 
How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire
by Kerrelyn Sparks
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-075196-7
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Vampires apparently being the “hot plot” of the moment, Kerrelyn Sparks offers us a fun premise with How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire. At times witty, sexy, and entertaining, this story of a dentist and a vampire businessman is something out of the ordinary, at least to start.

Roman Draganesti has been a vampire for over five hundred years. Before his transformation he was a monk, and his ties to the Church have influenced his actions ever since. Roman is the inventor of synthetic blood, which not only was great news for medicine, but also allows vampires to eat without killing humans. Now he’s working on a formula that will help vampires stay awake during the daytime. If he’s lonely, well, he tries not to think about it much.

His trusted assistants, Laszlo and Gregori, surprise Roman with their latest invention – a life-size, lifelike rubber doll that vampires can fill with synthetic blood and snack away on to their hearts’ content. Roman decides to test it out with a bit to the neck – and promptly loses a fang in the rubber. Now he needs a dentist to re-implant the tooth, fast, before his body heals the hole and he’s left a one-tooth-wonder.

Shanna Whelan works at a 24-hour dental clinic, on the night shift. She’s hiding out in the Witness Protection system after witnessing the murder of several people in a diner, including her friend, Karen. On the night Roman loses his tooth, Shanna fears she’s been found by the Russians who are after her. Roman appears, teleports her away to safety, and finds he doesn’t want to let her go. Besides, he recognized the hit men – Russian vampires, and his suspicions are that it’s Shanna they wanted all along.

So Roman embarks on a mission to protect Shanna, while keeping her in the dark about his being a vampire. But who will protect Shanna from Roman? Can his deep-seated honor win out over his building need to love her?

Shanna is a sturdy heroine, full of sass and some genuinely funny dialogue. Because Roman doesn’t tell the truth about his houseful of strange folks, it’s inevitable that Shanna will find out on her own, and here is where the plot becomes a bit tedious. The middle of the book sags as Shanna predictably runs off and Roman chases her down, while trying to protect her from getting killed. The story becomes sillier at the end when a side character with ties to Shanna is introduced. Without giving anything away, it felt like the author was making it up as she went along just to wrap up an ending.

Roman is a hoot. A monk-turned-nerdy-inventor, he’s rather tired of the whole vampire thing and wishes he could feel something – anything – for another person. When he meets Shanna and is knocked off-balance, it’s a lot of fun, especially when she remains unconvinced that he’s a bad guy. Shanna senses the good underneath, and slowly, Roman comes to believe she might be right, and perhaps his soul isn’t damned to eternity. And the author clearly had a ball inventing her version of a vampire society, complete with a Digital Vampire Network on television, an obnoxious celebrity vampire interviewer a la Joan/Melissa Rivers, and an entire entourage of vampires from France, Scotland, Russia – you name it.

The romance between Roman and Shanna is one of the strongest parts of the book. Roman is all but drooling over Shanna for much of the story, and not because he wants to sink his fangs into her neck. His unwillingness to risk loving her leads to some truly inventive sensuality, and when the two finally do consummate their passion, there’s a surprise in store for Shanna.

The silliness won’t appeal to all, but if readers accept going in that parts of the tale are high camp, How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire is a fun and quirky read. Enjoy it for the inventive plot and sexy romance.

--Cathy Sova


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