Lady and the Vamp
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The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” has sort of become the motto for The Fabio Files. Sometimes I look at a cover of a book and think Oh man, this book is going to suck, and then I find myself pleasantly surprised. But, other times, my gut instinct turns out to be right—and the ol’ gut was right again with Lady and the Vamp.

Janie Parker is a supernatural assassin, working for a man she simply calls “The Boss,” who runs a company simply called “The Company.” Her job is to run various errands for her boss, killing werewolves and vampires and demons along the way. Her boss tells her that she must find a mystical artifact called “the Eye”—and since Janie’s performance has been a bit spotty of late, he has a nefarious sort of incentive this time: if Janie fails, he’ll kill her sister. Her boss’s psychics (or seers) tell Janie that she’ll meet a werewolf and a vampire, and they’ll lead her to the Eye. The vampire turns out to be Michael Quinn, a childhood friend of her brother’s and Janie’s first real crush. The pair work together (Janie and Quinn eventually get separated from the werewolf, lamely named “Barkley”), following various clues to find the Eye and—true to the romance novel formula—finding love along with way.

My main complaint with this novel is simply put: Lady and the Vamp tries too hard. Pop culture references are everywhere, to the point that it all seems forced—as if Rowen were trying to channel Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed at the same time. And while I don’t usually mind modern re-imaginings of traditional vampire or werewolf stories, Rowen plays fast and loose with the traditional canon. In this novel, vampirism is a virus that infects the victim slowly, and vampires aren’t susceptible to the sun’s rays. The werewolf, Barkley, doesn’t turn into a vicious drooling monster—but rather a sloppy sort of Labrador retriever.

There are also so many plot twists and superfluous characters that the reader can’t keep track of them all, and the fact that Rowen relies on “off-screen” action (where conversations and important events happen outside of the action, so the reader learns about them secondhand) doesn’t help. Her use of seers and off-screen action is simply lazy writing, as if she wanted to include so much more in the plot but only phoned it in. The book would have worked much better if she’d focused more on getting certain important plot into the foreground and less on trying to be hip and timely. Also, I have an irrational hatred for when authors shorten “vampire” and “werewolf” to “vamp” and “were,” so every time the characters would reference a “vamp,” I’d practically strain my optic nerve rolling my eyes.

The few love scenes in the book also left me under-whelmed. They’re too few and far between. In other novels, that can build the sexual tension between the characters and give the reader a sense of anticipation, but here it simply left me wanting her to get to the “good stuff” already.

I wasn’t all that surprised that Lady and the Vamp didn’t turn out to be one of my favorite romance novels, since I’ve never liked vampire books all that much (with the exception of a brief foray into the world of Anne Rice). I know there’s a huge vampire following among the romance community, though—and if you like vampire romances, then you may enjoy Lady and the Vamp. But if vampires and werewolves aren’t really your thing, then you’d be better off reading something else.

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