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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Carpools & PTA Meetings: Just A Day in the Life of a Vampire P.I.

Somewhat curiously, a lot of people live and die for vampire books. (Okay, maybe--hopefully--the reality isn’t quite as dramatic as life-and-death... but, still, you know the person I’m talking about, right? The one who will read anything, no matter how atrocious, so long as it features their favorite creature of the night?) 
Such people can--and invariably do, if you’re around them long enough--rhapsodize for hours about the “dreaminess” of vamps... from their perfect, alabaster skin (conveniently ignoring the reality of how it would feel to hug such marble-chilliness), to the romantic nature of their only-after-dark lifestyles (seriously? as though a life lived primarily without ever seeing the sun sounds do-able?), to their overall beauty (because everyone knows that NO ONE is writing books about vamps who look anything like Bela Lugosi these days, pfft).
Then, of course, there’s the whole issue of blood to deal with (or not, as is generally the case with all but the seriously-hardcore fans--the ones whose level of kink soars into the stratosphere and who definitely aren’t the “normal” rabid fans currently under discussion). I mean, sure, there’s an undeniable appeal in having someone bite your neck hard enough in the heat of passion to draw a few drops of blood... but to then drink your blood, to suck it from your veins and guzzle it as though it were cold water pouring from a faucet on a hot summer day? Yeah, I’d be taking a pass on that.
All of this isn’t to say that I don’t occasionally enjoy stories about vampires, myself. They can make for some good reading... provided they aren’t over-glamorized and glorified. Give me a troubled bloodsucker--one for whom everything isn’t always rosy, who deals with problems and insecurities--and make him/her an interesting, multi-dimensional character, and I’m in. (It’s just yet another uber-handsome blond Adonis, gorgeous female fighting machine, or anything remotely sparkly that I can do without, thanks.)
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J.R. Rain, bless his heart, writes about my kind of vampire. Samantha Moon, heroine of Moon Dance (the first in his “Vampire for Hire” series), is... was... no, is a typical modern woman... who just so happens to be a vampire, as well. To say that her life is complicated would be an understatement.
Sam, a married 37-year-old mother of two, was turned six years ago. Since then, her life has, of necessity, undergone some pretty radical changes. She had to give up the federal job she loved (because the 9-to-5 schedule no longer worked with the “extremely-rare skin condition” she told everyone she’d suddenly acquired). To that end, she became a private investigator; she sets her own hours, sees clients at her convenience, and conducts investigations after dark. She longs for the companionship of the old days, though, and most especially when she’s all alone in the middle of the night.
Eating and drinking, obviously, are wholly-different experiences for her now, too. Suffice it to say that she really misses food and absolutely hates the bagged blood stored in a padlocked refrigerator in the garage. (Anyone with food allergies or sensitivities will definitely sympathize with her, there.)
Other things can’t change so much, though; namely, that which concerns her young children. Sam’s daughter and son expect their mommy to be able to pick them up from school just like always, and do all those “mommy” things with them in the afternoon... and so she does, with the aid of copious amounts of sunblock, tinted windows, and dark sunglasses. It isn’t pleasant for her, but she endures the pain and being awake when she should still be fast asleep because she has no other choice; her children need her, and she needs them. (These come across as realistic, healthy relationships, and I suspect that mothers everywhere will identify with what Sam is going through.)
Her husband, meanwhile, is another matter. As Sam does everything she can to keep up the semblance of a “normal” life (and of being normal), she feels the husband she loves slipping further and further away, and she isn’t sure whether or not things can be fixed. (Again, the problems of a long-married couple ring true; take the vampire element out of the equation, and a lot of women will recognize their own experiences in those of Sam and her husband.)  
Fortunately, Sam at least has plenty of work to occupy her thoughts (and keep her sane), and her newest case certainly seems like a challenging one. A local defense attorney--who recently survived being shot multiple times by an unknown assailant--hires Sam to find the shooter (something the police have, as yet, been unable to do). A couple of interesting things about the case? The client is magnetically appealing, in ways that Sam can’t quite figure out (or believe). And, he apparently chose her for a reason; he has--inexplicably--figured out what she is.
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Although it’s rather short--only 258 pages--Moon Dance works on several levels. It’s an interesting--practical, if you will--look at being a vampire, as much about dealing with being different, as it is about being a supernatural creature. (It's a vampire story for both vampire lovers and those not-so enamored of them.) It’s a journey of self-discovery. It offers a look into relationships--what they mean and how they change. It’s about trying to do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t easy or particularly desirable. And, of course, there’s a nice little mystery, too, with the resolution of the ‘whodunit‘ and the ‘whydunnit‘ making sense.
Because this is a quick read, some things are dealt with in lesser detail than they would’ve been in a longer book. The solution to Sam’s case, for instance, is a tad abrupt. (However, since all the essentials to her figuring it out are there, that isn’t a major quibble.) All in all, though, it’s a good introduction to an interesting character, a neat take on a couple of genres, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what author Rain comes up with next.
[Note: This is the second story I’ve read by this self-published author--see my earlier review of Dark Horse, here--and have enjoyed both; Rain has a nice way with words and is an easy story-teller. (I should probably mention that the errors in his books are, thankfully, few and far between; I’ve seen far-more egregious mistakes in too many professionally-edited and -published books, so please don’t let that deter you from trying him out.) Also, even though some of his books are available in paperback now, the best deal is still the Kindle version.]

GlamKitty catnip mousie rating: 3.5 mousies