Undead and Unwed
Davidson: Undead and UnwedBerkley
(Paperback), ISBN 0-425-19485-X
Elizabeth "Betsy" Taylor finds herself having a rough week at the start of Undead and Unwed. First, she gets laid off from her secretarial job -- on her birthday, no less. Then an April snowstorms cancels her birthday party and her cat runs away. She finally spots the cat and goes outside to haul her back in… only to be hit by a 40-mph car and thrown into a tree. She wakes up later in a coffin, confused but royally pissed off at the cheap pink suit and even cheaper shoes selected by her step-monster for her burial. Eventually, after numerous attempts to kill herself, Betsy figures out she's undead, specifically a vampire. Her friends and family get quite a jolt seeing her alive -- er, undead, but Betsy quite enjoys taking back the expensive shoes her stepmother stole from her apartment… then running her stepmother's jewelry through the blender.
In short order, Betsy talks a suicidal doctor, Marc, off the hospital roof and he moves in as her roomie; feasts upon a detective who investigated a recent attack on her (which must be the source of her new thirst for blood as the attackers didn't rob or rape her, they just bit her); gets a mysterious phone call from someone who knows of her vampire status; and then gets kidnapped and taken to the most appallingly bad B-movie vampires she could think of. But no, this group doesn't joke around. Nostro (yes, as in Nostrodamus) demands that she swear loyalty to him. She laughs at him. She merely sneezes when they toss holy water in her face. She doesn't want any of this vampire tribe drama. Betsy just wants to continue living her life like she did before her death.
Unfortunately, the vampires won't let her be. Sinclair, Nostro's rival, pushes her buttons in all the wrong ways. Arrogant, demanding, but oh-so-gorgeous, he helps her adjust to the vampire world as much as possible, giving her tips on hunting and not turning her meals into pathetic, quivering, needy slaves, which seems to be how the detective turned out. Part of the reason the vampires continue to draw her into their feud comes from an ancient book of prophecy. According to it, the vampire queen possesses invulnerability to many of the typical vampire ailments -- like Betsy. Holy water, crosses, churches, sunlight -- none of them affect her.
The feud comes to a head when Nostro demands her allegiance on the pain of, well, death. He orders Betsy kidnapped and Sinclair's house (which also houses Sinclair's vampire friend, Tina, as well as his harem of mortal lovers/snacks) torched. Sinclair and Tina manage to rescue her and convince the other vampires of Betsy's royal status. Nostro winds up dead but not before he nearly kills Sinclair. Betsy heals Sinclair through a combination of blood and sex, only to find out about another bit of the prophecy -- he who sleeps with the queen first becomes her king. OK, now she's pissed again, royally so.
Undead and Unemployed picks up three months after Undead and Unwed. Betsy finds herself running short of cash, mostly because she can't bring herself to take an undead lifetime of handouts from her excessively rich friend, Jessica. So she goes job hunting, and ends up with the job of her dreams: in the shoe department of Macy's in the Mall of America. The discount alone would make Betsy and her shoe fetish happy, but the cash helps too.
However, she finds herself with bigger problems. A group seems to be targeting and killing vampires. Playing the guilt card, Sinclair and Tina finally coerce their new vampire queen into trying to help find and stop the attackers. Betsy ends up as bait, and she surprises her attackers as much as their ambush surprises them. A group of teenagers, with a Catholic priest directing them, try to kill Betsy, but her unusual behavior -- a sarcastic, shallow woman with a real life instead of a filthy, starving, biting creature -- gives them pause.
After a long bizarre chat at her new mansion (Jessica decided the termite-ridden cottage needed to be upgraded) that involves vampires, vampire hunters, mortals and a priest, the vampire hunter group agrees to take a break from hunting. But an anonymous benefactor sends the hunters the names and addresses of vampires. So the group takes a hiatus until they can learn more about the benefactor. The attacks continue, but Betsy can't decide whether the attacks or getting close to getting fired should consume most of her attention.
MaryJanice Davidson creates a hilarious heroine in Betsy. Betsy makes no bones about being vain, easily distracted, foul-mouthed or lusting after shoes. Despite the shallowness on the surface, Betsy contains depth as well. She cringes at the thought of drinking blood (though actually drinking it curls her toes), and she does her best to take care of her friends. Davidson writes wonderfully. She crams lots of action and plot into fairly short novels (both stretch between 250 and 300 pages), but the flow doesn't bog down, and the snappy language breezes right along. More development of Sinclair's character and the relationship between the sexy vampire and Betsy would be nice. All in all, Davidson sets up a nice world for her vampires and humans to live in. I hope she continues this series.
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