Top critical review
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Interesting but lightweight
on 15 January 2010
This is the first book in a series concerning Vicki Nelson, private investigator, and Henry Fitzroy, a five hundred year old vampire and illegitimate son of Henry VIII. So far, so cliched urban romance story, right? However, there are a few things about this novel that piqued my interest and guaranteed I'll be reading the rest of the series.
In a genre that is crowded with books about vampires linked with strong female characters, a novel would need something extra to ensure it stands out. Huff provides that in the form of Vicki - this is a woman who leaves the police force when she is diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that will possibly render her blind. Thanks to this, she is presented as strong, obstinate and bitter in turn. Her self pity at times becomes a little tiring, but still completely understandable for someone who has seen her life turn on its head. She is irascible, spiky and, above all, real. You can imagine going for drinks with this woman who has retained her dry sense of humour despite her circumstances. It is desperately refreshing to have a heroine who is not all-powerful and frighteningly capable of taking on the creatures that go bump in the night. In fact, Vicki is quite the reverse - positively handicapped when out at night.
Henry Fitzroy is another well written character, and his dynamic with Vicki is done with humour and warmth. I love that Henry is actually shorter than Vicki thanks to being born in a whole different century. I also love that Vicki is a snob about the height of a man she considers dating. The little excerpts showing Henry's court life before his change are interesting, but a little light weight.
Huff has done little to change the mythology of vampires as presented over the years - sure, crosses don't affect these vamps (in fact, Henry is a Catholic) but they sleep through the day and there is not a hint of sparkle. I'm undecided as to whether this is good or bad - on the one hand, it is lovely to read about traditional vampires, but on the other, I feel that Huff has the imagination and writing skills to pull off any changes.
The relationship side of things is where this book fell into cliched romance nonsense. Henry is drawn to Vicki despite the fact that he knows relationships with mortals will never end well. She starts to want him when his blood taking raises her lust. Blah blah blah - nothing new here! It might have been more interesting to keep the relationship on a partnership level, just working together on cases? I preferred the rich pickings between Vicki and Mike Celluci - their arguments and bitching and angry sex was funny, a little bit sad and, again, very real. One point I will note about the sex - it was kept neatly off-screen, which I preferred in comparison to someone like Ms Hamilton, who takes it too far the other way.
The nature of the detecting and the crime itself was not massively interesting or tension-filled, although I did find the criminal Norman Birdwell to be amusing and abhorrent in equal measure.
This novel's strength lies in the characters and their effective relationships with one another. Like I say, Huff has interested me enough to encourage purchase of more of her work. I look forward to the second book in the series.