Browsing NetGalley, I recognized the authors in Vacation with a Vampire and was intrigued, enough to request the Advanced Reader Copy. I had read books by Michele Hauf and Kendra Leigh Castle and enjoyed them, so I figured this was a safe bet to try the anthology. I mean, after all, it’s the summer and vacations and vampires seemed like a great combination.
This is not your average beach read.
Or it is, if your beach read is a sexy, shivery, slightly-disturbing-but-in-the-BEST-possible-way book. Let’s take a look at the individual stories, shall we?
“Stay” by Michele Hauf
Lucian is a vampire content to live in Paris and run his antiques store. He remembers so many of them when they were new, and he has a nice cadre of friends to hang out with. The regular stream of tourists means he has a ready supply of one-night stands, either for blood or sex or both. After all, the one thing he never does is stay the night.
Magen is a buttoned up writer vacationing in Paris so she can do some research on the city and its Belle Epoque era for her historical novel. When she goes to get a present for the friend whose apartment she is using, she feels a strong attraction to the sexy owner of the antiques store. His presence unleashes her inner wanton and they both are astonished at the amount of heat generated between them.
Lucian took Magen’s blood and made her forget in the store, but it was delicious and he can’t help delivering the mirror she bought himself. One wild night of amazing sex leads to another and he’s astonished to find himself spending day after day with her. But her interest in the Art Noveau antiques in his store and landmarks like the Moulin Rouge are stirring up old, painful memories of a past lover, one that is determined to make both him and Magen suffer, even from beyond the grave.
This is more of a “happily for now” rather than “happily ever after” story and Michele Hauf is a solid writer you can rely on. I loved her description of Paris and all the Belle Epoque details. Lucian’s former lover and absinthe addict Magenta is a chilling character and the complexity of the tie between her and Lucian was well-drawn. My only complaint about this story was that Lucian initially describes Magen as “plain” but never later amends his opinion to share the physical part of her which attracted him. I think I would have appreciated seeing that evolution.
If you are interested in exploring other works by Michele Hauf, I strongly recommend using her Goodreads page, rather than the books page of her website, which resembles a calculus problem in its complexity. She’s been quite a prolific author (which I imagine is the reason she gets top billing in this anthology), so you’ll have a lot of other works to choose from.
“Vivi and the Vampire” by Kendra Leigh Castle
Oh my God, this story alone is worth getting the anthology (and at under $3.50 for the ebook version on Amazon, the book is a good value). Castle mentions in the little introduction before the story that she wrote the story because the hero, vampire king Justin, had garnered so much fan praise and interest in his small appearance in her other book, Renegade Angel, that she felt he would be an ideal subject for a novella. And is he!!
Justin is the incredibly busy vampire king of Terra Noctem, the secret underground city which provides a haven for night creatures who need a place away from humans. Justin has been a powerful vampire since he was turned during the Roman Empire and it seems like it’s been that long since he’s taken a vacation. His adorable sister and right hand woman forces him to go to a nice beach resort with the order to go get laid. Despite his eye-rolling, he agrees to head there, knowing he’s not going to find a woman, but at least the change of scenery would do him good.
Vivi is a vampire hunter also assured that this resort would be free of the pasty set, but the two drunk vampires in front of her on the beach arguing over which one gets her blood demonstrates there is no truth in the rumors. When Justin comes upon her fighting for all she’s worth, he easily dispatches the vampire to the hinterlands. But once he catches a close up look at the blue-eyed, raven haired pixie they were fighting, he’s not about to let her get away.
I cannot believe how hot and sweet this romance is. Vivi is an honorable, fun-loving character who took her job for its sense of adventure and because she was assured that vampire hunters only pursued vampires who have a proven track record of hurting humans. The people she’s working with are beginning to change their outlook, and that has her nervous, particularly since she finds herself so incredibly attracted to Justin. He’s not only the most gorgeous man she’s ever seen, but his vulnerability and loneliness call to something in her.
After reading this novella, I actually went and immediately purchased Renegade Angel so I can have a little more Justin time and continue to enjoy Kendra’s writing. Justin’s slight awkwardness during their “date” is charming and the idea that he lets Vivi cajole him into karoake is utterly hysterical and tugs on the heartstrings. I was elated that this ending was very much a “Happily Ever After” and want to read lots more about this particular world. Of all the authors, Kendra Leigh Castle also possesses the loveliest and more informative author website and seems to rock the social networking world with her savvy. She’s everything I want in an author!
“Island Vacation” by Lisa Childs
Piper has been hiding in her work for the accounting firm with its multimillion dollar clients for a long time – at least for the four years since the accident that caused her to assume a new name. She’s exhausted, not just from the hours she puts in but also from the nightmares and black outs which continue to plague her. Surprised she’s won the office pool for the all-expenses paid two week vacation, she embarks in the private plane provided and hopes she can get some rest.
Instead she’s confronted by a livid, incredibly handsome man, Roarke. Roarke knows that this woman is the model who killed his cousin, the gold-digger who demanded gifts and money and then murdered him in cold blood before disappearing years ago, but he didn’t count on her beauty stirring him so much. Her tearful protest that she’s not that person convinces him and the passionate love-making they engage in sparks an intense connection. The medical condition she has causes him some serious worry though – what exactly is wrong with her and why is the physician on her prescription label the one who works for the Secret Vampire Society?
This was a very psychological novella and therefore the most disturbing of the stories. Piper is wrestling with major trauma from years ago and her nightmares are vivid. I found the strong connection between the two of them a little hard to swallow – he’s accusing her of killing his cousin, then changing his mind, then having sex with her in the space of what seems like an hour. It was exhausting to read so I can’t imagine the characters actually doing it. Even though Roarke later professes his love for Piper and acknowledges how he knows she’s a good person, I wasn’t sure how he knew that. Had they had lots of pillow talk and I missed it? The fact that she was wrongly accused of killing his cousin and duped herself doesn’t mean she’s awesome. Hmm.
My conclusions are that I still enjoyed reading all three stories, but that Kendra Leigh Castle’s story is worth the price of the anthology alone. If you haven’t read anything from these authors, this would be a great way to get the flavor of their writing before committing to a longer work of fiction. This anthology is a super summer release by Harlequin Nocturne and it definitely fulfilled its purpose in getting me to read more books by these excellent writers. Thanks, Harlequin!