Halfway to the Grave

Jeaniene Frost
2007, Vampire Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061245089
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

I know all the reasons why people are tired of the endless stream of paranormal novels being pushed in the bookstores. Take a glance at the new paperbacks display in any Borders or Barnes and Noble and you get it. Here's a mystery with a heroine who can sense dead people, here's a chick lit with a sassy heroine working in a business run by vampires, here's a demon-hunting soccer mom, and here's a dozen or so vampire romances with tough-talking heroines and bloodsucking vampires with hearts of gold. I know all of that and still...Still I pick up many of those novels hoping for the next Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Lynn Viehl or Ilona Andrews. And still I request these novels for review. The problem is that the really good ones are getting fewer and farther between (maybe because there are a lot more of them) and many fall somewhere squarely in the so-so range, as happened with Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost.

Frost's debut starts off promisingly enough. Catherine Crawfield hunts vampires and is almost caught with a dead (!) vampire in the back of her truck. Catherine's mother was raped by a vampire and Catherine is the statistically rare result of that attack (something about a very recently turned vampire who's sperm was still active when he did the raping). Since learning her heritage (at the age of 16) and the very debilitating effect it had on her mother, Catherine has spent most of her free time hunting and killing vampires. Her quest is derailed when she picks the wrong victim and is forced to join forces with a master vampire named Bones.

Bones has been a vampire since he was sent to a penal colony in Australia. Given his age he's considered to be a master vampire and has the strength and other powers to prove it. Initially he thinks that Cat is working for one of his enemies - since he finds it hard to believe that a human could kill multiple vampires - and his plan is to force her to give up her partner(s). When he learns that she's been operating solo he's appalled and thrilled. Appalled because she could easily have been killed and thrilled because her hybrid status makes her the perfect partner in his own vampire hunting.

Bones and Cat are both interesting characters with very intriguing backstories and yet they felt one-note until very late in the book. Add in a confusing plot that rinses and repeats for much of the story and you get why I was a little frustrated. I think part of my discontent may be because this was a set-up book. The author is laying the groundwork for a series and thus the actual emotional output doesn't come until late in the book. It wasn't until the last quarter that I even felt any chemistry between the protagonists. Certainly this is not a straight romance, and I am more then happy to wait for the pay-off (look at the list of authors I like in paragraph one of this review). So it wasn't because of a lack of love story. It was a lack of any emotional bond between the two.

What I will give the author props for is that these are interesting, larger-than-life characters who do have a lot of room for growth and adventures. And that last section of the book did grab me emotionally. Finally I believed these characters cared for one another. And finally they're initial repetitive quest was completed. Which leaves me with this: A book whose grade went down because of the problems I experienced, and a book whose grade inched back up somewhat because the last pages made me interested enough to try the author's next one.

-- Jane Jorgenson

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