The Undead Next Door

Kerrelyn Sparks
2008, Vampire Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061118451
Part of a series

Grade: D
Sensuality: Warm

After reading two really bad vampire romances in a row, Iím ready to take a little break from this genre. The back of The Undead Next Door lists three signs that your new man is ďdifferent.Ē Here are three signs that you need to read a different book:

1. You look at the page number every couple minutes and quickly calculate how many more are left.
2. Your eyes are exhausted from the constant rolling.
3. It takes at least twice as long to read, because after it hits the wall, you have to get up, retrieve it, and find your place again.

Ever since Heather Westfield was a little girl, she's wanted a career in fashion. She and her best friend, Sasha, would pore over fashion magazines and imagine their future grand careers. Yet at the age of 26, Heather is a size 12, single mother, and divorcee who teaches at the local high school in Schnitzelberg, Texas (yes, Schnitzelberg), where she grew up and never really left. Sasha, on the other hand, has accomplished her adolescent goal by becoming a model for one of the worldís top designers, Jean-Luc Echarpe. And get this: Jean-Luc is opening a store, Le Chique Echarpe, right outside of Schnitzelberg (yes, Schnitzelberg) in the middle of nowhere. Heather is absolutely thrilled to be at the grand opening, although itís not exactly her scene Ė she certainly canít afford an eight-hundred-dollar purse, let alone a $20,000 dress. Inspiration strikes her, however, and she quickly starts sketching clothing designs for herself.

Jean-Luc is not happy about opening his new Texas store. With the success of his company and its entrance into the public eye more than a generation ago, his years in this guise are numbered. The media is starting to wonder why he hasnít aged in the last several decades and why some of his models apparently havenít either. His plan is to open the Texas store, have it go bankrupt, and live in the deserted store unseen for the next 25 years until he can re-emerge, posing as his son. The idea depresses him, although after living for 500 years, whatís 25? While he morosely surveys the guests at the grand opening from a secure location, a beautiful woman catches his eye. He is enjoying the view immensely until he realizes that she is frantically writing on a little pad of paper, stealing his ideas!

After Jean-Luc captures Heather and threatens her with the law, he takes a look at her sketches and admits that they arenít bad. He immediately offers her a job and takes her into his design studio to show her his newest designs (really, I didnít know the fashion industry was that easy to break into). While there, however, they are attacked by a sword-wielding man, who Heather slaps with the silver belt she is holding. Once the threat is contained, Jean-Luc explains that Heather cannot leave, that he must protect her, because the man he calls Lui will now try to kill her as he has killed several of Jean-Lucís other girlfriends. And no, just because they met minutes ago and are not dating does not ensure her safety, because the bad man will already think theyíre connected.

This story was supposed to be funny, but just ended up being silly. There were scene set-ups that were ridiculous. An example: While expecting Lui to strike, everyone grabs their guns (itís Texas, remember) when Jean-Luc senses someone on the porch. Out he runs with his sword at the ready and terrifies Sasha (the person on the porch) into falling on her butt. Then comes Fidelia (Iíll get to her in a moment) with her Glock, who proceeds to try and unlock the trigger-lock to shoot Sasha (sheís known her since she was a child). Finally, to complete the tableau, out runs a wild-eyed, rifle-wielding Heather. The result is a squirrel getting shot out of a tree and landing in the yard. There were so many scenes like this that were set up as shticks, but I just couldnít get over how lame it all was. The jokes were completely humorless and the characters only bizarre. Fidelia is a middle-aged psychic Hispanic who lives with Heather and her daughter. She is disturbingly obsessed with her three guns and enjoys pulling them out and saying things like ďmake my day.Ē The people of Heatherís past were also portrayed ridiculously. With extra-psycho, extra-rude, or extra-(fill in the blank) qualities, they were caricatures of normal people.

Aside from the story's unfunny "comedy", there was nothing to ground the outlandish plot in reality. Yes, it's a vampire romance, but a good vampire romance brings the reader into a vampire milieu. A bad one does not, and this one didn't. Heather wants to face Lui because sheís decided that she is at war with fear (this appears to be the book's theme because it's mentioned ad nauseum). And yet Jean-Luc, who understands the extreme danger of a mortal facing an ancient vampire assassin, agrees to let her tag along on the hunt, because she showed real gumption when flicking the assassin with that silver belt. There are also a bunch of inconsistencies, such as Jean-Luc needing to hide from the public eye, but then happily going to a fair attended by the entire town, and how the Vamps are supposed to be loving supporters of humanity, but several of them have rather blasť thoughts about killing people.

I could go on and on, so Iíll stop myself after mentioning that the love scenes were wooden and botherd me - too vulgar for my taste. It's true that the beginning and during some parts of the end, the book read easily...the problem were those pesky 300 or so pages in-between. With amateurish writing, bad jokes, unbelievable characters, and so much more, Iím giving The Undead Next Door a big thumbs-down.

-- Andi Davis

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