Sex & The Single Vampire by Katie MacAlister is book 7 of the #20BooksofSummer challenge

Earlier this year I wrote a post about book shame. I’ve never been ashamed to read a book while I was reading it. However, I do look back and feel ashamed of books I read because I should have been reading something smarter, with more substance. One novel I had loved was 2003’s A Girl’s Guide to Vampires, which I reviewed recently. I had gotten rid of this novel, which made me sad. After I looked at reviews for the book on Goodreads, I noticed that the title included (Dark Ones #1). There were more? In a burst of aid to me of yore, I located and procured every book in the Dark Ones series — all 11 of them, plus two of the “0.5” books, which are 40-page-ish short stories from the same universe.

Loki

One of the reasons I seem further along in my 20 Books of Summer challenge is that these vampires novels are audio books, so I can listen to them while doing the dishes or laying in bed, and I’ll also read a hard copy of a different book when I feel like reading. I’ve just loved audio books like crazy lately!


The Review:

Content Warning: memories of domestic violence, some fat shaming, a lot of very low-key sex scenes.

Sex and the Single Vampire (Dark Ones #2) by Katie MacAlister follows one of the characters from the previous novel, A Girl’s Guide to Vampires. It is a minor spoiler to say that in the first book, Joy ends up with Raphael, and Christian is the vampire. One fun, cheeky thing about Christian is he is the famous author of books about Moravian vampires, which women eat up like mad. Little do they know, his books might as well be autobiography.

Christian is the focus of this novel. He needs to find his Beloved to save his soul from eternal suffering. He thought it was Joy, and no one has ever heard of a Moravian being wrong about who his Beloved is. But Joy loves Raphael, so she promises Christian that she and Roxy will find Christian’s true Beloved.

Enter Allegra. She is an American summoner who has never actually summoned a ghost. Her last chance is to head to a hotel in London that has reported some active spirits. There, she finally succeeds! . . . and summons a three-legged cat. Allegra is still proud of herself, but loses focus when she has visions of a man covered in blood. She actually locates this man the next day, exactly as she had seen him in her vision, only for him to shoo her away. The nerve!

The book dips into meta-fiction like A Girl’s Guide to Vampires did when Allegra heads to a book signing by C.J. Dante in order to get a copy of the newest novel and get it signed by the author. After waiting for ages she gets to the front, and it’s the man . . . the one who was bleeding. Allegra is quickly swept away by two women, whom she learns are Roxy and Joy. They explain that they think Allegra is Christian’s Beloved and will explain everything.

Sex and the Single Vampire came out in 2004, just one year after the first book. I was not aware that the books would need to be read in order! I never commit to series. Except now I have. To not be ashamed of nineteen-year-old me. *sigh* I listened to the audio book, which is narrated by Cassie Campbell. Google tells me she’s famous and has all kinds of awards. The novel is told from Allegra’s perspective, and all I could think about when I heard the Allegra voice was sweet kittens and Frances from The Great British Baking Show.

Frances Quinn2
Image from Mirror

That’s . . . not really a compliment. Frances always sounded babyish to me, and when we’re talking about the narrator’s voice, well, you want something strong, crisp, and clear.

Weirdly enough, Cassie Campbell’s voices for the Czechoslovakian Christian, British Esme, and German Guarda are all fantastic! I would say Campbell’s voice for Christian is actually better than Karen White’s in the first audio book because it’s not so slow and hesitating. Since Christian’s role was smaller in A Girls Guide to Vampires, it could be halting. As a main character, a similarly slow voice would have made the book drag.

single vampire

The plot needed some love. This novel feels like the result of multiple editors all trying to have their way, which creates strong and weak moments all over the place. Awesome: Allegra and Christian communicating in each other’s minds takes the place of those annoying modern cell phones. Negative: the motives and actions of the bad guys make almost no sense. Awesome: Allegra’s choice to be stubborn is appropriate because she is the victim of domestic abuse. She only does things when she’s ready and comfortable. Awesome: this patience extends to Christian’s and Allegra’s choices in their sexual relationship. He says, “Ask me to stop and I will” and that they will wait “until the time is right” when Allegra feels comfortable. Negative: zero mention of contraceptives, though we know Moravian vampires can have babies. Negative: Allegra’s brain doesn’t want to have sex with Christian, but her body does, which implies women aren’t in control of their bodies. Let’s not do that. The diet industry will do that for us.

Also Negative: Allegra is so unsure because she was abused by her ex-husband (she’s actually physically disabled as a result), but fairly quickly develops a sexual relationship with Christian without knowing much about him. Why not put off the physical relationship for at least a week and get to know him. In passing, it’s mentioned that Christian had a brother who died, his dad was made a Moravian but Christian was born one, and that he was knighted. Huh. More conversations first would have led to a more satisfying payoff when we get to the sexual relationship. I think MacAlister was relying on the whole Beloved thing to bypass the characters getting to know each other because a Beloved and Moravian are made for each other, end of discussion. It doesn’t work for me.

The sex scenes take up a lot more space in this second book — a chapter may end with a sex scene and the next one begin with “round two” — but they’re still full of euphemisms, even more so than the first book! We get a lot of “we joined,” which is nice, but it’s also confusing because the whole point of a Beloved is for her to “join” with her Dark One, which is different than sex. Thus, we get a lot of “joining” in various ways, which leads to a repetitive feel to what’s happening.

On a positive note, there is a lot of humor! Allegra raises her first human ghost, a British woman named Esme. Summoning requires Dead Man’s Ash, which Allegra sprinkles all over. Christian, watching her, says, again, in that amazing Czech accent, “That looks rather messy. Isn’t there a more efficient way to summon a spirit?” Then, after Esme is summoned, the first thing she does is criticize Allegra’s clothes (I think Esme is some sort of Emily Post-type). Allegra responds:

“Esme, you’re not my mother. And you are dead. Those are just two reasons why advice from you is not needed.”

 

Her lower lip quivered, and her eyes filled with ghostly tears.

 

[Christian said,] “I hope you are pleased with yourself. You have made a spirit cry.”

There are lots of dry little back-and-forths with Allegra and Christian . . . mostly before they’ve decided to have sex for the first time. I wished we got more!

Joy and Roxy are reduced to almost nothing. Joy is hugely pregnant (guess we learn a condom tear in Book #1 leads to babies in Book #2) and Roxy calls her fat, a pig, and a beached whale. Roxy says Joy’s child will be messed up because she’s engaged, not married. Whoa, nellie! What? Seriously? In 2004? I’m not sure what the author’s intentions are with Roxy, but she’s a childish and annoying character that adds so little. Joy has been boiled down to saying, “Roxyyyyyy” to scold her friend when she asks Allegra questions like, “Did you guys do the nasty?” What, is Roxy 13? Wait, no, sometime over the past year she did get married and lose her virginity. She’s an adult woman. There was so much potential in this book, but it’s not one that I will read again.

20 books 2017
This is book #7 of my #20BooksofSummer challenge, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books.

 

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29 comments

  1. You never commit to series!? That’s so interesting. It seems like nowadays the trend is to move toward series. I loved your post about feeling reverse shame about the things you read! That was the first post from your blog I saw 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, thanks for being a part of GTL, Savanah! The first post you read, then, was a sadder one. I don’t commit to series mostly because I have three college degrees in fiction writing, so I’ve spent years going to author readings and getting their books. Now it’s a very tall problem in the corner of my office, lol. So, if I get involved in a series, there is a large time commitment that I’m not sure I can do because A) I’ve got all these books from readings staring at me, and B) I started GTL as a review site for small-press books. I couldn’t devote time to a series when I had all these reviewer copies coming at me. However, since then I’ve stopped taking reviewer copies and am much better at not buying books at every reading I attend (and not attending every reading). I definitely see why series are so popular, especially after I read all 8 Anne of Green Gables books last summer as part of my #20BooksofSummer list. You get so familiar and comfortable with a setting and cast of characters that it’s like you don’t want to leave. What series do you really enjoy?

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s why I love series! I get so invested. It’s also why I love Sarah Dessen so much, because she doesn’t write series, but she writes everything in the same town and occasionally gives nods to her former characters. It’s really cute.

        I’d have a really hard time picking a favorite series! Especially because I usually don’t read the last book. Probably because I’m crazy, I’m always so sad to leave the world that I buy the last book and don’t read it, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is kind of sad that you never read the last book. I really hope you aren’t a fan of Lord of the Rings and avoided the last book! I think Katie MacAlister is trying to do the same thing with a gentle link between books, but moves forward. That way, from what I’ve read on Goodreads, people can enter the series anywhere. I’m going to check out Sarah Dessen. Her novels set in the same town with some reappearing characters sounds really neat! Based on Stephen King’s novels, I would think Maine would be a dumpster fire of supernatural events!

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  2. I never commit to a series either, unless ALL of the books are out by the time I start the first one. I’m too impatient to wait! This series sounds like fun, even if it isn’t perfect (which I never expect from books anyway).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep toeing around whether or not I should start the 3rd audio book. It’s not part of my #20BooksofSummer challenge, but audio books are so easy to read everywhere that I might throw it in as extra. It sounds like it adds a new heroine but brings back Christian and Allegra just a bit. That’s how the 2nd book was, too. There’s just a thin thread to the previous work. According to Goodreads, lots of readers don’t read The Dark Ones like a series at all, so they must do well as stand-alone novels.

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  3. The whole “her body was in conflict with her mind” thing is so annoying – and dangerous. Glad you pointed that out. Roxy sounds awful. I’m glad you’re able to still mostly enjoy these, though. A good audio book (or podcast) makes chores or driving so much more enjoyable!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m SO glad that you’ve stopped shaming yourself and returned to reading what the heck you want to. Yay! And I love your perceptive and careful review. I’m not sure one CAN read series a second time, as you know what’s going to happen. Hm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, the issue is if in 5-10 years I look back to 2017 and think, “Oh, my god, why did I read so many dorky vampire books?? I could have been reading Camus, or something!” See, it’s future me who’s a jerk. Thanks for your kind words, Liz.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not sure why, but I LOVE books about authors, about their writing life, publishing, etc. I find it really interesting, and because I used to work in publishing I can totally relate. But, it’s also just really fun to read about!

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  6. I ALWAYS commit to series. Even terrible ones. It’s like once I read one, I have to read all. Which is why I never start unless I think I’ll like the first one at least.
    But you’re having super fun with this, aren’t you? 😊 Good for you! Read what you want!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LoL, you called me out! Yes, I think I am having fun with it. My concern is that I’m reading problematic books and ignoring that fact. For instance, these Moravian vampires need to find their Beloved, go through seven steps, and then they are joined, meaning she has saved his soul from eternal damnation. Is it good to read a book in which a woman must be willing (and by willing I mean she knows he will suffer for all eternity if she doesn’t) to give herself to someone to save him? Yeah, probably not…

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      • Well, that is a dilemma. A lot of classics are problematic. If you realize that they are problematic and mention that in the review it makes a difference. The problem is greater when you read only problematic books, without any idea of why they are problematic, and recommend them to others without mentioning that they are problematic. My two cents, anyway.
        But yeah, not a simple question and no straightforward answer.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t find myself reading series very often, but it’s not a conscious decision. I did get *very* excited the other day when I discovered a complete four-part historical fantasy series in a charity shop and managed to buy the whole thing for £6, though.

    The detail about Christian being a writer who writes supposedly-fictional vampire novels made me smile. I love that type of thing in books.

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    • It’s so meta-fiction, and I love meta-fiction!! I wish it were emphasized more in the book. I mean, at the beginning he attends one book signing, but for the rest of the book, nada. You don’t get anything about him writing or editing or doing promotions… if he’s so famous as a writer, that would be his only thing, I would think.

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  8. There’s no shame in reading whatever you want to read. The only shame is in not doing so and letting your reading choices be dictated by trends and public opinion. Not that I am suggesting you do that – just reflecting on how I see some readers feel they need to always read the latest hot title

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  9. Wow– I go away for a few weeks and return to see you’re really *crushing* this #20BooksofSummer challenge. I am super impressed! Keep up the great work.

    Ugh. When I struggle to connect to an audiobook narrator I always get frustrated. It’s strange to me that Campbell’s voices for some characters worked for you and some didn’t. If you decided to continue the series (I get the impression you’re over it?), would you continue to listen to the audiobooks? Is the set you purchased an audiobook set? Oh man. You own them *all* now. That’s intense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol, most of them are audio books at the library. I bought some ebooks. I’ll finish the series. It seems like each book has a different voice actress, so I never know what I’m getting! Plus, the books exist in the same universe, so while I may see a character I didn’t like again, it’s scant moments.

      I’m only crushing the resume challenge because I put some shorter books up front to give me time to read another with that took me almost two weeks to finish!

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s smart planning. I am such a mood reader I don’t think I’d be able to stick to a schedule like that, honestly. I’m just blown away.

        Will you review the other books in this series as you read them? I’m intrigued to see what you think as it continues.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I’ll keep reviewing. I have two concerns, though: 1) will people start to think I’m the kind of reviewer who only does vampire romance and run away screaming, and 2) will people not read the reviews if I point out they are part of a series? One of the problems with reviewing all 8 of the Anne books is you will start to lose readers because they don’t want spoilers, or book review #6 doesn’t make sense because they can’t remember #1-#5. It was still worth it, especially when the few people who did read were SO passionate about chatting with me.

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          • Haha. I don’t think you need to worry about concern #1. If anyone around these parts thinks that you’re the kind of reviewer who only does vampire romance, well, they have obviously only just read that one review. I don’t think your reputation is at stake at all. (I made a pun! I’m never punny!)

            I understand your struggle with series books. I don’t really like to publish reviews for series novels, I’ve found lately. I used to almost exclusively read series books. But now that I blog, I find I’m reaching for more stand alone novels. It’s really interesting. If a series is really popular, trendy, or a fan-favorite I find that I’ll get comments on my #2-#?? posts. But if not? Well, I don’t get a lot of readership. Particularly if I know people want to read the series on their own some day. But it’s a risk worth taking, I think. You’ll still find people who want to read and comment.

            Besides, it’s not like you’re going to only be reading these books going forward. *That* would be a bit overwhelming, I think.

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