Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: The Vampire's Mail Order Bride by Kristen Painter

*This is not YA

The moment I read the blurb for The Vampire's Mail Order Bride I knew it was a book I absolutely had to read. One of my favorite paranormal series back in my twenties were the Argeneau Vampire books by Lynsay Sands. Unfortunately, those books have taken a shift in tone (they're still 'good'; just not necessarily at what I originally bought them for) and I have waited a long, long time for a series to come along which could capture and rekindle the humor I felt had largely gone missing from the paranormal romance genre.

So, was the book laugh out load funny, or was the joke on me? Read on to find out.

(Summary from GoodReads)
Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town where Halloween is celebrated 365 days a year. The tourists think it's all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better. Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs and all.

After seeing her maybe-mobster boss murder a guy, Delaney James assumes a new identity and pretends to be a mail order bride. What she doesn't know is her groom to be is a 400-year-old vampire.

Hugh Ellingham has only agreed to the set up to make his overbearing grandmother happy. His past means love is no longer an option. Except he never counted on Delaney and falling in love for real. Too bad both of them are keeping some mighty big secrets...
The first thing I will tell you, since it's the first thing that drew me to this book, is that the humor does not disappoint. Where else can you find a kitty named Captain Underpants who does "cat yoga"? Where else have you heard of characters in a PNR novel breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at the cheese factors of vampire romance? Where have you, or when have you, ever heard of anyone doing these things well? 

A large part of why the humor likely worked so well was the lovely contrast between our heroine, Delaney, and our hero Hugh. The concept of a mortal helping an immortal get a second lease on life (as in re-learning to enjoy it) is an old trope, but it was handled very well here. And Hugh isn't the way he is just to be the way he is, he has very good reasons and I really felt for him. I also like the underlying message that simply going by 'type' doesn't always work. Sometimes the right person is someone you would never have expected. (I also like the fact that it did not take the entirety of the novel for this point to be made, as there were other, far more intriguing, things to be explored.) 

The next thing I will tell you is that this book, while hilarious, was no joke. It's filled with interesting and memorable characters who all seem to have their own unique stories and lives going on. The set up of the town, Noctourne Falls, is a perfect balance between our world and a supernatural "world" or society within our world that runs on its own timetable and with its own agenda. I never felt confused or lost, nor did I ever feel that I was being cheated out of learning something I wanted to know. That's the hallmark of good world building, right there. At least to me. 

For a book that's only about 250 pages long, The Vampire's Mail Order Bride took me on one heck of a ride. What do I mean? Well, every time I thought I had something about the plot figured out, something would happen to turn everything upside down. Considering that I've read this genre for years, I'd like to think it's not always easy to keep me on my toes. 

The story also did a beautiful job of blending a rather exciting heroine in jeopardy external conflict with a very guilt driven internal conflict on the part of the hero. Both of these were handled well. The jeopardy plot was exciting without stripping the book of its fun and whimsy, whereas Hugh's backstory never got pressed on me so heavily that it overburdened the book. 

Finally, I will commend the author on making any conflict between the hero and heroine, Hugh and Delaney, -not- the center of what was happening to them. There were a few places where they had problems. This is a story of how can / how will they get together, not why would they want to. I found it very refreshing to see two characters be drawn together and (for the most part) stay that way with relative consistency throughout the course of the novel. It let me enjoy them together longer and thanks to the quality and depth of the conflicts they were facing it never got in the way of the forward momentum of their story.

Last, I want to address the sexual content of this novel since it is technically an adult PNR novel. What I will tell you is that for the vast majority this novel is very clean / tame / mild. Don't misunderstand: the passion and attraction between the characters practically sizzles! But we don't get a play by play of them together in bed; just some really great kisses and an excellent romance set in an interesting take on the supernatural world. 

If you are looking for a fun (and funny) PNR with memorable characters, solid world building and an interesting story, The Vampire's Mail Order Bride is the book you need. This book sucked me in from page one and absolutely did not let go! 


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