A few short months ago, a newspaper colleague of mine scampered by my desk loudly proclaiming “Vampire romance is hot, hot, hot!” before disappearing into the night with a wave of his blood-red cape.
I didn’t think much of it at the time (the guy’s always been a little peculiar), but it wasn’t long before I had to admit that he was right. Romance novels, once known as “bodice rippers,” are currently featuring an increasing amount of vampire love. And nowhere is this trend more evident than in the paperback book aisle of your favorite supermarket.
Take, for example, “Love Bites” by Lynsay Sands (2004, Dorchester Publishing Co., New York, N.Y., $6.99, 373 Pages).
This is not your father’s vampire paperback.
“Love Bites” is the romantically blood-curdling story of a handsome, urbane vampire and a hardworking deputy coroner whose love life has been less than scintillating in recent months.
Heroine Rachel Garrett works night shift in the morgue of a Toronto hospital and has a somewhat perplexing problem. The same dead guy keeps turning up on her morgue table and then disappearing.
Sometimes he’s shot, sometimes he’s burned up. And then he disappears and Rachel can’t always remember if he was there in the first place.
Guess what? The undead guy is, of course, a vampire. Not only a vampire, but a witty, 21st-century vampire named Etienne Argeneau, who gets his meals from a blood bank, enjoys the theater and has become moderately wealthy from designing computer games.
Etienne, unfortunately, has attracted the attention of a self-styled vampire slayer named Norman Renberger – who prefers to be called “Pudge.”
Pudge is always trying to kill Etienne, hence the periodic visits to the morgue.
During Etienne’s latest trip to the morgue, Pudge decides to follow the amicable vampire’s body there and finish the job by whacking his head off with an ax. As luck would have it, he accidentally whacks Rachel instead, delivering a killing blow to the already badly confused coroner’s employee.
Pudge apologizes profusely and then flees, leaving our slowly reviving vampire with a bit of a sticky wicket. Rachel is dying and he can save her, but only by turning her into a vampire – a practice frowned upon by his peers.
Etienne, however, opts for the transformational sharing of vampire blood and then rushes Rachel home.
At first, Rachel thinks Etienne’s delusional when he tries to explain that he’s a vampire. Then she thinks she’s delusional. Then, after her canine teeth begin to grow, she’s infuriated that Etienne has saved her by turning her into what she thinks of as “a soulless bloodsucker damned to walk the night and suck neck.
“It’s a complicated world – made all the more complicated by the fact that Etienne and Rachel are somewhat attracted to each other and Pudge is still out there with his rifle, his ax, his stakes, his crossbow and his garlic.
Will love triumph?
The answer’s waiting for you in your favorite supermaket paperback aisle. Pick up some some Bloody Mary mix while you’re at it…
Originally published March 14, 2004