The Undead Next Door
Published 2008 369 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Three signs that something is very different with your new man:
1. He sleeps all day… which would be annoying except he's so attentive at night.
2. He's attacked by sword-wielding assailants, yet insists he can handle it on his own.
3. He never seems to age.
Heather Westfield has always lived a quiet life, but that all changes when she helps a very handsome, very mysterious stranger. There's something not quite right about Jean-Luc, but still, she's never been with a man so charming, so attractive… so wonderful. Now if only a murderous villain wasn't after them, they might get their happily-ever-after.
The Undead Next Door is the fourth book in the Love At Stake paranormal romance series by Kerrelyn Sparks. While this novel is part of a long running series featuring the romances of a close-knit group of vampires the book works well enough as a stand alone story to be read by itself with no prior knowledge of the Love At Stake world.
The Undead Next Door is the story of Jean-Luc, a hunky, metrosexual fashion designer exiled from the sophisticated city of Paris to a small town in the middle of Texas Hill Country. Jean-Luc is a vampire as well as a designer of celebrity fashion and the media have started to ask questions about why he hasn’t aged over the last 30 years. The plastic surgery defence can only stretch so far, so it is decided that he must hide away from the public eye for the next 25 years before he can re-enter the fashion world posing as his own son.
Rural Texas was perhaps an odd choice for his exile but it sets up plenty of comic situations with the local yokels who are not used to the presence of exotic French fashion designers in their small community. Apart from the obvious comic turn from the culture clash The Undead Next Door is a fairly standard romance and concentrates on Jean-Luc’s relationship with Heather, a local school teacher and single parent who he finds irresistibly attractive. Throw in Lui, a vampire assassin with a grudge (and a fondness for killing Jean-Luc’s girlfriends) and readers have all the ingredients for a light-hearted vampire romance.
Fluffy vampire romance is never my first choice of reading matter and this book is about as fluffy as they come. It’s the kind of romance where you could takeout the vampires, say replacing them with some other non-supernatural outsider group, and you’d still have the same working romance novel. The characters all seem to want to get married, have children and lead “normal” lives. To me, this kind of misses the point of paranormal romance where there is an opportunity to be more “para” and less… “normal”.
It’s fair to say that I prefer my romances to have an edge, either a dangerous dark edge like J.R. Ward’s BDB books or a more action driven edge like Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress or Lynn Viehl’s Darkyn books. I like my light-hearted vampire comedies to have snark, sarcasm and intelligent, razor-sharp wit. The Undead Next Door lacks on both these fronts. In fact the main joke that runs through this book is the inability of the Texas townsfolk to listen to, pronounce or remember Jean-Luc and Lui’s French names (they are immediately anglicised to John and Louie). Maybe I’m just feeling particularly joyless but this just makes out the people of Texas to be rude and ignorant and I don’t see how this is funny.
The Undead Next Door isn’t a bad book – it meets most of the genre conventions for this kind of light-weight vampire romance and is written well enough. It’s just not a book that really appeals to me. However, don’t be put-off by my personal preferences on this, readers who have read previous books in the Love At Stake series shouldn’t be disappointed with this instalment and fans of romance authors like Lynsay Sands, Michele Bardsley and Christine Feehan could well find a new must-read author in Kerrelyn Sparks.
Giving this book a star rating is tricky because assuming that readers like their vampire romances to fluffy pieces of angst-fee fun there is no reason why this book shouldn’t be given 5 stars. Readers not so keen on that type of romance would probably find the book a more average effort of 3 stars. So I’ve split the difference and given it 4 stars…
LoveVampires Review Rating: