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Once BItten Cover Picture

Once Bitten

Clare Willis

Published 2009              352 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

Angie McCaffrey has endured her share of liquid lunches and boardroom shmoozefests to win new advertising clients. But her latest account - a cosmetics line for wannabe vampires - involves some unusual customer research at San Francisco's hippest private nightclub. The "undead" patrons are about as genuine as Macabre Factor's press-on fangs, but one thing is very real the skin-tingling connection Angie feels with her clients' mysterious friend, Eric Taylor.

Still, there are a few problems with this hot new romance. 1) Eric is rumoured to have dated Angie's scheming boss, Lucy. 2) Lucy, missing for days, just turned up dead and bloodless. And, oh yeah, 3) Angie has suddenly developed a teeny aversion to sunlight. Is Eric a real vampire, a killer, or both? Angie's got a lot riding on the answer her heart, her life, and maybe even her soul…

The Review

Once Bitten is the debut paranormal romance novel from author Clare Willis who gets her writing career off to a fantastically good start with this tale of dark romance and even darker shenanigans in the cut-throat world of advertising.

Set in a San Francisco advertising agency, the story follows the adventures of Angie McCaffrey, an executive assistant whose boss (Lucy) goes missing at the time that the pitch for “Macabre Factor” vampire cosmetics is due. Filling in for Lucy leads Angie into the strange underground world of wannabe vampires and nightclubs where blood flows in secret ceremonies conducted in hidden back rooms. It’s at this nightclub that Angie meets the gorgeous Eric – but is he a business man with fangs, or just another vampire wannabe?

Once Bitten is narrated in first person by Angie, by turns she is puzzled and amazed by the discoveries she makes once Eric enters her life. The story has a lightly humorous touch though, which keeps readers from getting bogged down in too much vampire romance angst. Her narration keeps the story upbeat and well-paced - even as the body count rises.

The romance between Angie and Eric in Once Bitten has an air of dreamy mystery about it and the author takes sometime with the story before revealing to Angie that Eric is an actual vampire, rather than a man pretending to be a vampire, allowing the tension to build along the way. There is plenty of romantic relationship development between Angie and Eric, certainly enough to satisfy the average romance fan.

While Once Bitten is marketed as a romance the story has a lot more going for it than just woman-meets-attractive-man followed by woman-discovers-man-is-vampire. The strong murder mystery plotline and the increasingly dark intrigues in Angie’s advertising agency are gripping enough to keep the pages turning even before you factor in the existence of vampires. Well-balanced plotting keeps both the romance and mystery elements of the story in perfect equilibrium – meaning that neither part of the plotline has the chance to swamp the other.

Once Bitten is a hugely readable book and great debut for Clare Willis. There is just so much to like about this story, from its realistic characters (I’ve worked at a large advertising agency and can vouch for the realism with which the ad agency is portrayed – although I hasten to point out that none of my colleagues ever resorted to murder!) to its dark fantasy romance.

Once Bitten is highly recommended reading for vampire romance and mystery fans alike. If my urgings don’t sway you to read this book then its special launch price of $5 just might. A good read AND a bargain. Who doesn’t love that?

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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