Why is it that most books about vampires and werewolves are so deadly serious? Oh, right, deadly. All those sharp teeth, the blood-sucking, the tearing from limb-to-limb. I suppose evil beings might strike some as non-frivolous subjects. But not MaryJanice Davidson – in her newest short story collection, Dead and Loving It, she offers vampires and werewolves with humor to spare.
Housekeeping first: Dead and Loving It is a collection of three previously published short stories and one brand-spanking new story. The older stories came out in e-book format – “Santa Claws”, “Monster Love”, and “There’s No Such Thing As A Werewolf” were published by Ellora’s Cave. This little bit of knowledge explains some of the action in the sex scenes, if you know what I mean. The final story, “A Fiend In Need” is original and, apparently, highly anticipated. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In “Santa Claws”, Alec Kilcurt, your basic Scottish werewolf in Boston, scents his future mate. Said mate is currently working as a Salvation Army bell ringer, and given her ordinary looks, is more than a little surprised when Alec puts the moves on her. Giselle Smith finds herself in Alec’s bed (and not in a good way) before she knows it. From a plot perspective, this one is pretty much all about sex. The characters don’t talk much and spend most of their time between the sheets. However, this read is so cheerful and funny that you don’t realize this until you’ve finished the story.
“Monster Love” attempts a union that I believe may be socially impossible, but what do I know? Vampire Richard Will (aka Dick) and werewolf Janet Lupo (call her Jane) meet and court in a most unusual manner – let’s just say there’s a bit of kidnapping and some forced sex going on. Richard is singularly thrilled to be a vampire; no morose sulking for him. Janet is frustrated with her pack. She’s bad-tempered and doesn’t fit in. This story is also pretty much about sex with more depth added by virtue of Janet’s uncomfortable relationship with her pack compounded by Richard’s actions creating an even bigger rift.
“There’s No Such Thing As A Werewolf” features Drake Dragon, your basic blind physician, and Crescent Muhn, a much younger woman who is convinced she can fly. It’s really just a matter of working up the courage and doing it. This is the sweetest of the three stories up until the point where Richard and Janet pop in and things seem to fall apart. I felt like I’d been pulled out of the story and never regained my emotional connection with the characters. Once Crescent discovers her true self, there isn’t much story to tell. Actually, even before this happens, there isn’t much story to tell. In this case, there’s not enough humor and sex to keep it from being noticeable.
Finally, we have “A Fiend In Need”. We are re-introduced to Betsy from Undead and Unwed and her clan (or, in my case, introduced for the first time), which includes a fiend named George who is into crafts. Antonia, a werewolf misfit who is prone to seeing the future, seeks out Betsy after a vision tells her that she can help the Queen of the Vampires. The vision isn’t clear on Antonia’s exact role (and certainly doesn’t do a damn thing to explain the prologue), and the story hangs together by wit and charm alone. Yes, once again, more sex than plot. I get the sense here that too many pieces of this story – like the whole reason why I should find George compelling – are to be found in other books.
As you might have guessed, none of these stories is big on plot or character development or any of those, well, story things that make for a compelling read. What Davidson has going for her is razor-sharp wit. She’s funny in a way that makes me laugh, and I’m no easy mark. Though there is a lot of it, I’m not convinced that the sex was especially sexy. Maybe it’s because there was a lot of it, and it overshadowed all of the other things that were suggested but never developed in the stories.
I haven’t managed to keep up with Davidson’s career, despite really enjoying her young adult novel, The Adventures of the Teen Furies (still available from HardShell Word factory, I believe), so all the characters in these connected-via-other-stories-or-novels stories were new to me. This is good and bad.
While I didn’t have to scramble to figure out relationship and backstory (thank you!), I also didn’t any connection with George the Fiend, making his story more perplexing than exciting for me. Had more time been spent on developing plot and characters rather than whiplash pacing, I think these stories could have staying power. As it is, they’re a bit like cotton candy without the sticky residue.
If you’re looking for escapist fiction with lots of sex, you’ll probably like this. If you’re looking for a solid story, there are better choices. Me? I’m probably going to hold back a while longer on the Davidson backlist.