Some books defy easy definition. These books may best be described by what they aren’t. A promise of a suspense not met. A romance focused only on the chase and not on the catch. A vampire tale less about vampires than about societal pressures. If a book isn’t as suspenseful as advertised, or isn’t really a romantic as hoped, disgruntled readers tend to rise up and complain of missed expectations. But, other times a book has just enough of everything to be enticing. Kimberly Raye’s Dead End Dating falls into the latter category.
For those tired of witty tales of single vampire women looking for love and acceptance, stop reading. For those who believe any writer attempting to write about a well-dressed, designer-crazed single vampire woman is only trying to rip off MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series, this probably isn’t for you so wait for the release of Undead and Unpopular in December. But for those who enjoy smart dialog, an engaging voice and a clever play on society’s class system, read on.
Countess Lilliana Arabella Guinevere du Marchette (Lil) is a member of vampire royalty. She is pure having been born a vampire rather than made a vampire. With that purity comes a seat in vampire Upper Class. Her wealthy family owns Midnight Moe’s (think Kinkos). Her brothers followed the family path and now work in dad’s company. Lil prefers Prada and Jimmy Choos to a lime green polo shirt with Midnight Moe’s stitched across the pocket, so she forges her own way. In order to pay the rent without help and separate from her meddling family, she moves into her own closet-sized apartment in Manhattan and starts a business – Dead End Dating – a matchmaking service for humans and vampires both born and made.
While romance is not a major goal in the vampire world, procreation is. In a comparison to the intermarrying of wealthy non-vampire families like the Rockefellers and DuPonts, born vampires bond with their own kind. Upper crust marries upper crust. Rather than mating for the purposes of keeping the prestige and money within the family, born vampires find eternity mates in order to create future families. Born vampires can reproduce if the circumstances are right – men need a high fertility rating and women need a high orgasm quotient (OQ). The more times a woman can orgasm during a sexual encounter, the greater the chances of conceiving. Conceiving is the goal, which means the OQ drives upper-crust males as the main component in finding a mate. As a result, men of the born vampire class start conversations with quesitons about fertility and OQ rather than private school backgrounds, college alma maters and stock portfolios. Not the most romantic notion in the world, but an intelligent play on the concept of marrying within class.
Lil’s begins her business with first client Francis Deville, a geek with a big heart (if he had one), low fertility rate, no sense of style and vampire connections back to Napoleon. He’s a dweeb in an adorable puppy kind of way. His lack of pretense contrasts with Lil’s love of all things expensive. The banter as Lil tries to work her My Fair Lady magic on Francis is sharp and funny. In desperation, Lil matches Francis with a human woman. A no-no, but just a test. One that backfires in a way that’s predictable but still manages to feel fresh due to Raye’s reluctance to transform Francis into the perfect hero.
While matching others, fighting off grandchildren pressure from her parents and generally making a hash of her credit rating, Lil meets Ty Bonner, a bounty hunter on the trail of a serial killer. Someone is targeting young single women through personal ads. Ty fears the killer has switched his method of finding victims to matchmaking services and enlists Lil’s help to watch for the killer. Ty wants help. Lil wants Ty. Ty being a made vampire is all wrong for her, of course. The classic opposite-sides-of-the-tracks attraction is the perfect set-up for the thrust and parry of a romantic chase. Lil both fights and encourages. After all, Ty has that bad boy look and nonchalant attitude Lil can’t resist. Seeing Lil as a snob but a cute one, Ty encourages right back.
In the “what it’s not” category, Dead End Dating is not romantic suspense. The serial killer angle is a subplot used to throw Lil and Ty together where normally they would not run in the same social circles. It’s also not a mystery. The killer reveal reads like an add-on. In many ways, it is. The focus here is not on suspense or mystery. It’s really not on romance either. The sexual tension between Lil and Ty builds and sparks, but stays G-rated and unfulfilled at all times. Keeping the focus on the chase adds intrigue and desire to read on. Since this is the first in a trilogy, wanting more is a requirement and in that Raye is successful. The expectation here is that the “real” romance will come later in the series. That the romantic chase will step to another level. That is not the only expectation. The real hope is for a bit more character growth on Lil’s part, a bit less designer-name dropping and a better explanation for the inclusion of Lil’s two friends (both named Nina) in the series – a hope that all of those components will come later.
Until then, the reader is left with a quirky heroine, humorous dialog, future hero potential in Ty and a relatable vampire take on social classes. Under Raye’s guidance and gift for chat, the chick-lit feel and general theme of woman-finding-her-way-on-her-own is enough. For now. For one book. For a momentary forgiveness of what Dead End Dating is not. The rest is up to book two – Dead and Dateless.
You can visit Kimberly Raye here and buy this book here and here.