When is a vampire not a vampire? When is the flu just the flu? When is an engagement not an engagement? When is a bad guy not a bad guy? And…when is it okay to get bitten by a complete stranger at a literary party?
All good questions. For that last one, the answer probably is “never” but maybe not. The other answers aren’t as clear and answers are exactly what you’ll want. See, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is one of those books that raises several questions as it goes flying off in a hundred different directions. The book is hard to define in terms of romance versus paranormal versus chick lit with a twist. But, and here’s the best part, it’s equally hard to put down. This is due, in part, to Acosta’s engaging voice and, in even bigger part, to a desire to know what the hell is happening here.
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula starts off simple enough. Milagro de Los Santos attends a book party for her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian Beckett Witherspoon. The guy turns out to be exactly what you think a guy named Sebastian Beckett Witherspoon might be – a rich WASP jerk guy. Make that a rich WASP jerk guy who dumped cute, big-busted Latina Milagro because, well, rich WASP jerk guys don’t seriously date cute, big-busted Latina girls named Milagro. They date and, of course, cheat on girls named Tessie.
During said party, Milagro meets, flirts, follows to a hotel room and kisses one Oswaldo (Oswald) Krakatoa – and, yes, the reference to the killer volcano in the last name fits here. He’s a simmering underneath-ready-to-explode guy. The kiss leads to a bite and a cut and the transfer of blood between Milagro and Oswald. Milagro then gets ill. Fall over ill. Thinks she’s been drugged type of ill. Later, she’s convinced she’s caught the flu. Oswald’s family thinks she’s “caught” a heredity blood disease that runs through his family. Sebastian believes Milagro “caught” something much worse and is now a vampire.
Sebastian, along with all of his other unappealing characteristics, is a member of an organization called Corporate Americans for the Conservation of America (CACA – yes, sound that out and see what you think of the name and the political message Acosta might be telegraphing here). The organization is dedicated to ridding America of a “vile infestation” otherwise known as vampirism. Oswald and most of his family insist there are no such thing as vampires, and that CACA really has an agenda that includes getting its hands on the DNA of Oswald’s family.
Milagro hides out in Oswald’s estate or is kidnapped and taken there, depending on how you look at it. Milagro fights off her attraction to Oswald, especially after learning he is engaged to a perfect doctor who may or may not be a fellow vampire. Milagro also fights with Oswald’s acerbic mother Edna and cousin seemingly perfect cousin Sam.
And the hunt is on. Question is: what is the hunt.
In many ways, the book takes off in different directions at this point. There is a good deal of talk about, and fear of, CACA but not much action on that front. Milagro and Oswald do an attraction dance as more and more information about the “real” Oswald comes out, but Oswald remains a bit of an elusive character. Compelling, yes, but mysterious in a way that is difficult for heroes to be and still have readers feel a connection. Here, a connection happens but not without adding to the overall sense of being unsure where the book is going and why.
Milagro is more straightforward. She wrestles with family issues and ethnic issues. She flounders in her personal life, attaching herself to the wrong men or unavailable men, as she struggles to find herself and understand her needs and wants. She grows during the course of the book but not always in expected or predictable ways. In part, the confusion stems from what appears to be the delivery a broader human message here. What that message is, isn’t so clear. That agenda – whatever it is – doesn’t overwhelm the book, but it doesn’t blend into the background either.
A lack of clarity may be present here but – and this can’t be stressed enough – Happy Hour at Casa Dracula can only be described as enjoyable. The plot and characters and everything in between are fun and sometimes very funny. The plot races even though the “to where” point isn’t always answered. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula fits into the “couldn’t put the thing down” category. The credit goes to Acosta’s strong writing and compelling voice. Her style qualifies as charming yet provocative – not an easy mix to accomplish, but one that makes this work stand out among other witty paranormal offerings. This book practically screams “beach read” despite the heavier and somewhat unidentifiable underlying message here.
At base, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula is snappy and entertaining. While you may not always understand it, you’ll want to and will have a heck of a time putting the book down before it’s done.
You can visit Marta Acosta here and by this book here and here.