Roman Draganesti is charming, handsome, rich … he’s also a vampire. But this vampire just lost one of his fangs sinking his teeth into something he shouldn’t have. Now he has one night to find a dentist before his natural healing abilities close the wound, leaving him a lop-sided eater for all eternity.
Things aren’t going well for Shanna Whelan, either. After witnessing a gruesome murder, she’s next on the mob’s hit list. And her career as a dentist appears to be on a downward spiral because she’s afraid of blood. When Roman rescues her from an assassination attempt, she wonders if she’s found the one man who can keep her alive. Though the attraction between them is immediate and hot, can Shanna conquer her fear of blood to fix Roman’s fang? And if she does, what will prevent Roman from using his fangs on her … ?
HelenKay: There are only so many romance plots out there. Only so many vampire stories to be told. So, when you stumble on one with a twist, an unexpected concept, coupled with a fun and flirty voice, it’s worth a look. Sparks’ How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire and the case of a vampire in search of a dentist is one of those stories worth looking at and buying.
Roman is former monk turned 500-year-old vampire. He is the leader of his coven, living in Manhattan and owner of a factory that produces synthetic blood and synthetic blood food so that fellow vampires can feast without ever taking a human life. He meets Shanna, a dentist at an all-night dental clinic, when he accidentally loses a fang while testing a new invention. A terrible incident in Shanna’s past has left her fearful of blood, in danger of losing her career thanks to her new-found panic, and in the path of a rogue vampire killer-for-hire. All of these factors collide in Chapter One. Believe it or not, there are twenty six more chapters to follow.
Sparks fills the pages with an array of characters from the good guy vampires and their coven leaders from France and Scotland, to the bad guy killer vampire and his group of Malcontents – those who despise the modern idea of using synthetic blood rather than real humans to feed. There are also subplots involving the murder in Shanna’s past and her time under FBI protection, which doesn’t amount to protection at all, and the appearance of Shanna’s dad, a State Department employee via the CIA with his own vampire agenda. If that’s not enough, there are threats of an all-out vampire war. In more than 370 pages, Sparks throws an unusual number of characters in the reader’s lap but manages to juggle them in such a way so that, except for the crowds of vampires in the covens, they all play a role that makes sense in light of the plot and subplots.
Sparks keeps the story moving with crisp pacing. She weaves the romance and budding attraction between Shanna and Roman together with the growing threat against Shanna, and Roman’s drive to advance his discoveries. Most of the subplots and storylines click, except for the inclusion of Shanna’s father and his part in the vampire world. Sparks gives the father a reason to be present and ties his action with other events, but the addition of one more character with one more set of motivations seemed unnecessary.
There is also an underlying theme that, at first, is subtle but then takes on a much larger role by the end of the book. That is the idea of redemption. As a former monk who is now a creature of the night, Roman carries serious baggage throughout the book. He is on a constant quest to both punish himself for past wrongs and attempt to redeem them. Some could be turned off by the significance Sparks places on this concept by the end of the book, but in the context of Roman’s character it works without crossing the thin line into overly preachy dialog.
Both Roman and Shanna are likable, charming characters. They were funny and flawed. Roman’s heart – to the extent he has one – underneath all that intelligence, guilt and the fangs is golden almost to the point of being too perfect. As a result, the one time he loses control and shows his fangs, actually uses them, the scene feels a bit disjointed from all that comes before.
Roman’s character is better defined than Shanna’s, but in comparison to the other females in the book, none of whom come off particularly smart except for one other mortal woman, Shanna is a star. Sparks’ description and later characterization of Roman leads to an easy visual image of him. Shanna is a bit harder. Despite the size 6 model on the cover, Shanna is supposed to be a size 12 with a bit of meatiness to her. In a somewhat refreshing way Sparks mentions this fact but does not trade on the angle. Instead, allows Shanna very little time for self-punishment over this issue and barely has Roman or any of the other men notice, except as to find her shape a positive attribute.
The attraction between the pair grows at a believable pace, to the extent a romance between a vampire and a mortal woman is believable. After all, there is some need for suspension of belief in this story. The steady pacing, along with a witty and enjoyable voice keep the book humming through the myriad of issues and problems Roman and Shanna have to overcome on the way to a happily ever after that, while it feels too wrapped-up-in-a-shiny-pink-bow, still manages to be satisfying.
Wendy: Kerrelyn Sparks’ How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire is a light, humorous, and thoroughly modern look at vampiric lore. After losing a fang in the rubbery neck of a life size, and life-like, sex toy cum Vampire Artificial Nutritional Needs Appliance (VANNA), Roman Draganesti needs an all-night dentist to implant his tooth before the sun comes up. Shanna Whelan is a dentist working the graveyard shift in Manhattan’s SoHo SoBright Dental Clinic. Trouble is: witnessing her friend’s murder has left Shanna more than a bit squeamish over the sight of blood, testifying against the Russian mob has landed Shanna in the Witness Protection Program, and the hit men assigned to kill her have called to say they are on their way over.
Roman rescues Shanna from the intended hit and learns his long time enemy—and fellow vampire—Ivan Petrovsky is the hired killer after Shanna. Knowing without him, Shanna would not survive the night—and still in desperate need of a dentist—Roman offers his protection, even at the risk of himself, his employees and his coven.
How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire is a quick and easy read, full of amusing setups, even if the dark nature of the plot is several ticks shy of the levity the title implies. Sparks shines brightest in her world building. The story is set in Manhattan amidst a bustling vampire subculture where Roman is the owner and lead scientist for Romatech Industries, makers of Vampire Fusion Cuisine, like Chocolood (a chocolate and synthetic blood drink) as well as Blood Lite (for vampires concerned with calories), both of which allow vampires to forgo human meals. There is an upcoming Gala Ball and Spring Conference that will bring coven leaders from around the world together, all to be covered by Corky Courrant, host of Live With the Undead on the Digital Vampire Network (DVN). And, as a counterbalance to the modern, good times vampires, is a group of throwback, renegade vamps known as the Malcontents who are unhappy with the ethical movement to drink synthetic blood.
If there is a complaint, it is that Sparks’ clever and delightful world overshadows the heroine and the love story. Shanna is a reactionary character, with too little depth or clarity to identify with. She, her story, and conflict are wholly external and for all her mortal peril, her concerns are lightweight next to Roman’s bereavement for his god and the distress he feels for his immortal soul.
Even though the story never lacks for conflict and is smartly paced, the middle lulls rather than ignites. The plot is further weighed by an unneeded and chiefly ignored subplot, operation Stake-Out, headed by Shanna’s CIA agent father. And, in some places repetitive language and phrases—such as Roman’s “God’s Blood”—threaten the buoyancy and ease of the read.
How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire succeeds on the strength of its whimsical voice and the abundant creativity of its author. However, while Sparks consistently charms with humor, she never ignores the dark subtext: If she was going to date a demon, he could at least be a faithful one. Some plot point grievance and the use of stock romance scenarios—like the necessity of every secondary character knowing the hero and heroine have finally gotten physical—are easily forgiven in light of the book’s ingenuity.
Wendy’s response to HelenKay: While reading, I was uncomfortably aware of Sparks’ portrayal of female vampires. The women in Roman’s harem had no means to support themselves, were catty, vindictive and existed in an expectant state, forever waiting for Roman to engage them in vampire sex. Catherine “Corky” Courrant, aka Porky Implant, was a medieval torture chamber mistress turned surgically enhanced DVN reporter. And the women vampires in Ivan Petrovsky’s coven were murderous, cruel and backstabbing (or staking through the heart as the case may be), creatures. Did you find it odd that in Sparks’ modern working of the vampire tale, that the only women of substance were human?
HelenKay’s response to Wendy: There was a clear difference between the good guys and the bad girls in this book. Sparks, through Roman, tries to explain away the neediness and somewhat vapid nature of the women in his coven when he tells Shanna the women come from a different time when everything was done for them and they didn’t have any skills. Maybe this was stab at historical accuracy. I don’t know. It felt a bit overblown to me. My initial thought was that Sparks was trying to draw some kind of distinction where only male vampires could partake in the fighting and the warmongering. But that’s likely overthinking. The real answer could be that the vampire world as it’s been constructed over the years – I’m not an avid reader of the subgenre so I’m generalizing a bit – centers around the idea of men being in charge and women being playthings and Sparks was working within that predesigned universe. Either way, here the female vampires stand for the idea of weakness, while the men stand for virility. This didn’t dim my enjoyment of the book but it is something a reader is likely to notice or will now that we’ve taken such great pains to point it out.
Wendy’s final thoughts: How To Marry A Millionaire Vampire is light, entertaining, and witty. Recommended.
HelenKay’s final thoughts: Sparks’ easy humor, smart pacing and defective but lovable hero made this book work. Millionaire Vampire manges to be fun and serious at the same time, all while keeping your attention focused on flipping pages. Recommended.