By the way, any plans for this long week-end? :P
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly Harper
published by Simon & Schuster (Pocket) in July 2012
Iris Scanlon, Half-Moon Hollow’s only daytime vampire concierge, knows more about the undead than she’d like. Running all their daylight errands—from letting in the plumber to picking up some chilled O neg—gives her a look at the not-so-glamorous side of vampire life. Her rules are strict; relationships with vamps are strictly business, not friendship—and certainly not anything else. But then she finds her newest client, Cal, poisoned on his kitchen floor, and only Iris can help.Genre: Paranormal romance
Cal - who would be devastatingly sexy, if Iris allowed herself to think that way - offers Iris a hefty fee for hiding him at her place until he figures out who wants him permanently dead. Even though he’s imperious, unfriendly and doesn't seem to understand the difference between "employee" and "servant," Iris agrees, and finds herself breaking more and more of her own rules to help him - particularly those concerning nudity.
Turns out what her quiet little life needed was some intrigue & romance—in the form of her very own stray vampire.
Series: Half-Moon Hollow, Book #1
What do you need to know? This is the first book in Ms Harper's new series which is a spin-off of her Jane Jameson series. In The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires, Iris Scanlon runs a daytime vampire concierge. She kind of stumbled into the business after dropping out of college and moving back to Half-Moon Hollow to take care of her younger sister, Gigi, after her parents' deaths. This works out for her because most of the time, she takes care of their day-time errands and therefore, does not have to meet them. Her newest client was referred by the Council and it should have been an easy job: stock his fridge with supplies of blood... except that she stumbled over his almost-unconscious body. Turns out the Council's welcome basket was tampered with and jaw-dropping handsome Calix was poisoned! And it's even more alarming given that Cal's presence in Half Moon Hollow was kept under wrap as he is investigating a company whose blood products might have turned vampires extremely violent and caused deaths. And just like that, Iris found herself embroiled in Council's business against her will... Not to mention fighting her attraction to this stray vampire!
Why this book? I really enjoyed Ms Harper's writing as well as her Jane Jameson series. It's just so much fun, so I was hoping for the same with this spin-off series :)
What did I like? To introduce this spin-off series, Ms Harper has written a novella, Driving Mr. Bad, and in it, I thought the heroine was very, very similar to Jane, both so accident-prone. So I was worried going into The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires that Iris and Jane would turn out to be identical. While they were not total opposite, in the end, I think Ms Harper did a good job at giving Iris a distinct personality. I find that it's hard for authors who write at 1st POV to really come up with distinct "voice" when they switch characters, which I guess that's why 1st POV is mostly utilized in urban fantasy when the series follow one main character. Anyway, I digress. So yes, while Iris was not unique, she was different enough from Jane. In a way, I find she was more mature, competent and also cautious, which is a good thing - although it means there aren't as many laugh out loud scenes. All in all, she was likable and nice heroine.
My favorite element in The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires was Iris and Gigi's relationship. That was the source of laughter in this book :) I really liked that the two sisters were on good terms and looked out for each other, but without clinging to each other. Their dynamic was really good. In that same vein, I also enjoyed Gigi's interactions with Cal. It was just great fun. Another enjoyable part was to see the friendship between Iris and previous characters such as Jane, Andrea and Jolene. I liked the easy camaraderie between these women and I love that Iris still doesn't know Jolene's true nature LOL. Overall, I enjoyed revisiting these characters, but was glad they did not steal the spotlight. In that respect, Ms Harper stroke the right balance.
Finally, the intrigue was interesting and had potential. However, the letdown was the execution and the villain's identity which seemed a bit too obvious.
What didn't work? Unfortunately, my biggest issue with The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires was the romance and that's never a good thing ^_^; In this case, I find the failure was two-fold. First, Cal's personality was not developed enough in my opinion. This is always a challenge when we don't get the hero's POV and in this case, it played against Cal. I actually find this is a weakness in Ms Harper's writing. In the Jane Jameson series, she got around it because Gabriel was developed over the course of three/four books and even then, it was iffy. Anyway, so far, we only got the big lines about Cal - mainly that he is alpha and over-protective and a bit bossy. Same goes with his background/past. I don't know, it just wasn't enough for me to connect with him... and quite frankly, I think the same goes for Iris. My second reason for why the romance failed was the lack of chemistry between Iris and Cal and the lack of development. Aside from physical attraction, I just don't see why Iris and Cal fell in love with each other. One minute they were at each other's throat and the next, declared their love. Sometimes, it works, but in this case, Cal was so prickly!! It just didn't compute for me. I need more development, "more showing."
In the end, I think the romance also affected the pace of the story. In my opinion, The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires felt patchy where the romance and the intrigue were two separate threads instead of being one story. The two simply weren't well integrated together and as a result, the flow wasn't fluid. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the intrigue had potential, but it kind of missed the mark because it was not fully develop.
My Grade? C. There were a lot of elements that I liked, but also some issues with The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires, hence the grade. Still, I'll most probably going to pick up the next book because Ms Harper's writing is so much fun :)