After Sundown
by Amanda Ashley, paranormal (2003)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-7528-6


There are two things about this book that don't sit well with me. One, the characters don't behave or react according to the gravity of their situation. Two, this is another one of those Evil Slutty Vampires Threatening To Steal The Men Of Our Virginal Heroines things that is, to me, the hallmark of a really mediocre romance novel by a romance author who takes the easy way out with plots (why demonize non-virginal women all the time?). Three, I have no idea what is going on in this story. Okay, that's three things instead of two, so I may as well toss in a fourth one, an extension of item two: isn't it bizarre that an author chooses to go all puritanical on the reader in a vampire romance? I can imagine just a bunch of blood-soaked religious zealots, fresh from stoning a harlot who has dared lost her virginity to a man, reading this book and sighing and dreaming about a Noble Tormented Vampyre - or shall I say Dumbyre? - stealing their precious virginity from them. Brrr, scary.

I'm not going to elaborate on the Evil Slut Vampiress out to steal the Vampire Men of pure noble virgin-no-more-after-I-gave-it-to-my-Dumbyre-hero dimwits out there, because I have no idea who they are or why I should even care. Fans of Amanda Ashley's previous books - I confess I skipped a book or eight along the way - may recognize Marisa and Grigori or Dracul or Dumbaghoul or whatever (aside: why do all the vampire heroes of Ms Ashley and Christine Feehan and others seem to get their names from the same Book Of Corny Vampire Names?), but me, I'm lost. Reading about the Triumph of the Submissive Virgins don't appeal to me.

The main romance is between Edward Ramsey the Vampire Slayer and Kelly Anderson, Pure and Braindead. Edward is now a vampire. How? Again, that is something I believe happened in a previous book. I don't know. But what I know is that I find it hard to believe that a man who spent his life hunting down vampires will behave so nonchalantly at being turned into something he dedicate his life to killing. Where is the confusion, anger? Apart from a throwaway sentence or two about guilt over sucking blood, Edward generally behaves like a stereotypical vampire hero: all italicized Come to me! mind-yapping and brooding in dark shadows like the creation of an author who probably overdosed too much on The Phantom Of The Opera musicals. Kelly, the obligatory Pure and Stupid and Hence A Woman Of Virtue, is worse as the heroine who wants to die because she is betrayed by a man, is saved by Edward, and is so pathetically grateful that she, despite her fears of being sucked to death, agrees to be his housekeeper even when she knows he's a vampire and nothing else about him. Then she is making love to him and declaring her love.

These characters may claim to feel emotions, but they have no complexity or depths to show them. There is no emotional conflict in Edward for being a vampire, a creature he claims to despise. Kelly has no common sense, no logic, just blind trust in a man whose only virtue to commend him (as far as she knows when she sleeps with him) is that he has fangs, he whines about being good only because he doesn't kill "indiscriminately" like that Evil Slut Khira, and that he sleeps in coffins. These characters act in a robotic programmed formula made legal under RWA's The Comfort Read Apology Charter Clause 23(A): It is permissible for an author to recycle her plots and characters in her books as long as there are readers that keep buying while still claiming to be creative and idealistic in her defense against critics.

At one point, Edward announces, "Move over, Dracula. Look out, Lestat. Ramsey is here." Don't kill me by trying too hard to be funny, Ms Ashley.

And these people, Marisa, Grigori, Edward, Kelly, the Quartet of Lobotomy, are going to live forever. Forget After Sundown, I think I'm embracing the apocalypse.

Rating: 44


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