Bad Blood
by Mari Mancusi, fantasy (2010)
JAM, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-425-23264-4


In Bad Blood, the fourth book in Mari Mancusi's Blood Coven series, the author has done the unfathomable. She has me feeling like a very young girl experiencing the first blush of love and then the heartbreak when the infatuation hits the skids. Unfortunately, I'm not being that young girl for the hero of this book, Magnus.

Unlike the other books in the series which can be read as standalone stories, when it comes to this book I feel that you should read at the very least Boys That Bite first, because if you don't, you will be wondering why our heroine Sunshine "Sunny" McDonald even bothers with Magnus. Magnus is actually quite charming in that book. He doesn't come off too well here in Bad Blood, but that's because Ms Mancusi is deconstructing the relationship here and, in the process, tries to address some issues that even Joss Whedon didn't touch in Buffy Summers's relationship with Angel or Spike.

Sunny has decided that it is finally time for her to make love to Magnus. She envisions candles, flowers, a romantic date, and a night of ecstasy in the arms of her beloved. Unfortunately, her date is ruined when they are interrupted at a ball game by Jane Johnson, a gorgeous woman with a degree from Oxford University and the woman picked by the Blood Coven to be Magnus's blood mate. But when Sunny discovers after some not-too-subtle grilling of Jane that this floozy is as much an Oxford University graduate as Sunny is a dancing primate, she tries to warn Magnus, only to be brushed off as a jealous and irrational person.

With Magnus and Jane along with the Blood Coven taking off to Las Vegas for a conference that will culminate with the blood mate bonding ceremony that Friday night, Sunny realizes that she has no time to lose if she wants to save Magnus. She drags Rayne along with her to that beautiful city, intending to snoop on Jane and find evidence of her perfidy. Instead, Sunny discovers not only some startling revelations about her father's relationship with his new wife, she also finds a gentle and handsome stage actor Jayden who seems to be the glue that is holding together her heart and keeping it from completely shattering into pieces. In Vegas, Sunny is going to evaluate her relationship with Magnus and who knows, maybe even become a little wiser at the end of the day, whether she wants to or not.

There is still comedy in Bad Blood, but there is an unexpectedly mature handling of Sunny's feelings about Magnus and Jayden that elevates this book in my eyes to become more than just a laugh-a-minute affair. Yes, Sunny is jealous, but I like that she isn't blinded to the fact that Magnus isn't treating her well in this debacle. And indeed, Magnus in this story comes off as a jerk. He treats Sunny in a patronizing manner, as if she's a dumb dog or something. Perhaps this is his way of treating a woman he believes to be too jealous and hurt to think straight, but Sunny is lucid enough to realize that she doesn't enjoy being treated this way by Magnus. And she's angry with him for being that way with her.

And oh, Jayden. He's a bit too good to be true, but he is so sweet and tender toward Sunny that I can't help but to be charmed by their budding rapport in this story. And oh my, when he willingly sacrifices his life to save hers, I think I could have fallen in love with him too if he were real. He's human and he isn't almost a thousand years older than Sunny, and with him, Sunny realizes that she hasn't been this happy in a long time. I feel like a young girl again as I follow the relationship developing between Sunny and Jayden. A part of me seems to be falling head over heels for Jayden while the other part wants to start making T-shirts that say "Team Jayden" and forcing my entire family to wear them so that I can film a tribute video to Jayden for YouTube. I should be embarrassed about feeling like this, I know, but for that beautiful moment when I am turning the pages of this book, it feels really good to be affected this much by a story. A young adult story, mind you.

Oh yes, the plot. Well, again, it's not the most original or exciting one, but it provides a solid foundation for Sunny to find herself in this story. I'm rather disappointed that Rayne's character seems to have regressed in this book, but I can give that a pass as Rayne is finding excuses to avoid bonding with her father's new family. The development at the last chapter solidifies my belief that Ms Mancusi isn't above pulling plot twists out of her shapely rear end. But oh, I can't believe I'd be so emotionally invested in a love triangle in a young adult book the way I'm solidly on Team Jayden here. Magnus can go hump an oncoming train - Jayden had me on his side when he is so sweet with those dogs.

Bad Blood is at the surface another teen romantic vampire comedy with some mild drama and some angst, but look at me, I find myself reeled in, emotionally, and going all silly over Sunny's emotional soap opera. I feel for Sunny, and I'm quite disappointed by the way Magnus and Sunny get back together in the end after some superficial sweet words. But I doubt this is the last I'd see of Jayden in this series.

Perhaps I should read something dark and cynical after this to purge myself of the figurative pigtails and Team Jayden zeal, but I think I will let the feelings linger a little longer. I've never felt this emotionally involved in a book in quite a while, and I'm not too keen on losing that feeling so soon.

Rating: 89


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