Shades Of Gray
by Joleene Naylor, fantasy (2009)
Createspace, $11.00, ISBN 978-1-449-51181-4


Poor Katelina. One evening, she went to confront her boyfriend Patrick on issues like R-E-S-P-E-C-T but instead, she found him lying dead on the floor with his throat ripped out. The poor dear is traumatized by the event and having to answer all those questions from the cops doesn't improve her mood.

But is there any justification for her to subsequently meet a complete stranger in a remote house at the end of a dead end road at night just because the fellow calls her and tells her that he knows who killed Patrick? The best thing here is that she tells her best friend not to worry because she is not that stupid to meet that stranger... only to do so anyway.

"What am I doing?"

She recalled going to get food. She'd made a mental list in her head that included ice cream and hot fudge, but then she'd driven right past the store. She supposed it was curiosity and a desire to have the entire disaster over and done with, to end this chapter in her life. She desperately needed to move on.

She shut the car off and started to get out, but stopped. Should she really take all of her stuff with her? Her purse, her ID's – her money? What if someone really was there, waiting to mug her? Wouldn't that be a stupid thing to do?

"Not any stupider then coming in the first place," she mumbled as she dug out her phone. She cast about for a suitable hiding place for her purse and finally jammed the thing under the seat.

Note to Ms Naylor: having the heroine show an awareness of how stupid she is being does not negate the stupidity of her action. Unfortunately for me, Katelina behaves like this pretty much for the entire story. She knows she shouldn't, she knows she is being stupid, but da-da-dum, she does it anyway. Sigh.

Luckily for Katelina, she ends up meeting Jorick, our vampire hero, instead of some lumbering bloodthirsty granny with a chainsaw waiting to make mincemeat out of idiot heroines. Jorick takes Katelina under his protection - the usual - as he explains to Katelina in an overwrought and cryptic manner - memo to Ms Naylor: you may have your character admit that the whole thing is overwrought, but the whole thing is still overwrought - that Patrick is now dead because he and his brother were under the control of Claudius, a mean vampire boss, until they stole something from Claudius. Now Katelina is going to find herself right in the middle of the mess as the enemies begin attacking while she is with Jorick.

The problem with Shades Of Gray is that the whole thing could use some judicious editing. The author has a tendency to pad a scene with descriptions of inconsequential things like clothes, the scenery, the furniture in a room, et cetera. Strangely enough, while it is as if the author is straining to come up with things to fill up a scene, the story itself could use a little fleshing out. The synopsis I've given is pretty incoherent, but that's because the plot of this story befuddles me. By page 30, I still have no idea what is going on in the story beyond the fact that Patrick was killed by a Vampire who served Claudius and Claudius is missing a precious item, and things don't get any better twenty pages later.

It also doesn't help that Katelina is unbelievably self-absorbed despite everything that has happened to her. She has nearly been killed... so she whines that the enemies may damage her car. There are monsters out to kill her... but she doesn't understand why she has to move out of her house. It's not fair! Patrick died because he loved her and tried to protect her from Claudius... and THAT IS NOT FAIR, because Katelina remembers that they were supposed to be temporary lovers, so she doesn't understand why Patrick would do such a thing to her. Really, people have no consideration for others nowadays! Throughout her constant blistering whining, she keeps doing plenty of stupid things.

As I've said earlier, the author may claim awareness of her character's stupidity, but that doesn't negate the stupidity. Katelina's pattern of stupidity and gullibility persists too long for the author to claim that she is writing with her tongue against her cheek, which I doubt is her intention in the first place. It's the same with the rest of the story. When Jorick is being unnecessarily vague and melodramatic, the author notes this, but she has Jorick keep doing it anyway. If the author knows that her characters are foolish or overwrought, why have them continue in that manner?

The story could use a little more direct involvement of the reader into the drama of the vampire turf war as well. Most of the action happens off-stage, to be recounted in third person to Katelina, and as a result, the story has too much information dumping for its good. Most of the story sees Jorick indulging Katelina in some static location like a motel room as she whines and behaves like a twit. The story isn't particularly exciting, let's just say.

To compete with romantic vampire urban fantasies in the market out there, Ms Naylor needs to provide a compelling reason why readers should pick up Shades Of Gray instead of, say, Nalini Singh's latest book. The fact that this book is self-published means that it is handicapped from the starting line when it comes to the competition for readers' attention. Unfortunately, by resembling a rough and unpolished draft, Shades Of Gray doesn't have any compelling reason that will allow it to stand a chance. The author's method of execution falls short.

Rating: 49


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