by Amanda Stevens, paranormal (2001, 1995 reissue)
Silhouette Dreamscapes, $4.50, ISBN 0-373-51128-0
Dark Obsession is a taut, well-written, vividly atmospheric horror story about two lost souls united against evil vampires. It also has a heroine who is so stupid that I am aghast she isn't dead by the last page. If there is a heroine who has "Kill me, I'm a Moron" stamped on her forehead, Erin Ramsey is she. If she dies in a very gruesome manner that behooves the way she causes my blood pressure to burst through the roof and into the next galaxy, I would have given this book a keeper grade.
Erin Ramsey is a horror novelist. She finds her sister dead with all her blood drained. Naturally, Erin starts blaming herself. Her plane was delayed - damn, she should have single-handedly jump off a roof and flap her hands... she might have, you know, actually flown and reach her sister in time to save her! It's all her fault Megan is dead! It's all her fault! Detective Nick Slade, who doesn't like light much, is assigned to the case. He is actually a member of a super secret squad that deals with vampire nuisances. Actually he has warned Megan the night before she turns up dead, and now he feels a personal responsibility for the death too.
Every woman Nick tries to save ends up dead and drained.
Naturally, as this is a romance, I have lost count of the number of times the main characters beat themselves bloody, using big important words like guilty, responsibility, and my fault. But that's okay. The author actually succeeds in conveying these two lost souls' sense of desperation and helplessness, and I find the incessant mental whining actually increases the effectiveness of this dark story.
But the heroine! It's bad enough she keeps swinging from denial (there is no such thing as vampires) to acceptance (okay, maybe there is) back to denial (no, no, no) that she makes me seasick trying to keep track of her state of mind. But she is stupid. For instance, Nick tells her never, never, never let strangers into her house. (Apart from the fact that vampires need to be invited into their victims' houses, I'm sure she doesn't want more mundane nutcases entering her pad either, right?) I counted three times in two pages that he told her that. Then he leaves, and later there is a knock on the door.
Does Erin grab a baseball bat, stand beside the door, and ask, "Who's that?" like every normal, thinking woman would?
She gambols to the door and opens it. Wide.
Thankfully it is Nick, who then scolds her. And she goes, "Oh yeah, silly me."
This is just one example of Erin's superlative lack of grey matter in her brains. The climax of the story? She follows a stranger into a dark, enclosed basement-like room happily. Guess what happens next. This book flies across the room and hit the wall with a satisfying thwack. I would have followed with my personal interpretation of the Russian footstomping dance if I wasn't so afraid that I would slip and break a hip bone.
If you can stand a heroine who must have inspired the Darwin Awards, you may find a dark, deliciously creepy horror/romance story. Me, gah. The only way this story could have been redeemed is Erin screaming, "Oh, I am so stupid! I'm so sorry I caused the world so much pain following my dumbass behavior! Be assured as this vampire now drains my blood and this brain-sucking parasite now inserts its proboscis into my skull and gruesomely sucks my brains out in wet slurps, I am in agony! Ten times the agony I caused you when I decided that if my sister Megan comes back as a vampire, I will open the door for her and together she and I will find her killer (isn't that the most retarded scheme I can think of?). Oooh! The pain! The agony! I'm dying! I'm dyiiiiiiiiinnnngggggg...."
Hey, I love a bloodthirsty story. Just not one with a heroine who puts the ass in Stupidity.
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