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Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Zebra Books (Mass Market) (December 1, 2009)
Is it more than just a one-bite stand?
Angie McCaffrey has endured her share of liquid lunches and boardroom shmoozefests to win new advertising clients. But her latest account a cosmetics line for wannabe vampires involves some unusual customer research at San Francisco's hippest private nightclub. The "undead" patrons are about as genuine as Macabre Factor's press-on fangs, but one thing is very real the skin-tingling connection Angie feels with her clients' mysterious friend, Eric Taylor. Still, there are a few problems with this hot new romance. 1) Eric is rumored to have dated Angie's scheming boss, Lucy. 2) Lucy, missing for days, just turned up dead and bloodless. And, oh yeah, 3) Angie has suddenly developed a teeny aversion to sunlight. Is Eric a real vampire, a killer, or both? Angie's got a lot riding on the answer her heart, her life, and maybe even her soul. . .
When Angela Margaret McCaffrey gets involved with the ad campaign for Goth make-up she is invited to a club where she meets Eric Taylor. She is spellbound by him, mystified by him and her lust is most definitely stirred. They part ways that night but soon after that Angie feels different and not in an exuberant way.
Soon after said night she needs to pick up some papers at her supervisors house to find her dead with two puncture holes in her neck…
Let me kick off this review by saying that Once Bitten was not my kind of Paranormal Romance; there was paranormal to be found, but very little romance. Told from a first person narrative it is Angie that I got to know the most and while I liked her I hardly connected with any other character in this story. This put quite the pressure on Angie and I struggled getting in to the story. It is why I was so glad when the murder took place, this is something that pushed my whodunit button and kept me involved in the story as it progressed. I always enjoy a good mystery and at the same time it gave Angie an opportunity to unravel her own puzzling circumstances.
Angie works for Hall, Fitch and Berg, Advertising, she lives with her co-worker Kimberly and is an average woman who enjoys her career but has to maneuver within the office politics to get ahead. She wants to grow in her profession, is smart, willing and able but with one client, one invitation, and her life is turned upside down.
The handful of times I got to meet Eric he comes across as the classic vampire, a mysteriousness clings to him like a second skin along with a natural born sensuality that gets instantly noticed by a woman. He is wealthy but he is secretive about what he does and has a graceful supremacy over others. I can’t say I was over the moon with Eric simply because he remains this obscure secondary character who either oozes his mysteriousness or enthrallment over Angie. It isn’t until the very end, and I’m talking the last fifty pages here, that I got to know him a bit better.
It is one of the things I struggled with in this story. Not only did I fail to connect with multiple characters, I also couldn’t interest myself much for the work Angie did. It fulfilled its function within the plot, added to the mystery and for that I could appreciate it but other than that I often lost interest. There is also the fact that there is so much focus on Angie, her change, and unraveling the mystery, that I often forgot there was also a romance supposedly blossoming. I think over the period of 312 pages Angie and Eric had about 6-7 encounters, at least half of those times Angie feels enthralled by Eric’s smell and feels a simmering and undeniable attraction. She tried to analyze her own reactions and feelings towards Eric but to me she simply seemed spellbound by him. I almost got a feeling it was more of a crush, and then, out of the blue they come to the realization they love each other. Something just didn’t connect for me there.
The love interest between Angie and Eric, though passionate and endearing on an occasion or two, fails to be believable in the small amount of time they spent together. The romance fell flat for me before I reached the first hundred pages. What held my attention throughout Once Bitten was the mystery, the whodunit factor and it was for me the strongest aspect in this story. With various supporting characters like best friend Steve, roommate Kimberly Bennett, co worker Les Banks and scholar/historian Nicolai I got a rounded cast who gave Angie’s journey more credibility.
The story as a whole was unable to give me that full flavored reading experience I always so enjoy where characterization, emotions, plot and world building work as one. The ending delivered on some excitement as the evil doer was revealed but left me unsatisfied in how Angie and Eric would work in the long term of the romance. For every positive I experienced in Once Bitten there is a stronger negative opposing it, delivering a letdown feeling in closing this book.
Clare Willis writing style is easy flowing and provided me with a good perception of Angie’s personality and feelings. That, and the solid written mystery saved this novel from going way down south on my reading pleasure scale.