Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Bite to Remember (Argeneau #5) by Lynsay Sands

Someone is sabotaging Vincent Argeneau's business and each act sabotage is getting more violent. He reaches out to his cousin Bastien, who hires Tiny and  Jackie Morrisey.  What Vincent does not realise that the private investigators are human. He is not exactly open to the idea but Bastien assures him that both of them know all about vampires and are skilled at what they do. Vincent know has to deal with mortals in his home, a saboteur and his aunt Marguerite, who has decided its time for Vincent to find a life mate because he has become despondent. 

Jackie is a typical paranormal heroine and so of course has a tortured past.  Both of her parents are dead and her mother died when she was just a child.  Jackie has been in one relationship with  a vampire and it didn't end well.  Essentially from the moment she met Cassius, she was enamored with him and even dated him behind her fathers back.  This went on until she learned had been toying with her and was taking control of her mind and body, forcing her to do things against her will. Sands took great care to point out that this was a violation of Jackie's person, but she never explicitly labelled the sex that occurred rape.  Sands even compared when Lily took over Tiny's body briefly to what Cassius did to Jackie.

One of the more interesting characters in this book is Tiny. He is Jackie's partner and we are constantly reminded that his name is a misnomer because is in fact a very large man. I don't know about you, but a large man with the name Tiny didn't actually read as creative.  Tiny absolutely loves to cook, but Sands often used this fact to emasculate him.
Tiny had taken a gourmet cooking course years ago and she'd often caught him leafing through women's magazines over the years, looking at recipes. She suspected Tiny was a very small woman in a large man's body, which was probably why they got along so well. Her father always claimed she was a big tough guy in a little woman's body. (page 33)
Paranormal romance often sticks to extremely binary gender roles and as you can see from the above passage, performing one's gender is absolutely essential to the story. Despite his size and identifying as male, Tiny is not masculine because he enjoys cooking.  It's absolutely ridiculous given the rampant sexism in the food industry which constructs all good chefs as men, even as it blocks avenues to success for women. In this case, Tiny cooks as a way to nurture and it is the fact that he does this for no pay that Sands felt comfortable using this skill to assert that he is somehow subverting traditional masculinity.

Quite a few times in A Bite to Remember, Jackie asserted that he body is not perfect because she has not been able to loose 10-15 pounds to fit into our current idealized body size for women. After she is turned into a vampire,  Jackie is shocked that the nanos didn't take care of this for her. In a heart to heart Marguerite explains:

"The nanos do see you are at your peak condition . So, if you haven't lost any weight, this size is your peak. It's the healthiest weight for you."  She tilted her head."And you look a perfect weight to me, dear. I'm afraid your belief in what is attractive has been coloured by Hollywood's Twiggy-type figures. That isn't a natural weight for most women ... Including you." (page 166)
I loved this passage.  I loved that Sands took on the idealized shape and form women are pushed to conform to and declared unequivocally ridiculous.  How many women are walking around starving themselves to fit into a standard that is natural for them?  I think that this is a very important passage and I am glad that Sands made this point.  We don't all have to be the same size and shape to be sexy and beautiful. In a book geared to women, written by a woman, this is an extremely important point to make.

The Argeneau series continues to be incredibly erased.  All of the characters have been straight and White.  For the first time, we have a same sex interaction in this series and it us fraught with problems. Jackie is approached by a woman in the bathroom for sex and given the erasure of GLBT people in this series, her response is absolutely horrible.
Nothing on God's green earth could have stopped her from whirling to face the girl with a look of abject horror and disbelief.  Jackie even almost blurted, Do I look gay to you? before catching herself back, but it was her first thought. A Stupid one, she acknowledged.  You couldn't tell someone's sexual preference by their looks. (page 130-131)
That Jackie's first response to being hit on by a woman is abject horror and disbelief speaks loudly about Sands feelings about the GLBT community.  To make matters worse, Shell was only acting on behalf of Trevor who wanted to have a threesome.  Not only is Jackie's response homophobic, the one time that Sands thus far in this series has actively suggested a same sex coupling between two women, it was at the behest of a man. 

Disability is only addressed through vampires like Vincent who must feed directly from a human, rather than bagged blood.  This is not really a disability, though it is very much framed as such.  We are still talking about hyper able bodies, who are able to move with great speed, are immortal and have excellent hearing and vision. 

A Bite to Remember is different than the other books in the Argeneau series as Sands had included a mystery which needs to be solved along with a romance.  It added meat to the story even if it did come with a ton of exposition at the end with the guilty party explaining their. The Perry Mason style antagonist explanation and admission of guilt at the end is absolutely boring and well, over done. It also came with Jackie thinking about whether or not Vincent loved her when her life was at risk.

To me, it very much felt as though Sands took a very different approach with A Bite to Remember. All of the other books in this series are very reliant on comedy to tell the story, whereas; A Bite to Remember is dependent upon a mystery. I did like that Sands tried to invest more in this story, but I honestly missed the moments of humour. I am not generally speaking a fan of paranormal romance, but Sands humor has what has consistently made her stories interesting to me.