Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bite Me If You Can (Argeneau #6) by Lynsay Sands

Leigh is walking home after closing down her bar when she is approached by a friend who she thought was missing. Unfortunately, he is not alone and brings his vampire sire with him.  Donny's big plan is for Leigh to be turned by his sire so that the two of them can be together forever.  Thankfully for Leigh, Lucian, one of the oldest vampires has been hunting down Morgan on behalf of the vampire council.  He and his crew manage to save Leigh but Morgan escapes.

Lucian has always been the grumpy old man of the Argeneau series. He is after all thousands of years old and one of the original Atlantians. Lucian is not prepared to deal with a baby vamp and sees Leigh as an intrusion on his time until he realises that he cannot read her mind. Those familiar with the series will recognize this as an indicator that Leigh and Lucian are life mates. While Leigh adapts pretty quickly to the idea that she is a vampire the life mate thing makes her very uncomfortable because she recently escaped a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Lucian must convince Leigh to trust him and on top of that Morgan, the man who turned Leigh has decided that he is not done with her yet.

As with other books in this series, Bite Me If You Can is really light and fluffy.  Sands uses humor to keep the reader interested in the budding romance between Lucian and Leigh. As with all vampires, Lucian has given up food and sex and so the prospect of being intimate again worries him. He has no idea how to woo Leigh and so he heads to the bookstore and picks up the most ridiculous books to use as his guide.  His younger family has to intervene to save him before he makes a complete ass of himself.

Bite Me If You Can, is another in the series which is highly erased. There are no GLBT characters and once again an all White cast.  I am particularly disturbed by the all straight characters because each book not only involves a romance but finding one's life mate. This suggests that forever love, or even love worth celebrating must only occur between straight people. All of the characters continually affirm the absolutely necessity of finding a life mate because it forestalls depression, anti-social behaviour and even insanity.  If life mates only happen in heterosexual relationships and give such benefits, what does this say about same sex couples and the love they experience?

For the first time, race was discussed in this series.
"You see what? Rachel sounded annoyed.
"You're a racist."
"What?" she cried with shock. "How could I be racist against immortals? I am one."
"That may be, but if you believe it's all right to kill off immortals who hurt and turn unwilling people, but not humans who hurt and kill...." He shrugged. "Perhaps you haven't fully embraced your new status." (page 105)
Right, so the very first time race is actively discussed in this series, it doesn't involve the oppression and active microagressions that people of colour must negotiate but the supposed oppression of imaginary creatures.  This is outright appropriation and is particularly problematic given that Sand has not seen fit to include a person of colour in six damn books.  We aren't good enough to portray but good enough to appropriate from.

Sands also relied on the tried and true in Bite Me If You Can.  Though Leigh is a grown as woman, there's still something creepy about her being set up with a man who is literally thousands of years her senior.  It's not nearly as pedophilic as a vampire who is hundreds of years falling for a teenage girl, but it still feels skeevy somehow.  Perhaps it's because just like far too many protagonists in this genre, Leigh is isolated. 
"Do you have family?" he asked.  "It can be something of a problem if you, Leigh.  You can't reveal what you are to them and -"

"That won't be a problem," she assured him solemnly, then explained, "My parents died when I was ten.  My grandfather raised me, but he died while I was away at Harvard. I'm alone now." (page 74)
Yes, dead parents!  How original.  Can any protagonist in this genre have an intact family? It's hardly surprising but it does show a complete lack of originality. One trope laden theme should be enough for any book but I guess after six novels in a series ideas run dry.

Leigh has no clothing and so Lucian takes her shopping.  She goes through the aisles and cannot find anything she likes. You'll never guess who dresses her?  Go ahead guess.  That's right Lucian because despite buying clothing for herself for years, he somehow magically knows what looks better on Leigh than she does.
Leigh spent the next hour trying on clothes Lucian chose. Tops, blouses, sweaters, pants ... he sent them in, groups of three.There were colors she never would have thought to try, even styles she'd always assumed wouldn't look good, but every single thing looked good on her.  None of them made her taller or less curvy,but they made the height and figure she did have look their best. The man really did have an eye for fashion. (page 137)
How did Leigh ever manage to leave the house without looking like a hot mess, before Lucian came into her life?  Leigh isn't at all girly and she even kicks ass but shopping is somehow beneath her capabilities. Heaven save us from more ridiculous tropes. 

I am trying hard to enjoy these books for what they are.  For the most part, Sands' humour keeps me interested but the erasure is beyond problematic and even in the fluff that this series is, it's not acceptable.  The Argeneau series is a nothing read and it's easy to blitz through but at the same time, it's probably avoided serious critique because of that fact.  If this genre is ever to be taken seriously, it needs to be treated seriously and that is why I will continue to point out the short comings of novels like this when I come across them.