Friday, February 13, 2015

The Accidental Vampire (Argeneau #7) by Lynsay Sands

After being turned into a vampire on a trip to Mexico, Elvi Stone returned to her home in small town Ontario.  The residents, feeling guilty for encouraging Elvi to go on the trip, after the loss of her daughter and husband, decide to protect Elvi because she is one of their own.  Not having met her sire, Elvi has no real understanding of what it is to be an immortal and is forced to turn to movies, books, and folklore, to muddle through.  With her friends entering the senior stages of their life and the realization that when they do finally die, Elvi well be alone, they decide to hunt down a boyfriend for Elvi by visiting clubs in Toronto, looking for a vampire boyfriend and when that finally fails, placing an advertisement in the singles pages of all things.  What they don't realise is that vampires are supposed to keep their existence secret from mortals and through their attempts to find Evli a love match, they have brought her to the attention of the council and the powerful Argeneau family.  When Victor arrives, ready to deal with what he believes to be a rogue vampire, what he does not expect is to find that he cannot read Elvi's mind, or control her in anyway.

The Accidental Vampire is a typical paranormal romance - boy meets girl, they fall in love, a misunderstanding occurs, they work through it and declare undying love for each other.  It's formulaic at best and filled with essentialist gender stereotyping.  That being said, it's what I have come to expect from Lynsay Sands, after reading seven of her books. I know going in not to expect a literary masterpiece and settle in for light fluff and the occasional laugh.  Sands has a talent for infusing her romance stories with a touch of humor, which doesn't always make me laugh but at least puts a smile on my face.

Believing all of the vampire lore to be true, Elvi has not touched a drop of food in five years.  When suddenly, Elvi learns that she can eat, it becomes a cheesecake emergency, leading her to rush to the local A&P for the essentials of cheesecake and chocolate.  I must admit that not being able to eat for five years, I would have considered it an emergency myself and chocolate would be high on my list. Essentialist or not, chocolate and women go together.

As a protagonist , Elvi is a touch naive.  Some of it I am sure is from the fact that she is from a small town; however, a woman of her advanced age (read: 62), really should be more aware than she is.  I do however like the fact that she refuses to be controlled and is always ready to stand toe to toe with Victor.  However, when pushed, Elvi does not fear to use Victor as a threat, when she promises to have Victor retrieve a young man, if he refuses to step forward on his own.

Don't make me send Victor over there," she threatened. That had the effect she'd hoped and after a brief hesitation, the boy slunk out from behind the principal and started reluctantly forward, weaving through the crowd toward the booth. "Gee, thanks. Make me the heavy," Victor said by her ear, his hands settling heavily on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," Elvi murmured. "But you're scarier than I am." "And I always will be," Victor agreed. "Besides, there's no need to apologize. This is all very informative. It tells me that 'Wait 'til your father gets home' will be something our children hear a lot of." Elvi glanced at him with a start. "Children? Is that your idea of a proposal?" Rather than answer, Victor gestured in front of her. "Owen has arrived. (pg 231)
Elvi couldn't possibly be scary on her own, though she is stronger than the humans around her and is more than capable of hurting them or killing them, as Elvi proved in her attack on Mable, when Elvi was first turned.  Nope, Elvi is only scary when she cries, causing discomfort in the men around her, who then have no idea of how to deal with a distraught woman.  Elvi is going to do the correct feminine thing in the future and threaten people with Victor, who being manly and super tough, will handle the situation for her. 

 Her best friend Mabel actually seems quite a bit more together.  Mable while supportive of Elvi, is very suspicious of the men who have answered her ad and Mable makes it clear from the very beginning that she is going to watch them like a hawk.  Mable has always had to be strong but this characterisation was destroyed by the fact that Mable was strong because her husband was not a take control type of man (read alpha male).  All Mable really wanted was to find herself an alpha male so that he could lead and she fit into a more feminine role.  
Mabel wasn't as hard core as she'd have them believe. In fact, she was as soft as a roasted marshmallow. The hard outer casing was just a protective shell she put on to deal with the world. Her husband had been a weak man and she'd been forced to deal with everything the least bit difficult in life, from disciplining their children to handling recalcitrant servicemen and so on. Mabel hadn't been comfortable dealing with everything unsupported and had longed for her husband to be the strong male he'd seemed to be while courting her. She'd been so unhappy, she might have divorced him, but had been pregnant with their first child by the time she'd learned the weak nature his macho approach had hidden. That hadn't seemed like a good enough reason to break up a family. After all, he wasn't a wife beater or alcoholic, she'd told herself and struggled on, taking on all the hard tasks in life in his stead. (pg. 122- 123)
Yes, roll your eyes at that one.

In terms of inclusion, The Accidental Vampire has absolutely none.  Even though the story is set in small town Ontario, it's ridiculous to believe in the existence of an all White, straight, cisgender, able bodied town.  Even when the story moved briefly to the very multicultural Toronto, Sands did not see fit to include a marginalized person.  It makes me wonder if Sands has spent any time in Ontario, given her constant erasure in this series to date.  The only mention of race is as follows:
"Are you controlling me too?" she asked. "Of course not," he waved the idea away as ridiculous. "No? How do I know?" "I wouldn't do that," Victor assured her firmly. "Really? Why not? You controlled him." "He is mortal." Elvi stiffened. "Until five years ago I too was mortal," she pointed out coldly, and then glared. "You know what you are? You're a .. a… mortalist." "A mortalist?" Victor echoed. "What the hell is that?" "It's like a racist only—" Elvi's explanation died in her throat as something suddenly pierced the air in front of her face. Blinking, she stared at the feathered shaft trembling between them, and then followed it to the tip that was buried in the sign on the side of the building beside them. (pg 107)
Really? An immortal not liking a human is the same as racism?  Could there be a more privileged statement?  It's bad enough not to include any colours but this passage, is an absolute slap in the face. It's horribly privileged to reduce the harm that POC must endure in this life, so that your ever so White protagonist and can make a point about the lack of acceptance of her imaginary male White love interest. 

For all of the negative in terms of inclusion, Sands was very subversive when it comes to age.  Mable was very uncomfortable with her age and felt guilty about find DJ attractive.  In the end, when she was informed that DJ was simply not as young as he looked, Mable was able to give into her sexual impulses.  It's not often in any genre that women of that age are portrayed as sexual beings.  In fact, Sands stepped up the game when she gave a woman in her eighties a love interest as well.  People don't stop being sexual as they age and Sands made that point more than abundantly clear. It further subverts the trend in vampire romances of having ancient beings, falling in love with vapid teenage girls, who started their period five minutes ago.

If you go into The Accidental Vampire with the right frame of mind, it's not bad for what it is, which is a typical paranormal romance book. It does have it's moment of hilarity, along with what seems to be the Sands trademark of having the male vampire somehow hurt his genitalia in the most awful way. Any man reading would cringe and any woman, laugh in spite of herself.  It killed a Sunday afternoon for me on a snowy day and that in and of itself, is not a bad thing.