Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vampire, Interrupted (Argeneau #9) by Lynsay Sands

Spoilers Ahead

In this ninth installment of the Argeneau series, it's time for Marguerite Argeneau to find her happily ever after.  Now that Marguerite's abusive ex husband Jean Claude is dead, Marguerite has decided that it's time to start a career.  After partnering with Tiny, Marguerite heads to London to track down Christian's long lost mother.  Marguerite wants a change of pace and a little excitement but she never imagined that it would mean risking her seven hundred year old head and having to delve into her abusive marriage.

By now, it's clear that the Argeneau series is the typical generic paranormal romance series.  Vampire Interrupted however did have a little more substance because it involved a conspiracy and several attempted beheadings.  For the first time, Sands delved into Marguerite's back story and we learned more about her abusive marriage to Jean Claude, who turned Marguerite because she closely resembled his wife from Atlantis.  Marguerite is absolutely a survivor in every sense of the word.  She survived being controlled, having her thoughts read and marital rape during her 700 year marriage to Jean Claude.  Because of this, Marguerite is absolutely reluctant to get into any kind of relationship, even when she discovers that Julius is her lifemate.  It makes sense to me that Marguerite would have issues after everything she survived for 700 years but what does not make sense is that other than a fear of a long term commitment, she doesn't seem to have any other longstanding issues.  To be clear, Marguerite was raped repeatedly and yet seemed to be more emotional about the fact that Jean Claude had sex with other women.  No rape victim gives a damn who her rapist has consensual sex with.

It's clear that the Argeneau world is not free of patriarchy.  Vitta Notte is the antagonist of this story and she inspired to do so because of the sexism in the Notte family.  Vitta, being the eldest child, was heir apparent until Julius was born and then she was supplanted because of her gender.  This is more than a reason for her to be angry.  Vitta however decided to try and kill her brother and when that failed, set about ruining his life by attempting to kill his child and severing his relationship with Marguerite.  Vita even went as far as to murder Jean Claude's pregnant life mate to insure his help with her plan of revenge on Julius.  Vita gives Marguerite a Perry Mason like confession in the end (which I could have done with it) to explain her actions.  Of course, Vitta must be punished for her actions but this does not open up a wider conversation about the mistreatment of women and instead leads to a discussion about Vitta having gone insane as a result of not finding her life mate.  It's complete and utter horse shit. People don't become mentally ill because of not having romantic love and it's an absolute trope to then have the mentally ill character be a violent murderer.  Yes, we can add ableism to the ills of this book.

To add fuel to the fire of steaming horse shit, the murder of Jean Claude's pregnant life mate is meant to have the reader experience sympathy for this alcoholic, abusive, rapist. Thanks for that Sands.  Vitta was absolutely entitled to her rage and to turn her into the antagonist is untenable.  

In quite a few of the Argeneau books, there's a strain of humour running through it.  Other than the fact Julius had absolutely zero game and Marguerite had named all of her dogs Julilus over the centuries, there really wasn't much to laugh about.  I think in part it's because writing Marguerite's stories necessitated going to a dark place due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of Jean Claude.  I think Sands must have had difficulty with this because while we were given some details, it always felt like an aside, something to put away and was never really talked about, or engaged with in any substantial way. The kind of abuse committed by Jean Claude, simply doesn't go with light and fluffy.  It's my opinion that at least in this book, Sands should have just gone for the meat of the story and made it more substantial.  Between the sexism and abuse there was plenty to explore which would have had some long needed weight to the Argeneau series. 

As with all the other books in the Argeneau series, Vampire Interrupted is completely erased.  This time, the characters travel through quite a bit of Great Britain, before moving on to Italy, but somehow never manage to run into a GLBT character or a person of colour.  Apparently, Europe is just as White and straight as North America.  It makes absolutely no sense.  It wasn't excusable in book one and is even less so in book nine.  At this point, I despair ever seeing any kind of real inclusion in this series.  It's clear Sands wants her books to be light fluff but why light fluffy seems to necessitate complete and utter erasure is simply beyond me.

I never go into any of the books in this series looking for a masterpiece; the opposite is in fact quite true. I will however say that in the case of Vampire Interrupted, I was deeply disappointed because it had the potential to be so much more than it was.  Sands included some very weighty themes in this book and simply had zero follow through because she just had to have the pat ending and the HEA. Yes, I know that HEA is a standard of the paranormal romance genre and that people don't normally turn to this genre for deeper meaning but if you are going to bring up 700 years of abuse, it's not appropriate to make the pain disappear because of woo woo.  Similarly, the reductive approach to sexism was simply anti-woman.  When I look back at Vampire Interrupted, I will simply think of what could have been.