Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Undead and Unemployed (Undead #2) by MaryJanice Davidson

It's been a couple months since Undead and Unwed.  Betsy has still not adjusted to the fact that she is queen of the vampires and that with that title comes responsibilities.  Betsy is determined that she will regain some semblance of a life and for her, this means getting a job and paying her own way through life.  It should be simple right?  Well, it might have been were it not for the fact that someone is killing vampires in St. Paul and as Queen of the Vampires, it's Betsy's responsibility to keep her people safe.

In case you are wondering, Betsy doesn't get anymore likeable in Undead and Unemployed. Betsy remains extremely vapid, whiny and just plain sarcastic.  I don't think I have disliked a character this much since Charlene Harris's  Aurora Teagarden and believe me, that's saying something. At this point, I am just going to go ahead and give up on any kind of character development in this series. Yes, I know it's early but Betsy is simply beyond hope at this point, even if she claims to be a feminist.

Betsy's relationship with king and consort Eric, continues to be stormy at best.  On the one hand, I can understand Eric's frustration with Betsy's intentionally obtuse attitude towards everything vampire.  Betsy has access to the Book of the Dead which will inform her about her role in the life of vampires and what she can expect as their queen.  It would make sense for Betsy to read it from cover to cover but of course, Betsy cannot be bothered but whines when she gains new information from Eric and Tina, which she could have learned on her own, had she bothered to read the damn book.

Eric is controlling and possessive in many ways.  Normally that kind of behaviour in a male love interest is beyond irritating to me but I cannot see any other way for Eric to make Betsy see the real danger she is in.  I do however think that Eric took it a bit too far when he showed up at Betsy's job, demanded that she quit and when that didn't work, attempted to use his powers to force Betsy's boss to fire her.  This scene is the only shining moment in the book for Betsy.

"My queen," he said, glaring down at me, "does not work."

"This one does," I said shortly. "And do you hear yourself? Jeez, I knew you were an ancient motherfucker, but even you must know women can have jobs now.  And dammit! You made me say 'motherfucker' at work."

It's the only time where Betsy stands her ground and it actually makes sense.  Yes, vampires are dying but Betsy should have the right to earn her own income as she sees fit and not be dependent upon Eric or Jessica for money.

Speaking of Jessica, it's clear that her main job is to support Betsy's lifestyle.  When it turns out that Betsy's home is infested with termites, it's Jessica to the rescue with the purchase of a mansion.  When Jessica is not pulling out her wallet, she is acting on Eric's behalf to bring Eric and Betsy together because she has determined despite Betsy's denials that Betsy has it bad for Eric.  Jessica is so lucky that she even gets an invitation to Ant's party because of her wealth, which apparently overrules the colour of her skin.  Jessica snarks about being offered chicken and watermelon to eat.  Yes, it's racist but I still believe that Davidson adds these knock you over the head racist events because she really doesn't know how to write characters of colour.  Racism is something that Davidson portrays casually.  A good example of that is the exchange between Mr. Harris the cab driver and Detective Berry.

EH: A lot of the cabbies don't like that neighbourhood, you know, because of all the Negroes.  No offense.  I mean, not that you look it, but-

DF: Mr. Harris, I'm not African American, but even if I were, I'm sure I would devoutly wish we could stay on course.

RH: But you never know these days, am I right?  Goddamned P.C. Nazis.  A man can't speak his mind anymore.  I got a friend, Danny Pohl, and he's just as black as the ace of spades, and he calls himself a-well, I'm not going to tell you what he says, but he uses it all the time.  And if he don't care, why should we? (page 6)

It's one thing to portray racism and another thing to portray racism and then let it go unchallenged as though it does not have an impact on the lives of people of colour.  I'm not surprised that there is racism in Minnesota but I have a problem with how Davidson treats it as though it's just something to casually throw out there; a small aside that is not really relevant besides comic relief.

GLBT people don't get much better treatment in this series from what I have read to date.  Marc seems to exist solely to be Betsy's live in gay BFF and to moon over Eric every chance that he gets.  He has even less character development than Jessica.  Tina, who has a sibling like relationship with Eric, is also a lesbian.  Tina tries to talk sense into Betsy on a few occasions (yes, a complete and utter lost cause) and generally speaking seems pretty capable.  The issue with Tina is more about Jessica's continual commentary on her sexuality and how it makes Betsy feel.

Tina had made no secret of the fact that she'd jump into my bed anytime.  This rattled me, because A) I was straighter than a laser bean, and B) even laser beams get curious.  One time in college, a bunch of my sorority sisters and I got really drunk and ... well, anyway, sometimes I was curious.  Best to keep her at arm's length I had enough trouble keeping Sinclair out of my bed.  "Your seductive ways won't work on me" (page 69)

Davidson needs to shit or get off the pot.  On one hand she makes Betsy bi-curious and on the other constantly has Betsy affirming that she is straight.  If Davidson is not going to do anything with Betsy's so-called curiosity, she needs to drop this direction in the plot post haste.  It's pure nonsense.  The very idea that Tina must be kept at a distance to keep her out of Betsy's bed is homophobic at best.  Thanks for that Davidson.  Hopefully with Ani potentially becoming Tina's love interest, Davidson will let this go.

If that were not enough there's the issue that Betsy's powers of persuasion seem to work only on lesbians and straight men with Marc (naturally) being the exception.  When Jessica gets sick, Betsy explains, "If you were a guy, or gay, I could hypnotize you into passing out."  Somehow, Betsy cannot help her sick friend but in the previous book, Marc was so aroused he pulled down his pants and masturbated in front of Betsy. Yeah, I guess Marc is a special snowflake and yet another example of the ways in which Davidson seems determined to ensure that this series is a trainwreck.

Undead and Unemployed is chicklit but even for this genre, it's absolutely vapid.  I wonder how many of my brain cells burnt away while I tried to make it through this book?  I didn't find it even remotely funny. I seriously wonder why I am so supposed to see Betsy as an adult, when she reads like a two year old constantly in the throes of a tantrum?  All of the marginalized characters are simply side characters who exist to serve Betsy in some way. I cannot say one redeeming thing about Undead and Unemployed.  I can however issue a warning: get a paper copy of this book if you're interested in reading it because at some point, you will want to throw it against a wall.