Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Runaway Vampire (Argeneau #23) by Lynsay Sands

Like most, Mary's life had been a series of ups and downs.  Now a widow, Mary decides to take one last trip in her RV but the memories of the trips that she took with her husband haunt her so much that she decides to return home early, making a stop at friends RV park.  Mary had believed that the trip would be uneventful but that immediately changes when she accidentally runs over Dante Notte, who is on the run from kidnappers.

Dante is only looking to find help for himself and his brother Tomasso and doesn't expect when he is run over by Mary's RV that he has met his life mate - the one person who he can let his guard down around and love forever,  With the danger closing in around them, Dante must somehow convince Mary that he is an immortal and that they are meant to be together, all while keeping her safe from the kidnappers who may target her to get to him.

Those who are new to this series, will have no problem following along with the romance between Dante and Mary because Sands takes care to explain who and what immortals are, along with her concept of life mates.  For longtime readers, Sands does take the time to bring back Lucien the leader of the Immortals and since this is Dante's story, it's a return to the Notte twins. I would have liked to have seen more of the Immortals that we have been introduced to this far.

I really liked that fact that Mary is 62 and had lived a full life.  It's not often that mature women are presented as sexual beings and Sands left absolutely no doubt what Mary wanted from the moment she spied the very naked Dante.  This is the second book in this series in which Sands has gone out of her way to pair her handsome Immortal with an older woman and I love it. Mary is also not a woman to be played with and unfortunately has a very tragic backstory.  It is however problematic that Sands heavily implies that had Tomas not entered Mary's life that she was destined to be a lonely old woman living in a one bedroom apartment with her dog. I don't understand why Sands would go to such lengths to make a strong, sexual woman and then turn around and have her being content to just wilt away.  It absolutely belies just how vital women can be at all ages.

Runaway Vampire, while focusing on the romance between Mary and Dante also served as a set up for the next book which will clearly feature Tomasso finding his life mate in Venezuela.  To some degree, this left the story feeling unfinished.  I understand that the point of each book is to bring a couple together but I've always felt that there should be more to even paranormal romance books than the coupling, particularly when they are as long running as the Argeneua series.

One of my long running complaints about this world is that despite the length of the series, we have only recently been introduced to the idea that LGBT immortals exist and until Runaway Vampire, we haven't actually met any of them.  One would hope that after waiting so long to introduce gay characters to her series and the homophobia that Sands has engaged in in the past, that inclusion would be a step forward but alas, that was not to be the case.

After being run off the road, Mary meets, Russell Renart Argeneau Jones and his life mate Francis Renart Argeneau Jones.  Mary starts by having a complete born this way moment declaring that people who are offended by two gay men should keep their mind on what's in their own pants.  This earns her instant friends in Russell and Francis, even though as a reader, her statement came off as incredibly forced.  It's a hot New York minute before Francis turns into Mary's GBFF, just what every newly turned woman needs it seems.

We learn that Russell didn't even know that he was gay before met Francis and was spending his time waiting for his true female love to come along. I call horseshit on this.  From the moment puberty hits while some go through confusion, the very idea that he didn't know that he was attracted to men  or at the very least men and women is just beyond odd.  Even if I give Sands this one, there's the issue that Francis is a walking talking trope.  He has rejection issues because his family rejected him due to his sexuality and that therefore makes him afraid to ask about taking Mary shopping for clothing that she very much needs.  I don't see how being discarded by one's family even remotely relates to rejection regarding a shopping trip? I think that Sands needs to look up the term false equivalency. Then there's the fact that Francis is a fashion expert and totally wants to give Mary a complete update on her wardrobe because she now apparently looks like Barbie. Francis is also happy at the idea that with Dante tagging along, thus giving him the opportunity to finally change Dante's wardrobe from "faux funeral to fashion fabulous". You see, Francis loves salmon coloured shirts. Why, yes, yes he does and Russell apparently wears salmon coloured shirts as well because he loves Francis.  Books in this series have never really been big on characterisation but that being said, given that Francis and Russell are the first in 23 books, they deserve better than what they got.

In many ways Runaway Vampire is a placeholder.  In order to keep these books fresh, Sands has offered her readers more than just the two people getting a HEA and has introduced antagonists to keep the story moving.  With Immortals being kidnapped and experimented on, I very much suspect that this will be the next big focus of this series.  I look forward to seeing where this is going and if it will lead to mortals becoming aware of the Immortals living among them.