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Saturday, August 19, 2006

**** High Stakes by Erin McCarthy. Contemporary paranormal romance.

Oh, is this a fun book. The cover is a tad misleading--as far as I can tell, none of the vampires in High Stakes turns into a bat--but it's eyecatching, and it does let you know that this is a comedy.

Prosecuting attorney Alexis Baldizzi is understandably alarmed when her dentist sister Brittany leaves her practice and moves into Ethan Carrick's casino. So, in true protective big sister fashion, she rides to the rescue.

Turns out that Carrick is a vampire--the vampire president, in fact, and he's running for election. Brittany, as an "impure" (offspring of a vampire and a mortal--she and Alexis have different fathers), will help him cinch the election once he marries her.

The problem is that Carrick's not really interested in sweet, traditionally beautiful Brittany, but he's smitten by Alexis's strength and (to put it nicely) womanly figure. Not to mention that in over 900 years, Alexis is the only woman to stand up to him.

I had a couple of minor problems with the story--at the beginning of the book, Brittany was so ditsy I had doubts she could get through high school, much less dental school. The character improved as the story went along, but that first impression took a while to fade. And the ending left some threads hanging that I wanted tied up.

But other than that, High Stakes is a fun, fast read, in a similar style to MaryJanice Davidson's Undead series. I really enjoyed the idea of democratic vampire politics, a nice change from the usual monarchy or dictatorship. The secondary characters were interesting and unusual--I particularly loved the serious campaign manager, the too-trusting secretary, and the outcast French vampire scientist.

Alexis's and Brittany's differing reactions to the revelation that vampires exist was also well done, I thought. Brittany figured it out on her own, and has decided to stay until she can find a way to save them. Alexis (again, in true big sister fashion) is less credulous, and believes for quite a long time that they're role-playing, or trying to con people like her sister, or dangerously deluded.

I was happy to see that there's a sequel, Bit the Jackpot, due out in December. I'll be looking forward to it.


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