Pros: Entertaining, quirky, and detailed characters
Cons: Meandering start
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Tate Hallaway’s Romancing the Dead follows her novels Dead Sexy and Tall, Dark & Dead. Unfortunately, I haven’t read those two books. Fortunately, Ms. Hallaway does a surprisingly good job of making Romancing the Dead stand on its own. While it would clearly have been nice to have the background of the other books, I was able to catch up to the premise quite easily.
Garnet, a practicing witch, seems to have everything going for her. The folks who’d been hunting her think she’s dead, so she isn’t on the run any more. Her vampire lover, Sebastian, is now her vampire fiancee. She’s forming a new coven, and she’s thinking of buying the occult store she manages.
Unfortunately, she no sooner starts to settle in than everything goes haywire again. Sebastian seems quite taken with a fetching blonde from the new coven, and then he disappears without a trace. Her future stepson shows up without warning—the stepson who once sold Sebastian out to hunters and who hates Garnet. A series of accidents (or attempted killings?) plagues Garnet; Lilith (the Goddess camping out in Garnet’s belly) is getting restless; and a shape-shifting coven member is definitely more than he seems.
Before she knows it, Garnet is desperately trying to stay alive while tracking down Sebastian, learning to get along with Sebastian’s son, and coping with nearly a dozen assorted new and potentially deadly coven members. Not to mention Sebastian’s ghouls, who hate her simply because she’s marrying Sebastian.
Garnet is an unusual heroine. She’s a semi-hippie earth-loving chick who carefully cleans her occult bookstore with organic products and winces at the idea of bumming a ride off of a woman who drives an SUV. She’s energetic bordering on peppy, and as she contemplates marrying her beloved Sebastian she finds pangs of jealousy overwhelming her as she contemplates his need to feed on other people. She’s got a vivid, sparkly personality that jumps out of the page and turns the most mundane scenes into entertaining events.
Maybe I should meditate on it and see if the Goddess would send me a sign. I closed my eyes and slowly began relaxing my body, starting at my toes. But before I got to my head, I was asleep.
Apparently, the Goddess wanted me to date Orlando Bloom because that was the only dream I had during my three-hour nap.
Romancing the Dead straddles a handful of genres, and that can be quite a bit of fun. The mystery of what happened to Sebastian, where he went, and who’s behind his disappearance occupies the center of the plot, but it’s hardly the only thing going on. When he’s around there are plenty of sparks between him and Garnet; they provide a breezy, delightful romance and a couple of enjoyable sex scenes (explicit, with some of what you’d expect from vampire fiction, but nothing else overly kinky, and they aren’t the focus of the book). The paranormal parts of the book are handled in a similarly natural manner, with the presence of witches, vampires, gods, and goddesses a ‘well-known secret’, if you will.
This is a fun book with a nice whodunit, great characters, and the kind of detail that really brings a setting alive. My main reservations are twofold. First, while the wealth of details truly bring the book to life, sometimes they also go a bit overboard (that’s a hard line to ride, though). Second, Garnet seems to spend a surprising amount of the time that Sebastian’s missing just kind of flopping around and not doing a whole lot or getting much of anywhere. I found it a little tough to believe that she had such a hard time convincing herself that he was truly missing in a bad way. Once the pace kicks into high gear, however, the book definitely takes off. It’s a wonderfully fun read when you need a bit of distraction.