Among the many novels with the same or similar title, LOVE BITES (1995), by Margaret St. George, has the distinction of belonging to the Harlequin American Romance line. Not where you’d expect to find a vampire novel! At that time, vampires were hardly ever featured in category romances. This one has stuck in my mind ever since I read it because of the quirky, humorous tone (until matters get serious and suspenseful toward the end, at least).
Kay Erickson takes a job as personal assistant to Trevor d’Laine, host of a late-night radio talk show. Long before Kitty the radio-hostess werewolf in Carrie Vaughn’s series, Trevor reaches out to the demographic of creatures of the night. Kay, of course, initially thinks his claim of vampirism is a publicity stunt. She humors his persona, accepting the title of “Renfield” playfully bestowed on all mortal sidekicks of vampires. Later she suspects him of being delusional, although she still finds him fun and sexy. When she suggests he should seek treatment for his delusions, he says he doesn’t want to get analyzed and “turned into one of those brooding apologetic-type vampires.” This dialogue illustrates the mood of much of the book, even though we get glimpses of darkness in the conflict between Trevor’s type of vampires, who want to coexist with humanity rather than harming people, and the type who regard us as merely prey. The night-to-night routine of a vampire and his Renfield makes fun reading, spiced by the mounting attraction between Trevor and Kay. Eventually he tells her about his early life, revealing that he hasn’t always been the carefree, well-adjusted denizen of the night he currently claims to be. When the inevitable clash with the “evil” vampire lurking in the background of the story builds to a crisis, Kay has to call in help from other Renfields.
Not only did I enjoy the humor in this novel, I liked the way Trevor relishes his vampire existence rather than wallowing in the angst-ridden lifestyle of so many of his fictional contemporaries. He has no desire to become mortal again. Nor does Kay want to become a vampire. Unlike the typical paranormal romance heroine (including most of my characters, I confess), who quickly grows to appreciate the ravishing eroticism of vampirism as such, Kay is thoroughly turned off by her first glimpse of fangs. So how can they hope to get together permanently? Trevor and his undead friends fairly evaluate the pros and cons of reverting to mortality (if that were possible), with remaining a vampire viewed as mostly preferable. I won’t give away the outcome, but for any veteran reader of the genre, it’s pretty much what you’d expect. Both Trevor and Kay are refreshingly different from the usual vampire hero and human heroine of the time, and the plot device of a clash between organized groups of “good” vampires who don’t harm human donors and their opponents who have no such scruples hadn’t yet become as overly familiar as it is now. The tone of LOVE BITES anticipates the blended humor and suspense of Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau series. Too bad St. George didn’t write any additional vampire novels (as far as I’ve discovered).
Margaret L. Carter