Published by Berkley on March 2nd 2004
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Nancy Wu
Length: 9 hrs 13 min
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Elizabeth “Betsy” Taylor is having the worst week of her life. First, she gets fired from her crappy job. Then, she gets hit by a car trying to save her cat. Worse yet, Betsy wakes up in a coffin wearing an awful pink suit, bad makeup and knock off, cheap shoes. Cheap shoes!! With a closet full of designer footwear, someone is trying to send her off to her eternal rest in cheap, department store shoes! It has to be her stepmother.
Alright, even with indignity of wearing cheap shoes, Betsy has to acknowledge that she was dead, so why is she suddenly walking around. At first she believes that she must be a zombie and Betsy spends the rest of the night trying to return to her untimely death, but she just can’t seem to kill herself again. Something definitely is not right here.
Once she realizes that she is, in fact, a vampire and not a zombie. She is rather annoyed to find that none of the stereotypical vampire legends all true. She has no problem with sunlight. She could gargle with holy water if she wanted. Crosses, no problem. But blood drinking? Ewww. Not a fan. That might just be a deal killer in the whole dead/undead thing.
She also has two vampires chasing her around. Hotty, McHot Eric Sinclair wants to teach her all about being a vampire. The only thing is his ego takes up all the air in a room. Good thing vampires don’t breathe. There is also creepy Nostro…No Doze…Nose Bleed…whatever his name is who insists that Betsy kneel to his greatness. As if! So he can stop sending out his goons who keep trying to grab her and drag her back to his crypt. Oh, yeah. This loser has a crypt and a tuxedo and every other B-movie Dracula prop.
What Betsy hasn’t realized is that she is special and her rising has been prophesized. A Queen would rise and gather the vampires together. A Queen who could walk in sunlight and who wasn’t damned by God. And who apparently has excellent taste in shoes.
The question is whether or not Betsy wants to be Queen of the Undead or just go shopping.
I think the narrator, Nancy Wu, did a wonderful job bringing Betsy to life. She is flighty and shallow, but in a fun way rather than a shallow bimbo. She takes a stand when needed, but really isn’t interested in vampire politics and simply wants to get on with her life or unlife or whatever. I wasn’t as excited about her presentation of Sinclair and I am not sure if that was her choice of voice or the writing. He is to be the love interest, but he comes off stuffy rather than sexy. Let’s see if Betsy can get him to lighten up as the series goes on.
All of the characters seem to fall into a stereotypical, sitcom characterization but that seems to be part of the fun. Betsy’s best friend, Jessica is an young black woman who is always looking for racial offense, but she is uber-rich. As an example, Jessica is offend by Betsy’s love for Gone with the Wind and they debate the characters and while Jessica is discussion the oppression of black people, Betsy points out that that when they met in high school, Jessica had a designer handbag that cost more than Betsy made last year and that Jess’s “people” aren’t oppressed. Betsy makes friends with a gay man who is openly gay and proud of it. She also has a step-mother who she doesn’t get along with. She is a gold digger and stole her father from her mother. Even the vampires are all stereotypical: The sexy, suave Sinclair and the evil, power hungry Nostro and his minions. It is all written in fun and makes you laugh.
My one criticism here is that sometimes in world building a new series, authors paint themselves into a corner. Maybe it was an attempt to be sexy but author MaryJanice Davidson has made it a requirement that if you take blood from someone, you need to “give back” to the donor by way of sexual relations. This explains why Betsy watches Sinclair in bed with three women as he has sex and feeds, and why the first person Betsy feeds from ends up in almost a zombie state knowing nothing but his need to have sex with Betsy. Sinclair explains that not satisfying the lust of the donor will cause mental problems with the donor and an obsession with the vampire. He tells her that like him she needs to keep a harem of donors so she doesn’t have to go around having sex with every stranger she bites.
Betsy isn’t exactly a prude but she has no interest in this and when setting up Sinclair for a future love interest, it is hard for the reader to enjoy a future romance when you know that they both will need to have relations with other people, let alone a group, in order to eat. While Sinclair needs to feed often, Betsy, as the special queen, doesn’t need to feed often so we haven’t dealt with this issue too much as yet, but eventually, we will need to deal with an obsessive crowd of vampire snacks or Betsy will need to have a harem for food and casual sex. It doesn’t work well for this series and now that it has been stated and out there what do we do with it? We can get around it with Betsy being special, but will she be okay with Sinclair having to have an orgy every day for dinner?
With fifteen stories in the series so far, we will certainly be able to see how that all works out. I have a copy of Book 2, Undead and Unemployed, and hopefully I will be able to get to that soon.
If you like your paranormal stories on the light side, you might want to give Undead and Unwed a try.
While trying to figure out a way to kill herself, Betsy saves a young girl and mother from muggers. Narrator Nancy Wu adds a great slurring mumble to Betsy’s voice every time her fangs comes out.
Suddenly I was so thirsty I couldn’t breathe. Not that I’d been breathing, but you know what I mean.
Justine was staring up at me. She had sidled close to me while her mother was shouting at the floor so to speak. Her tears had dried making her cheeks shine in the moonlight. She looked very, very thoughtful and about six years older than she’d looked five minutes ago.
She pointed. “Doesn’t that hurt like crazy?”
I looked down and then jerked the knife out of my side. Very little blood again. Sluggish flow that was already stopping. Again. Urgh!
“No. Thanks. Ah–don’t be scared. Anymore I mean.”
“Why’d you ask them to kill you?”
Normally I wouldn’t share unpleasant confidences with a strange child, but what could I say? It had been one of those nights. Plus, she had pointed out the knife sticking out of my ribs. I felt obliged to give her an honest answer.
“I’m a zombie.” I explained. Except I was having problems talking all of a sudden. “I’m trying to stay dead.”
“You’re not a zombie.” She pointed at my mouth. “You’re a vampire. A good one so that’s alright.” She added.
My hand came up so quickly I actually bit myself. I felt the sharp tips of new fangs. Fangs which had come out when I smelled her mother’s blood. Fangs which seemed to be taking up half my mouth.
“A vampire? How is that possible? I died in a car accident, for God’s sake. Ah–son of a bitch.”
“Are you going to suck our blood?” Justine asked curiously.
“Ugh. Blood makes me throw up. Even the sight of it. Ugh.”
“Not anymore I bet.” She said.
This was the most level-headed first grader I’d ever met. Maybe I could take her under my wing and make her my evil sidekick?
“It’s okay. You can if you want to. You saved us. My mom,” she said, her tone dropping to turn low, confidential, “was really scared.”
“She’s not the only one, Sugar. And by the way, I’d bet you’d taste like electricity. All that youth and energy coursing through your blood steam.” I clapped both hands over my mouth and started backing away.
“Run.” I said, but I didn’t have to bother. Justine’s mama had finished gathering up her things, taken one look at my new dentician, picked up her daughter, and galloped away in the opposite direction. Justine managed a wave while bouncing on her mother’s hip.