REVIEW: One Bite with a Stranger by Christine Warren
Note: "This book is an expanded version of the title originally released by Ellora’s Cave as Fantasy Fix. It contains new content and can be considered the First Novel of the Others." Source: Author’s Website
Dear Ms. Warren:
I recall reading one of your St. Martin’s books before which I thought had good ideas but I wondered about the execution. I know you have a legion of fans from your Ellora’s Cave days and are probably picking up news ones every day. It helps that your cover was the most striking of the October releases.
I loved the red hair, lips, and font against the white background with the sepia colored wolf on the street flanked by the old fashioned street lights. It was very arresting. I was a bit confused because the street front looks more representative of the twenties than the current time and because neither the hero or heroine are shifters. Why was the wolf there? The plot of the story even revolved around a rogue vampire maker. Cue confusion.
Much of this book is given over to bedroom gymnastics (the first seven chapters of this twenty-six chapter book is given to the meet and first night of sexcapades) and exploring the bond between the master and a submissive in a BDSM relationship but this is really a BDSM-lite book so if a reader is looking for a more psychological or emotional exploration of the BDSM lifestyle, it won’t be found in the pages of this book. I’m not a huge fan of the BDSM-lite books because it feels like its inserted more for the kink factor than showing the beauty of an alternative lifestyle. To that end, I skimmed alot of the love scenes.
The core of the non sexual part of the story is that Dmitri, a long live vampire, is part of the Council of Others, a body that governs the “uneasy alliance of the vampires, werewolves, changelings, and other nonhuman inhabitants of New York City.” Dmitri is bored, as many immortals are, given the peace and the fact that “techology had taken all the fun out of the bloodshed.” He spots Regina at a local vampire watering hole and is immediately attracted to her. Regina, for her part, is a mere human who is dressed up like a vampire snack on a dare from her girlfriends. Only she and her girlfriends are joking about the vampire bit. She is ready, though, to seek out some sexual comfort after letting those parts of her body lie dormant after she found her boyfriend debriefing the secretary in his office.
Regina can’t help but be attracted to Dmitri in return for not only is he gorgeous but he has phantom hands and can read her mind. Okay, I admit to being a bit sarcastic here but given that Regina doesn’t know about the “others”, she certainly takes the fact that someone can read her mind and touch her intimately without actual physical contact with unbelievable aplomb.
Regina’s life is put in danger by a rogue vampire running around the city and turning people against the mandates of the Council of Others. Dmitri takes on the task of putting a stop to the rogue vampire.
Here’s what I liked about the book: There is an intriguing part of the storyline about the issue of control. Regina’s friends accuse her of being under Dmitri’s control and the idea of her being directed in her actions by this near stranger causes her moments of self doubt. (As a side note, I don’t see this as part of questioning the BDSM lifestyle). Unfortunately, not much is done with this even if it was brought up (ie. great idea, but not great execution).
I enjoyed the characters’ dialogue with other people. Take for example, Dmitri’s interaction with a shifter:
“Well, I was going to give you some news,” Graham said, sounding amused and arch on the other end of the line. “But now I think I’d rather ask how a man who ditched his friend at a club in favor of leaving with a heavily stacked redhead with a mouth that could raise the dead could possibly sound so cranky on the morning after. What happened? Did she turn out to be a lesbian?”
Dmitri sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “What is your news, Graham?”
“I asked first.”
“And I ignored you,” Dmitri growled, “which a man who did not lick his own testicles for recreation would have taken as a hint.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Your news, Lupine.”
Graham heaved a theatrical sigh. “Fine. I can take a hint. You don’t want to talk about Miss Racktastic 2000. Does that mean you’ll pass me her number?”
Graham groaned. “D, the idea that a few of your fledglings were running around sucking on club kids like juice boxes was bad enough. Now you’re telling me that some rogue is out there randomly turning out untrained vamps like they were so many Amway reps? The council doesn’t pay me enough for this shit.”
But for all the good points, there was a whole bunch of things that bothered me in the book. There were the small things like Dmitri ordering Regina to use his pet name, Misha. I rushed to my expert Russian friend when I read that part because from reading Johanna Lindsey, I was pretty sure that Misha was the short for Michael or Mikhail. And so, yes, the short of Dmitri is Dima not Misha. Misha is a pet name for a bear though. So maybe Dmitri was her bear, the kind that has phantom hands and can creep into your mind at any time. You know, the creepy bears that you want far away from you? The biggest thing that bothered me was that Dmitri was super creepy. Not only does he do the phantom hands (which I envision to be white gloved mime hands detached from a body and roving over the heroine), but he is constantly in her mind, pretty much spying on her:
He kept his touch light this time, knowing his intrusion had angered her the other day. He slipped into the edge of her mind, keeping his presence veiled from her while he simply sat back and savored the contact. At least until he discovered what she’d been up to that morning.
With ruthless precision, Dmitri caught the edge of her memory and reviewed her conversation with her friends, as well as the phone call she’d taken at her office just an hour ago. When he discovered the result of those conversations, his expression hardened, and he removed himself from her mind, taking one last piece of information with him when he went.
Regina had agreed to a date with another man.
I don’t understand the “he can read my mind and track all of my conversations and actions all the time” fantasy. It’s one way to avoid the Big Misunderstanding but it is such an intrusion of privacy. In fact, it would have been great to see that be part of the issue/struggle over control. Instead, it’s just accepted as part of Dmitri’s sexiness, I guess. And the story takes place in one of those compressed romance hyperbolic chambers where 12 hours of time together equals 12 months of getting to know you.
“Dmitri, you barely know me. We’ve spent a total of about twelve hours together over the course of one week. Why am I supposed to think you want me? For this?” Stepping close, she arched her hips against him and ignored the flash of pleasure it caused. “Somehow I don’t think you have much trouble getting laid.”
Sadly, the answer here isn’t “we’re a good fit and we’re going to spend lots of time getting to know each other” but rather “I love you” and “you’re my mate” rote responses. And yes, there is a concerted effort to show Regina as something other than a doormat, but the fact is the only power Regina has is what Dmitri cedes to her in an indulgent sort of way. I mean, he spies on her!! Ordinarily, I would give this book a C but given the fact I found Dmitri the Bear super creepy, it’s a C-. What’s even more frustrating is I am tempted to read the book about Graham because he’s such a smart ass, but I’ll bet he’ll turn into an overbearing woodland creature too. Oh, the dilemma.