Undead and Unwed
Under the Covers

Undead and Unemployed by MaryJanice Davidson
(Berkley Sensation, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-19748-4
Undead and Unemployed has a lot going for it, not the least is the wiseass heroine at its center. Anyone who missed the first installment, Undead and Unwed (and that includes yours truly) will have a hard time figuring out who all the characters are and why Betsy Taylor is in the predicament she’s in, and that may make the initial going a bit rough, but it’s worth the effort.

Betsy (and I’m doing my best to fill in here) apparently became an unwilling vampire in the first book, and she’s now Queen of the Vampires and consort to Eric Sinclair, the King of the Vampires, for the next thousand years. Betsy wants none of this. Sinclair makes her blood boil, in more ways than one, and their sexual interlude in the first book apparently was his key to the throne, so she’s not sure if he was just hungry for the title or really felt some affection for her. Betsy isn’t affected by some of the traditional vampire no-nos, like religious jewelry and holy water, though sunlight makes her very sleepy. This, plus super strength and an irresistible magnetism, make Betsy one unusual vampire.

Betsy is stuck with the vampire gig, but she’s determined to lead as normal a life as possible. She’s informed her family and close friends of her situation, and some deal with it better than others, but she’s not hiding anything. Indulging her passion for shoes, she lands a job in the shoe department at Macy’s. When her house ends up infested by termites, Betsy, her conveniently uber-rich friend Jessica, and her gay pal Marc end up sharing a mansion in Minneapolis’ most tony neighborhood. Then Sinclair shows up, insisting that Betsy help investigate the serial killing of several vampires.

Betsy, against her will, ends up discovering the first big clues. Now she’s drawn into the mystery, and before long, it’s clear that she’s the next target.

Betsy ends up being a fairly superficial character, though her wisecracks can be funny. Her attitude is one big posture of “I hate being a vampire, I don’t like Sinclair though he’s the hottest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I’m going to bitch and whine my way through this whole gig”. Since the story is told in first person, we are privy to Betsy’s thoughts, but they aren’t very introspective. Beyond a lot of funny blustering and a passion for shoes, there isn’t a lot to Betsy.

Readers looking for a strong romance will have to be content with a slow development of the relationship between Betsy and Eric Sinclair. Hints are dropped that Sinclair genuinely loves Betsy and is devoted to her, but he’s guarding himself. Not that the reader will blame him, since she’s so prickly. They do end up back in bed, where Betsy finds she just might be thawing toward him a bit, but the end of the story finds her determined to be pissy about it. If this series is to succeed, Betsy needs to do some emotional growing up and find a little depth.

The secondary characters help fill the void, not least because they are the foil to Betsy’s griping. Jessica, in particular, doesn’t hesitate to call Betsy on her behavior and shove a few truths in her face. Marc, the doctor roommate, also finds Sinclair hot, which is a running gag throughout the book, but it’s not overkill. Tina, another vampire, might become a good friend to Betsy if Betsy can knock the chip off her own shoulder. And Sinclair is just biding his time while Betsy gets used to the idea of him in her life.

It’s actually this tease of a real romance that might bring me back to read the next installment. The author positioned the story for the third book to be the real romance, as Betsy and Sinclair are left in very close physical proximity. If Betsy can stop bitching long enough to consider what’s in front of her, and if the author can ramp up the passion beyond one hot scene, the “Undead” series might be a real live wire, indeed. At the very least, Betsy’s antics will leave readers chuckling.

--Cathy Sova

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