Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Halfway to the Grave (2007)
Jeaniene Frost
Grade: C+
Genre: paranormal romance
Sex scenes: that infuriating spot between mild and hot that I’ve yet to find an adequate word to describe
Source: library
Night Huntress series: (1) Halfway to the Grave, (2) One Foot in the Grave, (3) At Grave's End

When I say that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a paranormal romance, I do mean it. I keep track of absolutely everything I read, both on paper and Shelfari and my records are pretty damn accurate. The last PR I read was A Lick of Frost, the sixth Merry Gentry book by Laurell K. Hamilton back in January 2012. The last PR by a new-to-me author was Wolf at the Door by Christine Warren back in July 2011 and even this was an aberration in my reading habits at that time. I went through a phase about three years ago where almost everything I read was PR, but I grew out of it and moved to straight romance because I got bored and most of what I was reading was too repetitious and unoriginal. 2012 and I’m not budging any time soon; I may be more willing to venture back into PR every now and again if I feel like it, so it better be worth it.

I’m not entirely sure why I picked Jeaniene Frost as my pass back into PR; there’s a lot of other authors and series that I’ve heard equally good things about. I think the deciding factor was learning that the vampire-hero is called Bones. Now, Bones the television show is one of my favourites. I’ve only watched up to the end of season five because six and seven are still too expensive to buy, but I have a vague idea of what happens. [Incidentally, this is the bulk of where my hatred of spoilers comes from]. Anyway, back to the point: yes, I am shallow enough to have picked up HTTG mainly for the reason that the hero’s name is that of one of my favourite shows.

Catherine Kathleen Crawfield was born five months after her mother was raped by a newly-made vampire. She’s always known that she was different but this wasn’t confirmed until her sixteenth birthday when her mother revealed the truth of Cat’s parentage. Justina harbours a great deal of pent-up resentment towards the entire vampire race and wants Cat to use her enhanced physical abilities to kill as many as she can. When Cat has the weekends free (which is most of the time as she doesn’t have much in the way of friends) she haunts the local clubs in search of vampires to kill. It’s a grim job but it makes her mum happy and subconsciously, Cat hopes that one day, one of her decapitated victims will be the man who is responsible for her very existence.

It is on one of these vampire-scourging nights that Cat meets Bones. She has an innate ability to spot a vampire and they're usually more than willing to leave with the attractive, young, vulnerable and naive beating pulse they see her as. Not Bones. No amount of her feminine wiles can make him leave the club with her and Cat has to humiliatingly resort to asking “Want to fuck?” and he still turns her down.

The next night, they meet again and unfortunately for Cat, this vampire isn’t nearly as accommodating as the others of her acquaintance. Or past acquaintance, that is. After knocking her out and prying out the identity of her father from her, Cat and Bones come to a deal: if she helps Bones in his job as a bounty hunter to catch the big fish, in return, Bones will work to help Cat improve and refine her combat skills.

And so Cat’s rigorous training begins. Bones has no issues with beating her until she’s unconscious and part of her training includes a make-over, new wardrobe and a session on dirty talk. Five weeks later, Cat is as ready as ever to help take down the vampires that Bones is paid to kill. Many young girls are disappearing from the area and Bones suspects that these disappearances are linked in some way. As a member of the undead, he’d never be able to approach the vampires he believes are responsible in order to extract information – this is where Cat comes in. These cases strike close to home and Cat must remain ever vigilant in playing her role while trying to suppress her ever-growing attraction to Bones. For one thing, her mother would kill her …

To be honest, HTTG wasn’t that great. I loved the characters and their histories, the dialogue was pretty snappy at times and the sex was hot, but I found myself a little bored by the plot. Or rather, I enjoyed reading it while I was reading it because I wanted to find out what would happen, but I wasn’t wowed by the storyline or the events themselves. Continuing my honest streak, the most exciting part of the whole book was the sneak-peek chapter for book two at the end.

Cat annoyed me a little. She’s sassy and forward-thinking and isn’t afraid to speak her mind when Bones rubs her the wrong way - all things I love in a heroine - but for some reason that I can't pinpoint, she gets on my nerves. I guess her youth is partly to blame. In a PR novel, I’m of the opinion that twenty-two is barely out of puberty. Her age makes sense when you factor in that book two takes place four years after HTTG because of the events that take place in the last few chapters of book one, so hopefully I'll find her less annoying by the time I get around to book two. Another reason for my annoyance is that I find Cat’s naivety a little overdone. Sure, she doesn’t have any friends because she’s been snubbed by her community and others her age her whole life, but I just think that even if she has lacked social contact and interaction, some of the things that she says and does are still too outrageous to be realistic.

I dislike how much emphasis Cat places on what her mother would think about just everything: her training with Bones; her partnership with a vampire to catch other vampires; her new flat; the degree she's only just starting etc etc. I know that Cat has had a very insular upbringing and her mum's focus since her daughter turned sixteen has been all along the lines of "kill the vampires! eliminate that scum!", but surely you’d expect Cat to rebel against everything her mother dictates, rather than trying to please her? After some internal tug-of-war, Cat admits that Bones is The One for her, yet she's still determined to keep the fact that she's sleeping with a vampire a secret. Yep, true love all right.

I’m a little wary of Bones, too. I find him hot which is in itself surprising since I’ve mostly been put off vampires. His manner of speech is very upfront and brusque which I accept as a British trait, but I just felt that sometimes Ms Frost took his British-ness a little too far. I know that he’s over two-hundred years old, but I have a hard time believing that anyone would have actually said some of the things that Bones does, even when he was alive.

That being said, he redeems himself in his unwavering love for Cat. I know it’s always a bit creepy and unrealistic when characters pronounce their undying (ha!) love for each other when they’ve only just met, but Bones is two-hundred-plus years old and hasn’t spent all that time celibate, so I figure when true love hits him in the face, he’s had enough experience to know that it's for real.

I think my favourite part(s) was the dirty-talk training that Bones made Cat take. Her role in his bounty-hunting is to be the sexy, available, horny-woman bait, and she’ll never manage to pull it off if she continues to flush bright red every time there’s even a hint at innuendo. So during their ‘training’, Bones has Cat dress up in a “screw-me” outfit and holds her hands to monitor her pulse while he just fires dirty talk at her. For every time she flinches or blushes, she has to run ten miles out in the woods surrounding his cave. Yes, Bones lives in a cave. The sexual tension between Cat and Bones is electric. Cat isn’t a virgin but she might as well be given that her one and only sexual encounter was disastrous; Bones makes no secret of his sexual history and skills in that department. The book is riddled with innuendo but it’s really turned up during Cat’s ‘training’. I would have loved more, but I guess it adds a bit more mystery if we’re left a little in the dark about exactly what was said during that session. Brilliantly written.

Their sex fell a tad shy of hot, for me. In PR books, the sex always seems repetitious what with the whole biting element that's always over-used where vampires are concerned. Even though Cat and Bones mostly steered clear of biting and drinking blood except where Cat needs to heal, Ms Frost did still manage to keep the sex original. Cat might be firm about not letting Bones bite her, but the sex is still hot all the same. Plus there’s the knowledge that Bones wants to bite, but restrains from doing so because he knows that Cat isn’t comfortable with him doing so and respects that decision. So hot.

I wouldn’t recommend this book if it were a stand-alone. Parts of it were good and funny, but the plot really let it down. There must be so many books out there featuring half-vampire-heroines – though I can only think of Karen Chance’s Dory Basarab series off of the top of my head – and so it has to be original or otherwise readers are just going to write it off as another copycat and not come back for more. It’s mostly the fact that Bones and Cat don’t get their happy-ever-after in HTTG that’s making me carry on with the series and that’s the reason why I’m recommending it. If you don’t mind reading books out-of-order or skipping entire books all together, then go ahead and do that; I think I’ve probably summed up the plot of HTTG enough and the second book has enough of a summary for you to be able to skip right ahead without missing anything major. Currently halfway through book two and not wowed yet; hopefully that will change.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction.

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