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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review - A Taste of the Nightlife

If you are looking for the Spooktacular Giveaway Hop, you are in the correct place and thank you for stopping by.  Please scroll down to the post before this one for the giveaway.  

Today we continue with our paranormal mystery book reviews with a paranormal cozy featuring vampires.  I know, cozy and vampire just doesn't seem to go together.  But check out the review, it might surprise you.

Author: Sarah Zettel

Copyright:  July 2011 (Signet) 320 pgs

Series:  1st in  Vampire Chef Mysteries

Sensuality:  Romantic tension

Mystery Sub-genre:  paranormal cozy

Main Character:  Charlotte Caine, Chef to Vampires and other "paranormals"

Setting:  Modern Day, New York

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Chef Charlotte is co-owner of Nightlife Restaurant with her vampire brother Chet.  When a drunk customer who made a scene (in the presence of influential restaurant critic Anatole) is found dead the next morning, Charlotte's brother Chet comes under suspicion.  The victim was a member of a powerful Maddox Witch family known for their Vampire hunting. Brenden Maddox, brother to the victim comes to the restaurant to ask questions at the same time as Anatole the critic (and a vampire) is there seeking answers too.

Charlotte starts working with both men to find out what is happening and why a man was killed in her place.  The more she digs into the case, the more her brother looks suspicious.  Both Anatole and Brenden seem personally interested in Charlotte which fuels their rivalry inspite of the fragile truce to work together.

There are several things about this book that are a pleasant surprise. Firstly it is definitely a cozy mystery in-spite of the vampires or romantic tension.  The world building is simple with the least amount of fuss.  The paranormal is out in the open now and the night life crowd enjoys a good meal (no human blood - that's illegal.)  Charlotte is a bona-fide Chef and big sister, always taking care of her younger vampire brother Chet who the rest of the family has disowned. 

Charlotte herself is a great character.  The old saying never trust a skinny cook is employed here with Charlotte who has some curves and meat on her bones, which I always like rather than the same-old perfectly thin heroine.  She is a bit feisty without being bull headed.  She also doesn't get much sleep but a few short hours here and there.  I really wanted to make her get some sleep after a while! 

Brenden is the reasonable member of the Maddox witch family and is willing, up to a point, to investigate his brother's murder with Charlotte and Anatole rather than solo.  Anatole is an old vampire who enjoys having a secure life and really doesn't want to live in the closet (or is that the coffin?) any more so solving the murder is critical to him.  Charlotte just wants to clear Chet and maybe even herself from the police's list. Both Brenden and Anatole are classic dangerous charmers.  Brenden is dark and human, Anatole is blond with old-world romantic ideas and fangs.  This sets up a competition between the two for her which could be interesting in future books.  I found it interesting that usually I clearly like one "potential love interest" more than the other in these setups, but I thought both had their good points in this case.  If you have read the book, perhaps you could chime in with your thoughts on that.

There is occasional humor without feeling forced.  I like humor in my books, but only when it sounds natural and this did to me. The plot has enough developments to keep the reader interested without moving into the urban fantasy dark mode.  It was paced well without any dragging middle.  It is a solid cozy mystery, just with vampires and witches.  The climatic confrontation with the killer is satisfactory and I had developed my ideas of the whodunit and why as the story progressed.  The wrap up leaves enough open for the next book to have both Brenden and Anatole as recurring characters which I liked both of the characters so that worked.

As far as I am aware this is a unique book.  It has the standard vampires, werewolves and the usual cast of creatures but in true cozy format - not the dark "gritty" or "sexy" urban fantasy world.  The heroine does not wield a sword or have any abilities past the kitchen.  It has all the ingredients for a successful cozy: a murder mystery, a likable heroine, interesting supporting characters, pinches of magic and danger mixed with sprinkles of romantic tension served up with a paranormal world that is integrated smoothly. I wonder why nobody has thought to do this vampire lite before.  Likely because not just any author could pull this off as well as Ms. Zettel has.  I will certainly be anxiously awaiting the next book to be released.

For you viewing pleasure, here are some videos for carving pumpkins that provide tips and inspiration. Some of these are amazing.

In this next video you learn how to pick a design and transfer it to a pumpkin then carve it out.  Part one explained to look for a pumpkin that is 1) big and 2) has a flatter side for the design. 


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Jo said...

I really enjoyed A Taste of the Nightlife too. I went into it with caution and came out happy and looking forward to the next one. =)

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you for the comment. Yes, it is a nice change of pace and keeps true to the cozy mystery feel.

I wish they would show the more "full-figured" Charlotte on the covers.

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