Review of Vampire Vacation by C. J. Ellisson

Vampire VacationI picked up C. J. Ellisson‘s book, Vampire Vacation, from the KDP free list. It’s still free…probably perma-free.

Description from Goodreads:
Meet Vivian. She’s a 580-year-old vampire who exudes sex, has a talent for drama, and is passionate about two things: her human husband, Rafe, and their resort for the undead. Her ability to project physical illusions has created the perfect vacation spot-a dark, isolated Alaskan hideaway where visitors can have their wildest fantasies come true. 

Vivian knows the best performance requires perfect timing, but the powerful vamp is put to the test when she discovers a corpse in a locked guestroom minutes before the next arrivals. Always cool-headed, Rafe hides the body, convinced he and Vivian can find the culprit without disturbing their guests. Juggling the increasingly outrageous demands of their customers while tracking a killer isn’t easy. 

Will their poking and prodding give them the answers they need, or will it uncover secrets Vivian would kill to protect?

I moved this up my TBR after coming across a one-star Amazon review that was getting slammed with negative votes and derisive comments (198 at last count). I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. (This, BTW, is a perfect example of a bad review gaining a book a reader. Just goes to show, bad reviews aren’t always bad for a book.)

My opinion? I wouldn’t call it one star worthy, but it’s not any great piece of literature either. Granted, it’s paranormal erotica, so who would expect great literature? But even for the genre it’s just fluff. Now, I enjoy a little fluff now and again. I do. So I’m not disparaging the book for this. But I will have to admit that it’s a pretty weak offering.

The problem is that the sex is too thick, even for an erotic book. At one point, the main characters have sex three separate times in a matter of hours. Now, given the time it takes to do the deed, cleanup (hopefully), redress and let the rubbery legs recuperate I have a hard time figuring out how they’re supposed to be getting anything else (like run an inn) done. Yes, I know it’s fantasy and I shouldn’t worry about the particulars, but i do.

That’s generally how the book felt. It was so cluttered with unnecessary and unrealistic sex (apparently no-one needs or expects foreplay, there isn’t any to be found) that the plot is forced to the side. I could almost see the poor thing trying to push itself to the surface on occasion, like a drowning victim in high seas. It would manage to peak out for a moment, only to be overcome by some ridiculous sexual foray, usually between Viv and Rafe but occasionally between a secondary character and Viv’s imagination. It was just a constant barrage on one sex-related activity, fantasy, comment, imagining, etc after another. The VV Inn felt very much like a bordello or a sex-retreat (do these have names?), but all of the guests felt too innocent to be there.

Then there is Viv, herself. I’m putting her in the too stupid to live category. She’s presented as if she’s unusually clever and strong, but she creates one ridiculous situation after another. Each time there is an excuse—I was so distracted by the blood I couldn’t think straight or I was so hopped up on werewolf blood I was distracted, etc—but after a while the excuses start to feel like just that, an excuse to cover her obvious lack of intelligence.

Though it was a bit heavy handed (we’re told about a million times how much they love/desire one another), I did appreciate the obvious affection between Viv and Rafe. It was nice to see a solid, loyal married couple with no desire to give in to the temptation to wander.

The writing itself was simplistic but fine, though names did crop up a bit too often to read smoothly. It’s in first person, present tense (which I HATE, hate, hate) but it’s not too badly edited and there aren’t too many cringe-worthy passages. All in all, it’s a little on the cheesed up side, Vivian being too focused on her own sexual prowess (teaching the guest SMBD, for example) to feel serious about much of anything else. She felt self-centred and conceited. I loved Rafe, Jon and Asa but not Viv, if I’m honest. If I found the rest of the series free, I’d read it. But I’m not racing out to put my money on the table for it.

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