Guilty Pleasures. Even the title sounds like a soft-porn Harlequin Romance novel. Ironically enough the main character is a pure, almost virginal character. At least for this book and the four or five that follow in the series. The first time I read Guilty Pleasures, I had no idea I was reading what I now see as one of the first mainstream paranormal romance genre. I was just picking it up because my then toddler daughter literally knocked it off the shelf at my local library. I took it home and remember devouring it in a single sitting and running back to the library to get the next few in the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.
Anita Blake may be small and young, but vampires call her the Executioner. Anita is a necromancer and vampire hunter in a time when vampires are protected by law—as long as they don’t get too nasty. Now someone’s killing innocent vampires and Anita agrees—with a bit of vampiric arm-twisting—to help figure out who and why.
Trust is a luxury Anita can’t afford when her allies aren’t human. The city’s most powerful vampire, Nikolaos, is 1,000 years old and looks like a 10-year-old girl. The second most powerful vampire, Jean-Claude, is interested in more than just Anita’s professional talents, but the feisty necromancer isn’t playing along—yet. This popular series has a wild energy and humor, and some very appealing characters—both dead and alive.
In the first of this series, written by Laurell K. Hamilton, we are introduced to Anita Blake, Animator by vocational calling and profession, Vampire Slayer by… Hobby? Necessity? Hamilton’s series takes place mainly in an alternate St. Louis. Vampires and other non-humans are known entities, if not accepted and beloved ones. Anita works with the division of the police force dedicated to the less-than-human population, though they’ve found themselves unable to figure out just who – or what- is killing vampires all over the city.
It isn’t until the thousand-year-old Master of the City, in her twelve-year-old child-like body, forces her to solve the case that Anita is afraid for her life. Nikolaos is no sweet and sassy Shirley Temple. She is cold, calculating and vindictive. Jean-Claude, who owns Guilty Pleasures, a local vampire strip club, saves both his and Anita’s lives by marking her with the first two of four marks that turn a human into a vampire slave. This has the unfortunate effect of allowing them to invade each other’s minds.
An interesting ensemble of supporting characters wrap up the cast of Guilty Pleasures: Anita’s boss Bert, Edward the bounty hunter, and plenty of zombies, ghouls and were-rats (oh my!). All together, it made for a rather intriguing read. It suffers a little bit of the series debut-itis curse, but not enough to stop me from running out the next day and reading on.
The story is told from Anita’s point of view, and she portrays herself in a very likable, feminine-but-tough sort of way. She often punctuates her thoughts with sarcastic remarks (“…they didn’t find the knife strapped to my ankle. Bully for me!”), which does its intended job of making the reader relate more to Ms. Blake.
My final recommendation is this: it isn’t great literature, but it’s a very decent story. Considering that many consider this the beginning of this genre we all love and adore, if you haven’t read the series yet, you really owe it to yourself to do so.
The Laughing Corpse
Circus Of The Damned
The Lunatic Cafe
The Killing Dance
Narcissus In Chains