After reading Little Red Reviewer‘s interview with author Sarah Zettel and seeing that a paranormal series existed about vamprires and cooking, I decided to check out the Vampire Chef Mystery series. I picked up A Taste of the Night Life from the library this week and immediately started reading it, setting aside the other book I was plowing through. Plowing as in with a horse and plow. Which frankly had more to do with my ever dwindling attention span than the book itself.
A Taste of the Night Life, is the story of Chef Caine who owns a restaurant with her vampire brother Chet catering to nightblood clientele. The politically correct term for blood sucking vampires. Those walking about during the day (and some who stay awake through the wee hours of the night too), be they witches, werewolves, or just plain humans are called daybloods. Chef Caine is doing her furious yelling bit, like all good chefs, when she is called to the front of the restaurant to deal with an irate customer. The witch Pamela has a problem with a werewolf working the establishment and wants him fired. Because, though the books and movies say otherwise, it is actually the witches and warlocks who fight with the vampires and werewolves and not the latter two among themselves. While dealing with Pamela, another warlock appears on the scene and causes quite a commotion, using fire to make his point and setting off the sprinklers. Effectively shutting down the restaurant for the night before escaping out the door.
After the pushing customers out the door and cleaning up the fire extinguishing foam, Chef Caine sends every one home and heads out to the early morning New York City markets for some fresh produce. She returns to the restaurant to find the fire flinging warlock dead and in her restaurant. So begins Charlotte’s involvement in intrigue, corporate espionage, and a vampire named Anatole Sevarin who was turned by Ivan the Terrible. Charlotte alternately works with and against Brendan Maddox cousin to the dead guy as she seeks to get her restaurant reopened, figure out how her vampire brother Chet is involved in the murder of Dylan Maddox, and keep her roommates from painting her toes scarlet red. She fails at the latter.
Sarah Zettel, besides having a cool last name starting with “Z”, writes an intriguing and decent mystery romp. While her universe is neither complex nor all that different from the rest of the genre, she concentrates her universe building in the kitchen. Some of the dishes Chef Caine cooks made my stomach growl. Charlotte is a fairly put together person, and as a character in a paranormal novel, that is refreshing. She leans on her girlfriends for help and doesn’t just fall into the arms of every werewolf, warlock, or vampire to come her way. At the same time, she is smart enough to know when the strength of a vampire and the cunning mind of a fire wielding warlock may come in handy. Her one blind spot being her brother, Charlotte is for the most part plowing through the hard spots in her life with her head held high and saves the blubbering for when she is alone and no one can watch her break down.
I like Zettel’s prose and pacing. The book is a paranormal mystery, so what you think you are getting you get. I can appreciate that. The story stayed interesting up until the end, and my assumptions about were the plot was going slightly off. So, she kept me guessing until the last page. My only bone is the never ending use of two male romantic figures to create tension in the female character’s love life. Knowing for a fact that there can be a whole lot of tension in a single romantic relationship, I get a little tired of always reading the same cliches over and over. I liked this book for the cooking parts and the mystery parts. I was less interested in the paranormal universe and romantic entanglements, both of them being like every other series I’ve read. Frankly, it seems as though Zettel set up her series like this on purpose. Spending her time and energy on to food and mystery aspect of the book rather than the romantic side. Which is just as well for me. A fun light-hearted read, A Taste of the Nightlife isn’t going to make you question the meaning of the universe, but it will keep you entertained and wanting more.