(2008) Susan Sizemore, Pocket Books, £6.99, pbk, 350pp, ISBN 978-1-84739-116-2
Vampires just aren't what they used to be. The modern day vampire of movies and literature is a cool, dangerous and sexy creature, but Susan Sizemore has presented another side to it: the urbanite. Matt Bridger, the male lead in the novel, is a vampire that polices his own kind. When Matt meets Philipa Elliot, a Las Vegas cop put out of action thanks to a wound on duty, he enters into a fiery affair that he fears is the start of a 'bonding' between them. But when vampire hunters target Philipa's nephew, the son of a bonded human and vampire, they are forced to work together for the sake of their families. What follows is a tale of forbidden love, cultures clashing and vampire emasculation.
If you ever felt that Sex in the City would be far more interesting with vampires, then Sizemore has provided. Primal Heat is just one of the many vampire romances that the prolific Sizemore includes amongst her catalogue, which extends as far as science fiction in some cases. From the outset, however, it is clear that this is a romance novel through and through; the first steamy sexual encounter muscles its way into the story barely ten pages in. And it's not just the opening chapters that clearly signal that this is far from a hardcore vampire novel. For a start, a vampire novel with next to no bloodletting is unusual (this might be the least gory book I have read in years), and the bloodsuckers are positively domesticated. Alluring in a very metropolitan fashion, except when an overload of testosterone pushes them to feats of machismo (there is only one significant female vampire in the whole book). The dialogue is clunky, at times cheesy, and works mainly to move the plot forward. The action is tense but sparse, interspersed amongst several chapters of melodrama which, it must be said, is quite benign and hardly epic in nature (it's no great leap of logic to figure out that Bridger's aversion to 'bonding' is really just a vampiric fear of monogamy).
On reflection, it is clear that this is not a book that was written for me. It is not breaking any new ground in horror, fantasy or science fiction. Nor does it intend to. It is disposable entertainment that should be read as a guilty pleasure, like you would a Mills & Boone novel. I would not say that this is a book just aimed at women (that much is blatantly obvious), but rather that it would appeal to those women who, on occasion, prefer some mindless horror fiction with no bite whatsoever. Pun intended.
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