“Kismet Knight, PhD, doesn’t believe in the paranormal. She especially doesn’t believe in vampires, but she begins to wise up when she is introduced to a handsome man named Devereux who claims to be 800 years old. Kismet doesn’t buy his vampire story, but she also can’t explain why she has such odd reactions and feelings when he is near. Then a client almost completely drained of blood staggers into her waiting room and two angry men force their way into her office, causing her to consider the possibility that she has run afoul of a vampire underworld. Enter FBI profiler Alan Stevens, who warns her that vampires are very real, and one is a murderera murderer who is after her.”
I seem to have been prefacing a few reviews with this lately, much more of this and it’ll no longer hold true, but Hilburn’s The Vampire Shrink really isn’t the usual kind of title I would go for. I love vampires, but in a true Horror sense of the word and I’m not big on romance in my Fantasy fiction. Which makes it all the more impressive that Hilburn had me glued to this all the way through. Well played!
I think, in general, my problem with vampy romance stuff is that 99 times out of a hundred the female protagonist is just…vacuous. I can’t read that sort of nonsense, as a female reader I find it insulting. Kismet though, she’s smart, and logical, but flawed enough to feel ‘real’. One of my favourite aspects of The Vampire Shrink was how Kismet herself goes to therapy, I thought it demonstrated nicely the complexity of her character, and it gave me an unexpected insight into what it must really be like for shrinks, having to deal with other people’s issues and emotions day in, day out. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a novel in this sub genre that features an academic professional, but I do know that I like it. She still goes all daft over the sexy vamp, bless her, not to mention the sexy FBI agent, but because there’s that whole other side to her personality, it worked for me. I have no idea if that will make sense to anyone else, I know an awful lot of other readers who won’t touch PNR with a bargepole, and normally I’m right there with them, but The Vampire Shrink is a little bit different. Intelligent PNR? PNR for career women? or just..PNR for grown-ups. Whatever it is, I like it.
The concept behind this one is unique; shrink wanting to help deluded vamp wannabes finds herself landed with a ton of genuine bloodsuckers. I love it. The ensuing struggle in Kismet’s head, trying to rationalise every bit of paranormal proof shoved under her nose is entertaining, although those rationalisations can get a little repetitive and frustrating as the novel progresses. Initially though, it’s really refreshing to see someone go on a much more realistic journey of “wtf, that’s mental, there has to be a logical explanation”, instead of the usual “Ooo a vampire, lush” nonsense. And while I’m on the topic of repetition, there’s a fair amount of it in this one in general. I was trying to keep count of how many times Kismet had a hot shower and a coffee after a crisis, or forgot to lock a door and vowed to lock it next time. It’s one of those situations where you can’t help but wonder what difference a seriously ruthless editor could have made. Losing some of the extraneous day-to-day routine would ramp up the pace a fair bit, and a lessening of nice shower gels and fluffy robes would allow more of the Dark side to this novel to come through and sit at the forefront. Don’t get me wrong, it’s enjoyable as is, I just did a bit of eye-rolling at shower times.
..and while my eyes are already rolling..I’ve got to mention, there are a few pages of vampire porn here. Enough for me to almost halt my “you gotta read this” email to my Mum. I guess it’s par for the course in these books and again I need to point out that this is a long way from my comfort zone within the genre, but there were times when I winced. I think hearing about Kismet’s “vaginal muscles contracting” a couple of times was the worst. These parts are towards the end of the book, and by that point I had to know what happened, so I sniggered, scoffed, and bravely ploughed on. Even though the word “thatch” was used.
For all my griping here, it really was a fun read. Hilburn did ridiculously well to see me through to the end of a novel so far out of my epic/horror preference. She has a witty and intelligent writing style which is so engaging that I couldn’t put the book down. Kismet is beautifully written, as is Devereux, although I have to confess that Alan was my favourite. The villain of the piece is original and exquisitely portrayed, and the plot is well rounded and dotted with enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. There really were some great touches, and a couple of genuine “No! wow!” moments for me. I’m not going to go anywhere near spoiling them for you.
Essentially, I really liked this. And I’ll be continuing on with the series. If you’re looking for a vampire read that stands out from the crowd, look no further.