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The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires by Molly HarperTitle: The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
Author: Molly Harper
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Audiobook Length: 8 hours, 55 minutes
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 31 July 2012
Bottom Line: Awesome, as always.

“‘The thing to remember about a ‘stray’ vampire is that there is probably a good reason he is friendless, alone, and wounded. Approach with caution.’

Iris Scanlon, Half-Moon Hollow’s only daytime vampire concierge, knows more about the undead than she’d like. Running their daylight errands–from letting in the plumber to picking up some chilled Faux Type O–gives her a look at the not-so-glamorous side of vamps. Her rules are strict; relationships are purely business, not friendship–and certainly not anything more. Then she finds her newest client, Cal, poisoned on his kitchen floor, and her quiet life turns upside down.

Cal–who would be devastatingly sexy, if Iris thought vampires were sexy–offers Iris a hefty fee for hiding him at her place. And even though he’s imperious, unfriendly, and doesn’t seem to understand the difference between “employee” and “servant,” she agrees. But as they search for who wants him permanently dead, Iris is breaking more and more of her own rules . . . particularly those about nudity. Could it be that what she really needs is some intrigue and romance–and her very own stray vampire?”

Thoughts: In The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires, Ms. Harper breaks away from Jane Jameson and her family but remains in the charming town of Half-Moon Hollow, Kentucky. After five previous novels set in the same locale, the town itself has become something of a character in its own right, which is perfectly okay given the eclectic townspeople, its appealing description, and the fact that no one knows what else this kooky little town has hidden. Any story taking place in Half-Moon Hollow brings with it a comforting feel of home and envelopes the reader with a sense of peace, coziness, and anticipation that wackiness is going to ensue.

Iris is every bit as quirky as any of Ms. Harper’s other characters. However, there is a gravitas about her that was missing in Jane due in large part because of her care of her little sister. The responsibility required to care for any child – the sacrifices, the worry, the fear – is one Iris obviously takes very, very seriously and which gives her a more sober air than one might be used to seeing in a Ms. Harper character. This is not to say that Iris is not fun or sarcastic because she definitely is that, but she is more earnest and capable than a typical Ms. Harper heroine. This seriousness makes her relationship with Cal particularly spark-filled, especially as she learns to share the responsibility and gets the chance to ease her burden ever so slightly. Watching someone as independent and alone as Cal capitulate to the Scanlon family dynamic is serious fun and oh-so-endearing.

The rest of the plot unfolds much as any fan of Ms. Harper would expect. There are miscues and red herrings. There are misunderstandings that impact the resolution of the novel. There is humor and tenderness, love and rage. The story may be formulaic and predictable, but fans of this type of novel are not reading it to be surprised. One reads Ms. Harper’s stories to be entertained, and entertain she does. As Iris and Cal work through their relationship issues, readers cannot help but fall in love with both of them as well as with impish Gigi. The sisterly bond between the two girls is palpable, and their dynamic is amazing. Altogether, these elements combine into a witty, thrilling, and touching love story and mystery, everyone one would anticipate from Ms. Harper.

Amanda Ronconi is, as always, pitch-perfect in her narration. Cal and his ancient Greek accent are a welcome addition to the slight southern drawl with which she infuses the natives of Half-Moon Hollow. The beauty about Ms. Ronconi’s narration is that she instills such personality into the characters. It is not difficult to imagine Iris walking down the street, gossiping with Jane and Andrea, and teasing her little sister. The characters become very real in her hands, and the already humor-laden dialogue becomes just that much snappier and fun under her direction. There really is no better author/narrator partnership.

The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires may not be the strongest novel Ms. Harper has written, but that does not mean one will not enjoy it. Cal’s foreignness is a wonderful equalizer to the familiar inhabitants of Half-Moon Hollow, just as Iris is an equally endearing yet much more capable female human than Jane ever was. The mystery behind Cal’s assignment keeps a reader’s interest while it is sheer pleasure to watch his frosty demeanor thaw under Iris’ care. The ending is fitting and a nice twist on a familiar theme. As with all of Ms. Harper’s other novels occurring in Half-Moon Hollow, there is no downside to this quick, fun, and sexy story.

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