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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gerry Bartlett: GLORY ST. CLAIR SERIES

Author:  Gerry Bartlett
Series: GLORY ST. CLAIR
Plot Type:  Paranormal Chick Lit (CH)  
Ratings:  Violence--3-4; Sensuality--4; Humor--4
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley
       Real Vampires Have Curves (2/2008)
       Real Vampires Live Large (4/2008)
       Real Vampires Get Lucky (6/2008)
       Real Vampires Don’t Diet (1/2009)
       Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs (2/2010)
       Real Vampires Have More to Love (12/2010)
       Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans (4/2012)
       Real Vampires Know Hips Happen (3/2013)
       Real Vampires Know Size Matters (12/2013)  

    This post was revised and updated on 12/30/13 to include a review of  Real Vampires Know Size Matters, the tenth novel in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the series world-building and reviews of novels 6 through 9:

           BOOK 10:  Real Vampires Know Size Matters            
     At the very end of book 9, a dangerous womanan ex-lover, actuallyfrom Jeremy Blade's past comes to Austin to lure him away from Glory. Melisandra Du Monde is a powerful Haitian voodoo priestess who immediately attacks Glory by sending hordes of mice into her shop, summoning zombies into the alley behind her apartment building, and even eviscerating a goat on her sales counter. Not to mention the fact that Melisandra is drugging and spelling Blade so that he has blackouts during which he has no idea what she does to him.

     While Melisandra is at the top of Glory's list of problems, she also is forced to deal with a number of other troublesome situations. Aggie (the selfish and arrogant former Siren) is still staying in Glory's apartment, and Hebe (Glory's long-lost mother) won't leave her alone. Then, Glory gets involved once again with her two former lovers: Israel (Ray) Caine and Rafael (Rafe) Valdez. Because of Glory's concern that Melisandra will attack her during the day, she asks Rafe to be her bodyguard, and Blade is so fearful of Melisandra that heshockinglyasks Rafe to pretend to be Glory's boyfriend just to throw Melisandra off the track. Glory's re-involvement with Ray comes when he "accidentally" drains his human singing partner (Sienna Star) to the point of death, and Glory has to turn the poor woman into a vampire to save her from true death. As Sienna's maker, Glory is required to be her vampire mentor, which complicates Glory's life even more because stubborn and naive Sienna is determined to come out of the vampire closet and become the first vampire rock star.

     As Glory and Blade try to survive Melisandra's witchery, the plot weaves together all of these story threads and moves toward the eventual resolution of some, but not all, of them. The ending leaves some loose ends, particularly concerning Hebes' as-yet-unfulfilled determination to get Glory to Mount Olympus and Aggie's determination to get revenge on Glory for kicking her out of the apartment. Also, in the course of the story, Glory makes a deal with Miguel, a shady and conniving rogue vampire, and I'm sure that will come back to haunt her in a future book. To top things off, Blade ends the book by asking Glory a very important question that will take their relationship to a new level. 

    In this book, Glory continues to become a more independent woman, but she still finds herself dependent on the men in her life for protection and career advancement. Although she enjoys her new powers, she doesn't use them much in this storyexcept for the one that allows her to freeze a person in place. Unfortunately, she winds up using that power on several of her allies, much to their annoyance. 

     This is another typical novel for this series, and the only real problem is that even though the adventures are newly minted, the story has a stale, repetitive feel to it. In each novel, Gerry has the same type of problems and reacts to them in the same manner. Although she is slightly less needy than she was in earlier books, she continues to get into situations in which she makes a string of bad decisions and allows herself to become a doormat to a succession of real losers. Even the chemistry between Glory and Blade is feeling a bit humdrum, with their bedroom scenes playing out as formulaic rather than passionate. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Know Size Matters.  

            WORLD-BUILDING            
     In this world, vampires, shifters, and demons live under the human radar. They exist amongst mortals, but try hard not to use their powers in public. Most of the vampires drink bottled blood, so there aren't many hunter-prey scenes. In the early books, a fanatical group of vampire hunters makes life difficult for the supernaturals. The series is set in Austin, Texas, and follows a group of supernaturals as they live out their lives.

     The series heroine is Gloriana “Glory” St. Clair, a BBW who is a former Vegas showgirl and a vampire. She also has an addiction to gambling, which is why she feels she has to leave Las Vegas. Glory settles in Austin, where she opens Vintage Vamp’s Emporium, a vintage clothing store. Plots revolve around the Glory and her supernatural friendsmostly vampiresas they battle human vampire slayers, evil energy vampires (EVs), and paranormal drug dealers. Supporting characters include Jeremiah “Jerry” Blade, Glory’s sire and long-time lover; Rafael ("Rafe") Valdez, her shape-shifting bodyguard; Lacy, her werecat neighbor; Freddy and Derek, her gay vamp friends; Harvey and Emmie, two ghosts who haunt her shop; and any number of hot male vamps who would like to take Blade’s place with Glory—and sometimes she lets them. Although Jerry is probably her one true love (her soul mate), Glory is attracted to many men throughout the series, and she doesn't always stop before the romantic action goes way over the edge.  Glory can't help it; she just loves all those tall, handsome, sexy men. The villains of the series include vampire slayers, particularly Brent Westwood, who is always trying to stake Glory. Click HERE for brief plot summaries and links to excerpts from the GLORY ST. CLAIR novels.

            BOOK 6:  Real Vampires Have More to Love                  
     If you thought that Glory's troubles with vampire slayer, Brent Westwood, and his family were over at the end of Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs, think again. In Real Vampires Have More to Love, the Westwood kids turn up to threaten Glory's life as they seek revenge for their father's death. A different, more pleasant, kind of threat comes in the human form of Rafe, Glory's shape-shifting former bodyguard, who is attracted to Glory—and vice versa. Unfortunately, Rafe's demonic ex-wife, Alesa, has other ideas about the future of that relationship. Once again, Glory's romance with Jerry hits some major potholes. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Have More to Love.

            BOOK 7: Real Vampires Don't Wear Size Six           
     Just when Glory thinks she has seen the last of the demons, they're baaaack! Lucifer sends two demons—Caryon and Spyte—to punish Rafe (who is part demon and part shifter) because Rafe used his demon powers in a fit of temper when Glory ended their brief affair. Now, Lucifer not only wants Rafe to become a soul gatherer, he also wants Glory's soul for himself. Lucifer promises Glory that she will instantly become a size 6 if she turns her soul over to him. How's a Rubenesque girl like Glory supposed to do the right thing in the face of such temptation? In the meantime, Jerry is still upset about Glory's amorous episode with Rafe, and Glory is trying her best to win him back. Oh, and one more thing...Damian and the Vampire Council have asked Glory to mentor a young, newly turned vampire woman (Penny Patterson) who is having a tough time coming to terms with her new undead life. While Glory is in the middle of all this, her former protégé, the rock star Israel ("Ray") Caine, develops a severe drinking problem and needs her assistance. Matters aren't helped by the fact that Glory continues to be attracted to all three of the handsome men in her life: Jerry, Rafe, and Ray—and the attraction is definitely mutual. Near the end of the story, Glory tries another of the specialized concoctions of the vampire chemist, Ian MacDonald, and, once again, she is the sole vampire who has a severe allergic reaction. This incident, along with a hint dropped by a demon goddess, seems to indicate that Glory is not just a vampire, but may be...something else. 

     This is a relatively light-hearted, sexy series, with Glory falling—or nearly falling—into bed with every handsome supernatural she meets, all the while telling herself that she's meant to be with her true love, Jerry. In other words, she's kind of slutty—though she does halfheartedly try to resist all of the male attractions that surround her. This turns out to be one of the main weaknesses of the series in that it's difficult to understand why all of the men are so attracted to Glory (other than for her magnificent bosom). Glory spends most of her time making dicey choices, getting into and out of trouble, and groping guys—not much serious conversation going on in her life. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Don't Wear Size Six.

            BOOK 8:  Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans           
     As the story opens, Alesa, the demon who has caused so much trouble in previous books, turns up on Glory’s doorstep claiming that she is pregnant with Rafe’s child, supposedly conceived when Alesa was possessing Glory’s body. Glory and her friends don’t believe Alesa’s story, so Glory asks the devious Ian McDonald for help in determining the baby’s parentage. Why Glory continues to trust Ian is beyond me, because he has proved to be completely untrustworthy in past books, and he is Jerry's lifelong enemy. McDonald agrees to be Alesa’s obstetrician and to do some tests to determine the baby's paternity. Ian has been analyzing a sample of Glory's blood for several months, and he informs Glory that she was never human, but he doesn’t know what species she was before she became a vampire. Glory reacts to this news with tears and fainting—weirdly ultra-girlish behavior that is repeated several times throughout this story. As the plot advances, Glory seems to abandon her much-desired feminine independence and constantly depends on the men in her life—Jerry, Rafe, and Ray—for attention, comfort, and assistance of every kind.

     Eventually, Glory learns all about her genetic heritage (including the reason for her statuesque build) and is even able to help out some of the “sisters” she never knew she had. The plot includes yet another break-up with Jerry and a finalization (maybe) of Glory’s relationships with Rafe and Ray. As the story moves along, Glory has to deal with three powerful and hostile females: Alesa, of course is her primary nemesis. Aglaophonos (Aggie), the siren, alternates between friendship and animosity, and Luciana Carvarelli (aka Lucky Carver), loan shark for the mob, returns to harass Glory and Ray. (Just to review: Glory is Lucky’s sire, and Lucky is Ray’s sire—it’s complicated, and it’s all explained in Book 5, Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs.) Here's how the three wicked women fit into the plot: In the first part of the book, Alesa is the antagonist as she makes life hellish for both Glory and Ray. Just as soon as Glory gets rid of Alesa (sending her back to Hell), Aggie shows up and starts being obnoxious. By the time Glory settles things with Aggie, Lucky materializes to do her damage. There’s always a malevolent female in Glory’s life.

     Glory spends more time than usual in angst-filled interior monologues as she worries about the ramifications of her genetics on her male relationships. She has a moment of epiphany near the end in which she decides that she must stop depending on her men to keep saving her from financial disaster and personal injury. We’ll see how long that lasts.

     This book didn’t hold my interest as much as some of the earlier books. Glory hasn’t really developed much as a person during this series, although in this book she does develop some new powers. That part isn’t very probable, though, because all she has to do is think about it and she can use these new and powerful magical talents. So...we are to believe that Glory has had these abilities for centuries, but she never knew it. As soon as someone tells her about them, though, she can magically use them perfectly. Seems illogical to me—as if the author suddenly needed Glory to have some new powers to liven up the series and to help move this story along. Glory is still a multi-man woman, professing her love for Jerry even as she’s getting ready to go to bed with Ray. She continues to muddle through life, trusting all the wrong people (i.e., Ian MacDonald) and never learning from her mistakes. As the series continues, she isn’t becoming a stronger heroine. Instead, she seems stuck in one place—and that place is becoming less and less engaging. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Hate Skinny Jeans.


           BOOK 9:  Real Vampires Know Hips Happen            
     For the first paragraph or two of this story, you think that Glory and Jeremiah Campbell (aka Blade) are finally slated for some trouble-free, romantic time together in Blade's castle home in Scotland, but alas, it is not to be. As soon as they kiss and make up, Jerry is stabbed with a cursed knife and loses all memory of the past five centuries, which means that he doesn't remember Glory at all. In the first three quarters of the book, Glory does her best to find a way to reverse the spell, which was actually placed on Jerry by Glory's goddess mothera mother that Glory never knew she had. Mom is disgusted that Glory is a vampire and holds Jerry responsible, and she wants Glory to leave him behind and come back to Olympus with her so that Glory can marry someone more suitable, preferably a god. Mom eventually promises to try to get Jerry's memory back, but only if Glory does something in return, something Glory finds very unpleasant indeed.

     After a few twists and turns, the memory situation finally gets solved, but towards the end of the book another problem arises, this time involving Glory's old nemesis, Aglaophonos (Aggie), the siren. Aggie has gotten herself into some trouble with Ian McDonald, and she ropes good-hearted Glory into bailing her out.

     In the meantime, Jeremiah's daughter, Lily, makes some wrong choices, and Glory has to come to her rescue as well. Not only that, but Glory must make final breaks with sexy shape shifter Rafael (Rafe) Valdez and racy rock star Israel (Ray) Caine, both of whom claim to still be in love with her. And just to make things worse, she still hasn't confessed to Jerry that she had a one-nighter with Ray. Glory's life is never dull, mostly because of the consequences of her frequent bad choices.

     By the end, just when you think Jerry and Glory's romance is finally going to get back on track, Jerry reveals a secret that will have major negative (and probably dangerous) ramifications in the next book, Real Vampires Know Size Matters

     The memory-loss story line moves along nicely, with plenty of action and lots of entertainingly snarky scenes between Glory and her motherwho is a fascinating character (if you like narcissistic, arrogant, selfish, insensitive goddesses). The last part of the bookthe Aggie/Ian story threadisn't as successful. Aggie is such an unlikable and one-dimensional character that I have little sympathy for her and no interest in her story. Glory alwaysalwayslets characters like Aggie impose on her life. In recent books, Bartlett has been allowing Glory to become more self-confidant and self-sufficient, and as part of that development, she should stop forcing Glory to be such a doormat to these parasitic freeloaders (who seem to pop out of the woodwork in every novel). 

     The whole goddess/Olympus development was probably created to freshen up the story lines, but I'm not sure how successful it's going to be. In the next book, Glory may head for Olympus, so we might be dealing with a whole new plane of existence and new characters, so we'll see how that goes. Glory's up-and-down relationship with Jerry is getting to the point that we never really expect an HEA any more. There is always some impediment to the romance, and the pattern of instability is beginning to feel repetitious. Then there's the siren explanation for Glory's lust for sexy men. I guess that's one way to explain her  slutty behavior, but it almost seems too easy. Maybe it's time to bring the series to an end and let Glory and Jerry ride off into the sunset together at last. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Real Vampires Know Hips Happen.

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