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Thursday, April 11, 2013

MaryJanice Davidson's "Undead and Underwater"

Author:  MaryJanice Davidson   
Title:  Undead and Underwater   
Plot Type:  Paranormal Chick Lit  (CH)   
Ratings:  Violence2-3; Sensuality1-4; Humor4-5 
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley (3/2013)

     In Davidson's introductory "Author's Note," she explains that the three novellas in this collection have heroines "who have heavy responsibilities away from them until...they realize they have to suck it up and step it up." Davidson goes to to describe the four heroines as having "avoidance issues, as well as the occasional tendency to retreat into but-why-is-it-my-responsibility-to-fix-your-mess whining." but also having "a great capacity to love and to fight for what (and who) they loved, regardless of the potential cost to themselves."  The second and third stories also have themes related to the evils of bigotry. Each novella begins with an "Author's Note" and a series of quotations related to the story.

     The three novellas are written with Davidson's usual frenetic pacing and over-the-top farcical humor, which can sometimes drift (or fall headlong) into overblown slapstick. But if you're a fan of Davidson's novels, that's just what you're looking for, so you'll probably enjoy all three stories.

                    "Super Girl!"                    
Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "Hailey Derry seized the small garbage can and spat out a wad of chewed cardboard drink holder."

     Hailey Derry has a day job as the head of Human Resources (HR) at Ramouette, a company in Savage, Minnesota, that manufactures target silhouettes, but she's frequently late to work because she's off rescuing people from various types of disastrous situations. You see, Hailey is "It Girl," a mysterious woman with super strength, speed, and stamina who shows up at accident scenes to save the day. Hailey maintains her super powers by chowing down on various non-food items like staplers, file folders, and paperclips, but ultimately, her abilities are rooted in her bizarre genetic heritage.

     When Hailey interviews a new accountant, Jamie Linus, she can hardly believe her strong attraction to him, and (to her delight) the attraction appears to be mutual. Will Linus guess Hailey's true identity? Will Hailey find out who is leaving anonymous, slightly threatening post-it notes on her desk? Are all IT technicians inherently evil? These questions and more are answered by the end of the story.

                    "Undead and Underwater"                    
Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "Fredrika Bimm, grumpy mermaid and former future queen of the Undersea Folk, stalked across the cobblestones past the Marriott Long Wharf, zeroing in on the pit of all evil and despair, the loathsome housing for malice that was the New England Aquarium [NEA]."

     The heroines of this story are Fred, the grouchy mermaid from Davidson's MERMAID series, and Betsy, the ditzy vampire queen from the QUEEN BETSY series. They are brought together when Fred's intern at the NEA, Madison Fehr (whose mother is a vampire), gets into big trouble with a gang of arrogant bigots who are determined to kill Fred and all of the Undersea Folk. The plot follows the two women as they meet, form a (sort of) friendly alliance, and mop up the bad guysjust as you knew they would from the very beginning. This is the only one of the three stories with absolutely no sexjust lots of hyper-humorous situations and conversations.

     As usual, the dialogueparticularly Betsy's partis rambling and incoherent most of the time. At one point, Fred says to Betsy, "Stop Talking. Must you preface every single thing you do with nauseating endless speculative continual monologues?" (p. 182) As readers nod in sympathy for Fred, Betsy responds in the only way she knows how: she keeps right on talking. 

     The novella includes a lot of historical information and tourist tips about Boston, but for the most part, those bits are integrated into the story line.

     Click HERE to go to my review of the QUEEN BETSY series. Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's QUEEN BETSY series. Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's MERMAID series. 

Opening Sentence of Chapter 1:  "She was happy she was born during the worst winter Massachusetts had seen in decadessince 1994, the old-timers claimed."

     This novella is set in the WYNDHAM WEREWOLVES world. The heroine is Lara Wyndham, the brand new pack leader of the Wyndham wolves, a group that also shows up from time to time in the QUEEN BETSY series. Set in a futuristic Cape Cod, Massachusetts, several decades after the previous novella, the action follows Lara as she faces the first few days in her new position. Lara took over from her father when he retiredsomething that no other pack leader has ever doneand not everyone in the pack is happy with the new order. When Lara learns that someone is leaving dead animals on the back steps, she is determined to get to the bottom of the matter. 

     But...solving that problem has to take second place to falling in love and mating for life, both of which Lara does with amazing speed, right in the middle of breakfast. Her new mate is Jack Gardner, son of her father's best friend. The two have been eying each other for years from a distance, but now the mate bond has clicked in and will not be denied.

     The story follows the couple as they have a buttery, bacony first liaison and then go off to solve the dead-pet mystery, which (as in the previous story) has bigotry at its core. For me, this story is the best of the three, with more nuanced lead characters and a more engaging plot line.

    Click HERE to go a web page with links to Davidson's WYNDHAM WEREWOLVES series. 

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