“In fact, so much of the description is repeated, I think she has a macro for a lot of stuff. Like hit F3 every time you say 'Nathaniel' and 'violet eyes floor length auburn hair dancer only wearing shorts' just appears.“
Ahhhh, Laurell K. Hamilton. I remember when I first picked up Guilty Pleasures, which was my senior year of college. I read the first three books back to back; I hadn’t seen anything like it, and I loved everything about it. I loved the urban Midwestern landscape, the kick-ass heroine, the sexy and mysterious (yet strangely settled in the Midwest?) vampire, it was all good. For me, it was all good until around October 2001, which was when Narcissus in Chains came out.
At the time I couldn’t have marked that as the definitive breakup point, but like most breakups, it’s pretty clear when I look back on it. For many, Obsidian Butterfly, the book before it, was the beginning of the end. That one is actually one of my favorites in the series. I’ve read it recently, and even though a little of the initial gloss has worn off, I still like it quite a bit. All the things I originally loved about the series are there: plot, forward character movement (even if there is precious little Jean-Claude in the book) and fresh, witty writing. Whatever happened between Obsidian Butterfly and Narcissus is a mystery to me, but it changed everything.
Of course, there has been a lot of speculation about what happened. I love gossip as much (more…) than the next reader, but I find all the LKH marriage/divorce/”issues” speculation mostly ridiculous; look, everyone has issues, right? It’s pretty much what makes us human. If you’re a human writing books, I’m sure some of your “issues” show up in the text. Whether it is the hot guy who bagged an author’s groceries (not a euphemism) who magically ends up being the inspiration for the hero of their next book, or an author’s political leanings (or non-leanings), a city they loved/hated/longed to visit, or even their bitchy sister-in-law/mother-in-law/cousin/grandma who turns up as a character who happens to be the victim of an unfortunate, yet hilarious, accident…. Issues, right? Yet, when talking about LKH, it is always her “issues” that are the cause of her downfall. Considering how reliably she hits the bestseller lists, perhaps she’s not the one with issues. We, as readers, can’t diagnose what caused an author to change style, we can only try and explain why the books don’t work for us, right? So, with that….
I was reading Flirt, one of her mini books, and I hit upon exactly what it was about the more recent books that turned me off: Apologetic Anita. Oh, I know, she says she’s all unapologetic about her “lifestyle” and this that, and the other, but she isn’t. She spend half the book in apologetic tone mode about her living situation, her “boyfriends,” her “friends” she has sex with; her “metaphysical” situation and everything else. Enough, already.
The Anita Blake in the first nine books was tough. The book 10 and counting Anita Blake just tells everyone how tough she is, but I don’t see it. All I see is a heroine every girl wishes she was, and every guy wants to fuck, who whines about how complicated her life is. And, just in case you don’t understand all the complications, she takes the time to explain them to you…..a lot. All the while she is protesting that she can’t take on any more men in her life. Yet, by the end of the book, she’s taken on another.
Many people complain about the sex in the Anita Blake books, but it isn’t the sex that bothers me. It’s how whiny she is about the sex that gets on my nerves. Hey, you’re a succubus. Suck it up. ☺ Anita Blake is a succubus with self hatred issues, is anything less attractive than that?
It’s like she’s trying so hard to say it’s everyone ELSE’s problem if they have a problem with her lifestyle, that she doesn’t realize the only one with the problem is her. Reading book after book about how she is forced to have multiple sex partners, all with their own unique purpose, and how she loves these, and likes those, and can’t stand being with just one guy…..your life is so hard. Wait….I meant difficult. If you truly want to live your own lifestyle, and don’t care what others think about it, why do you spend so much time explaining it to me? Get on with the story!
Story? Yes, there used to be stories in the books! Big Bads, fight scenes, amazingly intricate wardrobe descriptions that made me laugh, a fascinating cat and mouse game between her and Jean-Claude that continued long after they had sex….a lot of book. Now? Not so much. The dialogue seems stilted and repetitive. Very few of the characters have unique personalities. The characters that do have “distinct” characteristics, often move between “flirty and childlike” and “flirty and serious” and “flirty and might be a bad guy so beware”. To be honest, the books remind me of a more naked version of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. No growth in the characters, things inserted because they’re expected, and a new twist on an old sex scene with a were-animal not yet seen.
When I checked out Flirt, I was hoping I’d like it enough to also read Bullet, which I got at the same time. But after the longest restaurant scene in the history of vinyl booths,I knew that I wouldn’t even bother to crack the cover of Bullet. Whether her issues or mine, the Anita Blake thrill is gone for me. But if people pick up these new books and feel the way I felt when I first read Guilty Pleasures, then I’m happy.
Robin Bradford is a lawyer and a librarian. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or on the new blog Collection Reflection