In a genre that contains such heavy-hitters as Kelley Armstrong and Kim Harrison, Jennifer Rardin's debut novel Once Bitten, Twice Shy is heralded as a fresh new take on the 'paranormal fantasy' (or whatever tag it is going by these days!) spectrum.
Indeed, the idea that the main character is a CIA operative is intriguing, and the vamp/supernatural elements of the story are dropped in without any painful info-dumps or unnecessary explanations.
In fact, the whole story invites you to cling onto a *very* bumpy ride and either hold on or slide off. Unfortunately for Rardin, I've decided to quit this ride on the first book and here are my reasons.
The pace is frenetic - in fact, too much so. There is no breathing space, no time to effectively build the characters, no pause from the constant action to really get a feel for the world we're supposed to believe in here.
Supernatural elements are thrown in without a full consideration of world-building, and characters suddenly develop new tricks without any true reasons being given.
The book tries far too hard to be funny and misses on most occasions: "Oh boy. I'm in smart-ass mode and Vayl wants to break his ex's neck. If we don't play this right, they'll be scraping parts of us off the bumpers of these cars for days."
Jaz is heralded as a sassy, spunky CIA operative. However, she is also held up to be a delicate-looking, beautiful redhead who, it seems, would be incapable of extricating herself out of the many, many dangerous situations her smart mouth seems determined to place her in. She is a loose cannon, and it becomes tiring to see that her only answer to everything is a wiseass comment and the threat of violence. I was also disconcerted by the fact she kisses a person she has only just met - there was no reason for this given.
I struggled with the, at times, distinctly odd prose and similies. For instance: "In the silence, the banging of our bumper took centre stage like an American Idol loser" - this just makes very little sense. Add to that: "Vayl made a sound in the back of his throat, a primal distress signal, the kind you might hear from elephants as they mourn over the bones of lost brothers." This is a vampire we're talking about - a sleek, killing machine and the animal Rardin associates with him is an elephant? And which elephants actually do mourn over the bones of lost brothers? The writing stank, to be perfectly honest.
Altogether a hugely disappointing read.