Title: Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs
Author: Molly Harper
Genre: The spine says “Paranormal Romance” but really, it is Chick Lit and Comedy, with a dash of Romance thrown in.
Publishing Date: March 2009
Paperback: 384 pages
Stand Alone or series: Book 1 in the Jane Jameson trilogy
Why did we read the book: We’ve seen nothing but great reviews online for these books and many Smugglivus guest mentioned them in their posts. They sounded like fun and we wanted in.
How did we get the book: Review copies from the publisher
Summary: (from amazon.com)
Maybe it was the Shenanigans gift certificate that put her over the edge. When children’s librarian and self-professed nice girl Jane Jameson is fired by her beastly boss and handed twenty-five dollars in potato skins instead of a severance check, she goes on a bender that’s sure to become Half Moon Hollow legend. On her way home, she’s mistaken for a deer, shot, and left for dead. And thanks to the mysterious stranger she met while chugging neon-colored cocktails, she wakes up with a decidedly unladylike thirst for blood.
Jane is now the latest recipient of a gift basket from the Newly Undead Welcoming Committee, and her life-after-lifestyle is taking some getting used to. Her recently deceased favorite aunt is now her ghostly roommate. She has to fake breathing and endure daytime hours to avoid coming out of the coffin to her family. She’s forced to forgo her favorite down-home Southern cooking for bags of O negative. Her relationship with her sexy, mercurial vampire sire keeps running hot and cold. And if all that wasn’t enough, it looks like someone in Half Moon Hollow is trying to frame her for a series of vampire murders. What’s a nice undead girl to do?
Thea: Wow. When I first saw the cover (and title) for this book, I wasn’t exactly jumping with joy – my first impression of Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs was one of disinterest. But then I started hearing all these wonderful things about Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson books, and then there’s the unstoppable force of nature that is Ana, and then we got an offer to review the books. I took it as a sign from the universe and jumped in…
And wouldn’t you know it? I really, really liked this book. Heck, I loved it. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s sexy (without being embarrassing), and… well, it’s just so much fun. Sometimes the best reads are the ones that take you completely by surprise, that force you to get off your silly ‘taking-yourself-waaaaay-too-seriously’ high horse, and just fall in with an entertaining, totally engrossing read. Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs did just that.
Ana: Ha. I told you so, Thea! I had been dying to read these books for a while now and the fact that so many people mentioned them in their top reads of 2009 only increased my interest. I couldn’t believe my luck when we were offered the Jane Jameson books and basically jumped up and down with joy when we got that email.
And Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs was everything I was hoping for, meeting all of my expectations, and even surpassing it in some points. I loved the narrative voice of the main protagonist, how downright hilarious it is (comedy can be so difficult to get it right) and the bit of romance was just the cherry on top.
On the Plot:
Thea: As I was telling Ana in an email, Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs reminds me of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books – except, in my opinion, better. The world that Molly Harper has created has a lot of similarities to Sookie’s Bon Temps – including vampires coming out of the coffin (and local anti-vamp/fang-banger human reactions), and the abundance of were-creatures, witches, etc. in a small town. Vampires themselves are portrayed as sexy (well, some are), superhumanly strong, and deathly allergic to sunlight. So, the world building is familiar, right down to the southern hospitality and synthetic blood. BUT, Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs is what you’d get if Sookie, Bill, Eric and company didn’t take themselves so damn seriously. (No broody-pants/oversexed vampires here, thank goodness.) And that makes ALL the difference in the world.
The tone of the book, the writing, the breezy style and pacing feels so natural and effortless, it’s easy to get caught up in the story and cast aside all cynicism. Yeah, the story itself isn’t really original or a nailbiter, with only a marginal mystery to propel the plot forward (someone, apparently, has it out for heroine Jane, framing her for a murder and pulling increasingly nasty and violent pranks on her). But the joy of Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs lies with the strength of Jane’s awesome, smart narrative as she tries to adjust on multiple levels. First, she’s fired from her job at the library – a job that she loved. Then, she’s gotta adjust to the fact that she’s been shot by a drunk (who mistook her for a deer) and subsequently been turned into a vampire. She’s gotta adjust to her new life as one of the undead, being unable to eat her favorite foods, drinking from humans, being able to read other people’s thoughts, and all the other drama that comes with being a minion of darkness. She’s gotta adjust to how her overbearing family will take to her new lifestyle (it forecasts an awkward coming-out conversation). She’s also gotta adjust to her best friend falling in love and feeling like she’s been left her behind. Finally, she’s gotta adjust to her vampire sire (the omnipresent, sexy 100+ year old Gabriel Nightingale – that’s his real name), being accused of the murder of another of her kind, and the more-than-friendly attentions of yet another vamp (hilariously named Dick Cheney).
Seriously, this is fun stuff. I was never bored with this book, reading it all in basically a single sitting. Molly Harper accomplishes a rare feat here as she manages to take familiar tropes across numerous genres – Gabriel is very much the historical romance alpha hero, there’s the comedic chick lit feel with the many real-life issues Jane has to deal with (unemployment, a family that won’t believe she’s independent and grown up, the nonexistence of a love life), there’s an abundance of humor, and some contemporary urban fantasy what with the supernatural creatures living alongside humans and all – and it all just works.
Ana: Thea is right. I too, was reminded of the Sookie Stackhouse books when I started reading Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs and as much as I love Sookie and her world (perhaps not fair to compare, but impossible not to, the worlds are too similar), I think I ended up enjoying this one even more.
The story is very funny (the scene where Jane wakes up after being turned made me laugh till my sides hurt) and entertaining without being brainless; through all the – seemly – breezy narrative there is a clear character arc. This is Jane’s coming of age – or coming of vampire – story. There is one important moment where she says that she was a human her life was stagnant, she had reached a point where she was satisfied with her career and even sort of ok with her lack of love life. But now as a vampire, she has to adjust a whole new life, new conditions find a new job, deal with her family (which is horrible, by the way), deal with her sire-possible boyfriend Gabriel and a myriad of other threads.
If I had one minor problem with the book was how the ending felt a little bit rushed, both the conclusion to major point and the revelation of something that Gabriel did. I could have done with a little more of meat there. All in all, I really enjoyed the read and I picked up the second straight away.
On the Characters:
Ana: I love Jane and her voice. Smart, funny and with a tendency to burst into trivia-listing when mid conversation, she is a completely interesting character. Although not without her flaws (and which really good character doesn’t have them?) with her penchant for sometimes burying her head in the sand, she is a terribly good protagonist and a sympathetic one too. Her modesty does not mean that she doesn’t know what she is good at and what how deserves to be treated and she absolutely stands up for herself in all circumstances. Well, maybe expect when talking to her mother.
Other than Jane, there is a whole plethora of secondary characters that add so much flavour to the story because they are not only interesting but they are indeed intrinsic part of Jane’s life errr, death. I really like her best friend Zeb and his relationship with werewolf Jolene; the ghost of dear Aunt Jettie, adorable Mr Wainwright, new friend Andrea. And I really, really love Dick Cheney (yeah, seriously) the sleazy sexy vampire. When Jane makes fun of his name, it’s awesome.
One last word. On the subject of Hot Male Vampires (because I can’t seem to control myself), I am not too sure where I stand about Gabriel. He seems to be too shady to me, to be honest. Sometimes, he is too cute for words and seems to be a southern gentleman, sometimes he comes across as a creepy alpha jerk. I sit firmly on Team Dick Cheney. (Although it seems Gabriel is the hero of this trilogy).
Thea: Oh the characters! How fun they are! This is where Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs really shines – and it’s all because of awesome, smart, self-deprecating, funny, trivia-master Jane Jameson. Jane’s voice as she narrates this book in the first person is genuine, unassuming, and, well, fun. She’s the kind of quirky, intelligent heroine that’s easy to fall in love with. She unleashes enough pop-culture quips and is so knowledgeable of useless factoids, she’d make Quentin Tarantino proud (well, minus the f-bombs). Furthermore, despite lacking courage when it comes to her family and job, she’s not exactly a pushover when it comes to her love life, which is SO freaking refreshing. When Gabriel tries to pull his possessive “MINE!” nonsense, she calls him out on it. When he’s done other…questionable vampire acts, she calls him out on it. She doesn’t immediately melt into a pile of sexually aroused hormones. And that’s a good thing.
Besides Jane, I gotta agree with Ana – there is no shortage of awesome characters here. Gabriel, Jane’s sire, is probably my least favorite of the bunch (as her creator, he blurs the line between “daddy” and “lover” and it’s just a little possessive and creepy), but he’s definitely much more tolerable than another small-town, Civil War-era emo vampire *cough*Bill Compton*cough*. I loved Jane’s friend Zeb, Zeb’s new girlfriend Jolene, vampire pet human Andrea, and especially Jane’s spectral Aunt Jettie. Everyone felt varied, real, and alive (even the undead ones)! Jane’s family – her passive-aggressive, manipulative mother, her understanding father, her heinous bitch of a sister – adds a dimension of awesomeness to the book too. Jane’s experiences are something familiar for many twenty-somethings, and the blend of tension overlying genuine love is a potent thing.
And, I gotta side with Ana. My favorite secondary character had to be:
“I like you,” Rich grinned and bowed over my hand in a courtly manner. “Richard Cheney.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said, shaking his hand under his nose, making it much more difficult to him to kiss. “Wait, Richard Cheney, as in Dick Cheney? You’re a vampire named Dick Cheney? Somehow, that makes you seem more evil. “
I loved Dick Cheney (now THAT’S a sentence I never thought I’d write). He’s such a Sawyer – down to the nicknames he calls Jane (“Stretch”) and his charming, roguish demeanor. Dick’s just so much fun. I’m gunning for him and Jane at some point.
Final Thoughts, Observations and Ratings:
Thea: Really, really liked it. Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs completely took me by surprise, swept me off my feet, and kept me solidly entertained. I definitely think this is a book worth checking out for any reader looking for a comedic, fun getaway. I cannot wait to jump into the next two books!
Ana: I always say that Comedy is one of the most difficult genres to write. It is difficult to get it right, in tone, in style and it must be in the right measure. I think the Jane Jameson books are Comedy gold, they are just right: for me. I also like that the comedy is not at the expense of character development so it makes it all the better.
Vampirism: (n) 1. The condition of being a vampire, marked by the need to ingest blood and extreme vulnerability to sunlight. 2. The act of preying upon others for financial or emotional gain. 3. A gigantic pain in the butt.
I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of girl.
The irritated look from Gary, the barrel-chested bartender at Shenanigans, told me that, one, I’d said that out loud, and, two, he just didn’t care. But at that point, I was the only person sitting at the pseudo-sports bar on a Wednesday afternoon, and I didn’t have the cognitive control required to stop talking. So he had no choice but to listen.
I picked up the remnants of my fourth (fifth? sixth?) electric lemonade. It glowed blue against the neon lights of Shenanigans’ insistently cheerful decor, casting a green shadow on Gary’s yellow-and-white-striped polo shirt. “See this glass? This morning, I would have said this glass isn’t half empty. It’s half full. And I was used to that. My whole life has been half full. Half-full family, half-full personal life, half-full career. But I settled for it. I was used to it. Did I already say that I was used to it?”
Gary, a gone-to-seed high-school football player with a gut like a deflated balloon, gave me a stern look over the pilsner he was polishing. “Are you done with that?”
I drained the watered-down vodka and blue liqueur from my glass, wincing as the alcohol hit the potato skins in my belly. Both threatened to make an encore appearance.
I steadied myself on the ring-stained maple bar and squinted through the icy remains of the glass. “And now, my career is gone. Gone, gone, gone. Completely empty. Like this glass.”
Gary replaced said glass with another drink, pretended to wave at someone in the main dining room, and left me to fend for myself. I pressed my forehead to the cool wood of the bar, cringing as I remembered the smug, cat-that-devoured-the-canary tone Mrs. Stubblefield used to say, “Jane, I need to speak to you privately.”
For the rest of my life, those words would echo through my head like something out of Carrie.
With a loud “ahem,” Mrs. Stubblefield motioned for me to leave my display of Amelia Bedelia books and come into her office. Actually, all she did was quirk her eyebrows. But the woman had a phobia about tweezers. When she was surprised/angry/curious, it looked as if a big gray moth was taking flight. Quirking her brows was practically sign language.
My joyless Hun of a supervisor only spoke to people privately when they were in serious trouble. Generally, she enjoyed chastising in public in order to (a) show the staff just how badly she could embarrass us if she wanted to and (b) show the public how put-upon she was by her rotten, incompetent employees.
Mrs. Stubblefield had never been a fan of mine. We got off on the wrong foot when I made fun of the Mother Goose hat she wore for Toddler Story Hour. I was four.
She was the type of librarian who has “Reading is supposed to be educational, not fun” tattooed somewhere. She refused to order DVDs or video games that might attract “the wrong crowd.” (Translation: teenagers.) She allowed the library to stock “questionable” books such as The Catcher in the Rye and the Harry Potter series but tracked who read them. She kept those names in a file marked “Potential Troublemakers.”
“Close the door, Jane,” she said, squeezing into her desk chair. Mrs. Stubblefield was about one cheek too large for it but refused to order another one. A petty part of me enjoyed her discomfort while I prepared for a lecture on appropriate displays for Banned Books Week or why we really don’t need to stock audiobooks on CD.
“As you know, Jane, the county commission cut our operating budget by twenty percent for the next fiscal year,” Mrs. Stubblefield said. “That leaves us with less money for new selections and new programs.”
“I’d be willing to give up Puppet Time Theater on Thursdays,” I offered. I secretly hated Cowboy Bob and his puppets.
I have puppet issues.
You can read more here.
Thea: 7 – Very Good
Ana: 7 – Very Good
Reading next: Archangel’s Kiss by Nalini Singh