Reviewed by Rachel Mann

Always the Vampire, by Nancy Haddock, is a fun contemporary Southern vamp murder mystery, a bit in the style of the Sookie Stackhouse series. Always the Vampire is the third in Haddock’s series about Francesca, a recently revived vampire who lives in Florida; she’s interested in a part-werewolf named Saber, and she rapidly becomes involved in magical happenings.

I hadn’t read the first two books in the series, so I found a few of the details about the characters’ lives slightly confusing; however, that might just be one of the problems of jumping into a series partway through. Haddock does provide context for readers who are new to the series, but since this is her third book about Francesca, it would be unfair to expect no references to previous events or ideas that had occurred in the first two books. After reading the third book, I’d like to go back to the first and learn more about what brought Francesca to the place she’s reached by this point in the series.

Francesca, or Cesca as she’s usually called, is an entertaining heroine who shies away from many of the details of her vampire nature. She doesn’t like to drink blood, preferring “Starbloods” to human blood, and even though she’s an ancient vamp by many standards, she doesn’t know a great deal about vampire lore; for example, she doesn’t know how to change someone human into a vampire, or “Turn” someone. It will be interesting to see how this lack of knowledge about Turning comes up in later books, since Saber has already asked Francesca to think about turning him. As their romantic relationship becomes more serious, it’s hard to imagine how Francesca could avoid Turning her lover; if he wants to spend eternity with her, how can she deny him that?

The world Haddock’s created is one where hardly any vampires feed on humans; if anything, wizards and other magical beings are the ones to truly be feared. Most of the vampires who show up seem like they’d be pretty fun to hang out with–like the former Marine and current dance instructor Ken, who’s quite entertaining.

The jacket copy on Always the Vampire makes it sound as though it will focus a great deal on Francesca’s relationship with her friend Maggie, a human who is getting married. Yet the plot focuses most on defeating a wizard named Starrack, who’s created a terrible entity called the Void. Francesca must defeat both Starrack and the Void, and in her struggle to do so draws her away from Maggie and the everyday elements of a wedding. I found myself wishing we could have heard even more about Maggie and Francesca’s friendship, and spent more time on the dynamics of Maggie’s wedding. Maybe, though, this friendship will be explored even more later on in the series.

Rating: 3.5/5

Rachel, who has a Ph.D. in English, is a freelance writer/editor and a voracious reader. You can talk to her about books at http://twitter.com/writehandmann.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.