Did you just get that little tingle in the back of your head? Did you just think to yourself, “That is the greatest idea ever, of all time”? Apparently the publishers of My Zombie Valentine got that same tingle, and they made it happen. Well, sort of. We’ll get into that later.
My Zombie Valentine is a collection of four novellas by four romance authors on the theme of zombie romance. I’m going to give each story its own look, so lets dive right into this thing, shall we?
“Bring Out Your Dead” by Katie MacAlister
This story was…interesting. It had a lot going for it. I enjoyed the way the author portrayed the world she had created for her characters. Not too much description, just a few offhand details here and there to let us know we’re in a place that is radically different. This is a world were everyone knows about zombies, and invasions from the strange spirit world are taken as a matter of course.
But there were some problems. For starters, the story tries to mix slapstick comedy with steamy romance which works about as well as if John Williams had scored the attack on the Death Star with mariachi music. Also the pace of the book is rushed to the point that it becomes difficult to care what is happening. The world the author creates reminded me of some of the more outlandish creations of Jasper Fforde, but it seemed like there wasn’t time to really stop and appreciate any of its bizarre weirdness. I’d very much like to read a longer story set in this world (also, maybe not a romance?) but as it was, I was slightly disappointed with the end result.
Also, the main male lead is a zombie that is ultra-perfect physically and needs to drink blood to survive. I’m sorry, but I think you spell that V-A-M-P-I-R-E.
“Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo” by Angie Fox
This is a story about a voodoo witch who casts a spell to find her true love and accidentally calls forth a zombie. The story revolves around the zombie trying to convince her that he is really the right man for her while she tries to send him back to the grave.
I found this story both enjoyable and suspenseful. The author does a great job of telling us what the stakes are. If the female lead doesn’t fall in love with the zombie within three days he will die again, never to return. And even though we know how it’s going to end, she still spins out the suspense beautifully.
In addition, this story managed to throw a little humor into the mix without corrupting the overall tone of the narrative, which I rather liked.
“Zombiewood Confidential” by Marianne Mancusi
This was easily my least favourite story in this book. Why?
For starters it’s paint-by-the-numbers bland. It’s story about Hollywood that follows stereotypes out the wazoo. The blond actress is a brain-dead bimbo, Hollywood types are only in it for the money, all action movies are mind-numbingly stupid gore-fests…I could go on, but you get the idea.
I think the author may have been going for some kind of mockery of the movie making culture she does it so ham-handedly that I find myself wanting to defend them.
The romance is pointless and based on nothing but physical attraction (which the story hypocritically derides at another point). Seriously, you it kill you to make your romantic leads into real three-dimensional characters?
Also, I would like to point out that at no point do either of the romantic leads actually becomes a zombie. They have to fight zombies but that’s not what I’m thinking when you say “zombie romance.”
“Every Part of You” by Lisa Cach
And here we have the cream of the crop. They saved the best for last, and thank goodness for it.
You know what this story has that none of the others did? The thing that made it both engaging and believable?
Our two romantic leads spend something like fifteen pages just talking and getting to know each other. You’d think that would make for dull reading, but it’s actually quite enthralling, mostly because it’s clear that the two characters really do have some chemistry between them that goes beyond sexual attraction. The author doesn’t just tell you that they’re falling in love, she actually shows you.
Also, this story had the most effective horror out of anything else in this collection, a terrifying “take that” to the cosmetic surgery industry in which women’s breast implants are rejected by their bodies and squeezed out through oozing pustules. You will think twice about cosmetic surgery if you read this story.
Overall My Zombie Valentine isn’t a bad book, although I do have a few complaints.
First, is it really necessary to have all these characters be unbelievably physically attractive? No, wait I’m sorry. Only the guys have to be perfectly physically attractive. The female leads should be slightly less than perfect so that insecure women can indulge in vicarious wish-fulfillment. Rant much? Why yes, thank you, don’t mind if I do.
And while we’re on that subject, why is it that when women objectify men it’s “romance”, but when guys objectify women, now we’re crossing the line buddy. I can’t get away with going into a detailed description of a beautiful woman’s physical attributes without being a perv, but no one bats an eye when a female romance author talks in-depth about what a hunk her male lead is.
My final disappointment was that none of these stories contained romances where one of the partners was an actual honest-to-goodness flesh-eating zombie. When you say “zombie romance” I’m expecting a story about a woman who’s trying to cope with the fact that her rotting corpse of a boyfriend wants to eat her brains. I didn’t get anything close to that.
So yeah, My Zombie Romance was enjoyable enough. In my opinion it would have fared better if it had focussed more on the zombies and a little less on the romance. Maybe if it had featured a mixture of romance authors and horror authors it could have gotten closer to what it purports to be.
Still, it’s a decent read. I picked it up for two dollars out of the remaindered bin at Walmart and I do not feel as if my money was wasted. If you’re into romance or if you’re just intrigued by the quirky concept, I’d say definitely give it a look.