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by Marta Acosta
Pocket Books, July 2006
320 pages
ISBN: 1416520384

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I have to confess, I took a long time to get over the title HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA. When I stopped staring and started reading, I discovered that it was a sparkling, witty piece of supernatural chick lit.

The first-person narrator, Milagro De Los Santos, is eking out a living as a 'reading consultant' to the overly wealthy and underly cultured. As such, she ends up at the reception for the hot new writer Sebastian Beckett-Witherspoon, who had once dated and then dumped Milagro. To show how totally over him she is, she heads off with the first interesting man she finds.

A kiss, a fall, and some unexpected bloodsharing later, Milagro finds herself suddenly a victim of the oddest disease – one which makes her sleep through the day and crave red foods, particularly bloody ones. Her ex suddenly shows up, claiming to have had a change of heart – but once he gets her in the car, he starts talking about tests and keeping her captive.

When Milagro escapes him she runs right into another group interested in studying her condition – her erstwhile date’s family, including his very perfect, very blonde fiancee, exactly the sort of person Sebastian had dumped her for.

This is a first book and it shows; most of the pages are devoted to discussing Milagro’s romantic problems and her settling in with the vampire family. Most of the unromantically-based conflict is confined to the final chapter, where it is rushed through with little ceremony and less pacing. The romantic complications are dealt with even more summarily in the final few pages.

Yet I'll forgive it, because on the whole I enjoyed reading it so much. Unlike the quivering basket cases that so many chick lit heroines are, Milagro has a definite, rock-solid sense of self. The vampire as Latina and as outsider theme is handled deftly; some books hammer their messages home with a jackhammer, so the light touch is appreciated. And Acosta has a decidedly light touch and a wit that makes the book deliciously quotable, as in lines such as “Sebastian knew the milk of human kindness ne’er flowed from my mother’s breasts because she believed it would make them sag.”

If you're in the mood for something sweet, romantic, and amusing without an overly neurotic main heroine, you won't go far wrong with HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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