Venom & Vanilla by Shannon Mayer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Venom & Vanilla is my first Shannon Mayer book. I obtained it through the Kindle First program November offerings.
I’m not certain how you can have interesting storybuilding then completely trash it with your characterization, but Shannon Mayer managed to do just that with this book. While tempted to give this one star, I chose two because despite considering to stab my Kindle thanks to the heroine, the core story was intriguing enough to actually finish it.
We’re told that prior to becoming ill, Alena was a baker, happily married despite the religious shackles her mother forced upon the family. The book synopsis describes her as “brought up to be subservient, preferring creating to fighting.” It seems that the only part of any of her background that holds water is the fact that she can bake.
The story starts with Alena dying in the hospital from a super-virus that is carried by supernaturals (“supes”) but only fatally infects humans. Offered a chance to live by being turned into a supernatural, she takes it and is turned into a unique breed that hasn’t existed for a very long time. This makes her a target, bizarrely by a mythological Greek hero.
The good: The virus and the way the world treats supernaturals is quite interesting. The supernaturals themselves (aside from Alena) are diverse and interesting, and in the story just enough to save this plot. Stepping into beginning a romance with Remo probably could have waited a book, but he’s an excellent supporting character, along with two others I won’t name and spoil (but are a vampire and naga).
The bad: Alena. The addition of Greek mythology is weird but bearable in this story, but Alena truly is a terrible character. I don’t recall if we’re ever told her exact age, but we know that she’s a little older than 25 years old. Don’t forget the facts that her background shows her as a responsible adult who owns a successful bakery and is married. Unfortunately, this late 20s married woman reminded me of my 12-year-old daughter every time she spoke or tried to rationalize something.
It’s one thing to be a person who prefers not to swear (and that’s commendable), but instead of writing dialogue that avoids strong language, Alena’s dialogue was instead juvenile in nature (spoiler-free examples):
“Is it stamped on my fricky-dicky forehead?”
“I will dang well say what I want, to whom I want, regardless of how important they think they are.”
“Never you mind, it’s not a single bit of your beeswax.”
“Fricky dicky, that was a revelation I’d not been ready for.”
“Yeah, well, you suck.”
“If I’m going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks…”
“I’m a bad person. That’s why I’m a monster…”
If suffering through wonderful phrases such as “fricky dicky” wasn’t enough, there was her constant usage of the term “Super Dupers” to refer to supernaturals. I may have forgiven its first usage as a ‘tee-hee you’re being cute’, but the gag got old after page 4 (the first time it’s mentioned). Despite the number of times she’s corrected to call them ‘supes’, she still insists on ‘Super Dupers’. The other characters in the book apparently thought it was hilarious, but I’m guessing any readers beyond puberty will not.
In summary: I can’t recommend this book to anyone. I’m astounded that the author got away with writing a character like Alena. The only thing that may improve the series is if she gets killed off and a side character takes over. As that is unlikely to happen, I won’t bother to continue with future series releases and will also avoid this author.
If you’re interested in checking it out anyway, Venom & Vanilla is available for $2.99 on Amazon (or free with Kindle Unlimited).
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