I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This erotic romance, urban fantasy is a paperback edition that was published by Berkley on August 3, 2004 and has 355 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Hit List, Bloody Bones, Killing Dance, Burnt Offerings, Narcissus in Chains, Obsidian Butterfly, Bite, Incubus Dreams, Micah, Danse Macabre, The Harlequin, Blood Noir, Skin Trade, Flirt, Bullet, Never After, Kiss the Dead, The First Death, Affliction, The Laughing Corpse, Circus of the Damned, "Shutdown", A Kiss of Shadows, Lunatic Café, A Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, A Stroke of Midnight, Mistral’s Kiss, A Lick of Frost, Blue Moon, Dead Ice, Jason, Crimson Death
This one is first in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter erotic urban fantasy horror set in a contemporary yet alternate St. Louis, Missouri, and it’s been two years since “The First Death“, 0.5. If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Anita Blake books at KD Did It Takes on Books.
Jesus, Hamilton grabbed me from the start, dragging me inside the vampire world of power and pain, horror and manipulation with a part for shapeshifters to play. It’s a whole ‘nother world incorporating many of the “rules” for vampires that are common knowledge, but giving it all a twist with a tiny woman who can raise the dead and kill a vampire. I lie, it’s four worlds in this one universe, all of which pivot around Anita Blake: her job and gift as an animator, her work with the police, the tiptoeing she does around Edward, and the vampires.
That said, this is an introductory novel, setting up the series, introducing us to the characters who will populate it, setting out the conflicts and interactions — Hamilton is preparing the stage for what is to come. And she’s done it so well.
I’ve been thinking of this series as an urban fantasy simply because it has a primary character who appears as the central focus in each book: stories about supernatural characters. Now that I’ve started re-reading the series and doing my expanded style of reviews, I notice on the spine of this one, that it’s categorized as horror. Yeah, I’d have to agree, although I still think of it as an urban fantasy as well. It’s also erotica, although it’s not that intense in this start to the series.
I’m trying to look at Guilty Pleasures with a virginal eye (this is my third time through the series!) and see the characters as if for the first time. It’s terrifying with the vampires especially Nikolaos, curious to see how things change with the Rat King, and Edward is definitely an enigma. Hamilton has written all the others as frightening characters, and it’s not the impression I’m getting of Edward.
In Anita’s world, Hamilton has her vampires out of the closet. A Supreme Court ruling has accepted them as beings with rights. On the surface, those vampires are very careful to appear normal, although they also play up their attractions to the nice humans with the Circus of the Damned and its three rings of horror. Then there are the mind control variations which different vampires can apply — as long as they’re not caught doing it or the “victims” have given consent — and those humans who have been reading too much of the Twilight series, lol.
Those dreams Anita is having…real enough that Jean-Claude can force her to do things in them that affect her life when she’s awake.
What does it say about religion today, if the Church of Eternal Life is nearly full for it’s regular “mass”, and Anita points out that she never sees her own church this full except at Easter or Christmas?
Why is Anita being so obtuse about the one guy who has already admitted to killing multiples of people for his own purposes? He tells her, and then she wonders…hmmm, who could he be killing…and it’s right in her face, but she never even thinks of it.
It was kinda funny how upset Aubrey got when Anita started screaming and cursing him. After all he’s done and said, the things he’s threatening Catherine with, and he’s pouting over being called a son of a bitch?
What I’m loving about this story is this petite woman with a strong sense of what’s right and loyalty. She’s absolutely terrified throughout most of the story, but she won’t back down. And she is s.n.a.r.k.y, I love it. The vampires are an interesting collection and range from omigod-beyond-horrifying to conflicted to awkward-puppyish. Just like regular people but more intense. Jean-Claude, as one would expect, is the most interesting if only because his character has been given the richest personality. He’s politically minded, but is capable of feeling regret. He’s gorgeous, but flawed. We are exposed to rat shifters, but this is just a dip of the toe. I do like Rafael, the rat king.
Vampires are being murdered, and the police can’t figure out how to stop it. It seems that someone else is very interested in finding out who and stopping it, and they don’t intend to take no for an answer. Whatever Anita’s feelings might be about it, she must work for Nikolaos, the Master Vampire of St. Louis, or see her friend dead. It’s not really a matter of choice as Nikolaos goes on to prove.
On the side, Anita Blake legally executes vampires and is on retainer with the local police department about monsters. Her “day” job is as an animator, bringing people back from the dead temporarily to resolve legal, business, and family issues. When she gets home to bed, she snuggles in with her stuffed penguins, Sigmund in particular. Josh is her sixteen-year-old half-brother. Mrs. Pringle is Anita’s sweet little old lady neighbor with a Pomeranian named Custard.
Animators, Inc. is…
…the company that employs Anita and others like her. Bert Vaughn is her money-hungry boss who judges everyone to be like him. As Anita says, he’s a gray hat kinda guy, and he knows he’s not a nice one. Craig is the night secretary; Mary is the daytime one. Veronica Sims is Anita’s best friend and a private detective on retainer to Animators, Inc. Other animators include Jamison Clarke, who thinks vampires are cool; Charles is squeamish; and, Manny isn’t allowed to hunt vampires anymore, not after events in The First Death. His wife, Rosita, made Anita promise not to ask him again.
Jean-Claude is a master vampire, the fifth most powerful in St. Louis, and the owner of Guilty Pleasures, a vampire strip club. He’s said to be about 200 years old.
The rest of the vampires
Nikolaos is the Master of St. Louis; she looks like a child, turned when she was twelve or thirteen, and makes the worst monster you can imagine seem like a sweet old grandpa. Burchard is her 603-year-old human servant. Theresa is Nikolaos’ second-in-command. Zachary is an animator who is working for Nikolaos. Winter is the Strong Man at the Circus of the Damned; he’s human and bench presses 400 pounds. Valentine is the vicious vampire from The First Death who led the gang Anita and Edward destroyed. The one who “nearly tore her to pieces”. Aubrey is a vampire under 500 years old and as evil as Valentine. Willie McCoy was a go-fer when he was alive. Now that he’s dead, he’s still a go-fer, just scarier. Buzz is vampire security on the door. Robert is a vampire stripper at the club.
Regional Preternatural Investigation Team (RPIT) is…
…a task force slapped together to placate the press and liberals. Sergeant Rudolf Storr is the head of RPIT. Zerbrowski is his second-in-command, and he has got a filthy turn of phrase that cracks me up every time. Detective Clive Perry is the very polite one.
Edward is an assassin — humans were too easy, so he switched to hunting supernaturals — the vampires call him Death. Anita has two days to give him the information he wants or… Yeah, he loves that Anita wants him to hurt her with that Holy Water…eek!
Catherine is a lawyer and one of Anita’s friends. She’s getting married, and Anita is one of her bridesmaids. Monica is a lawyer too, and she works with and is a friend of Catherine’s.
The shapeshifters include…
…the Rat King is Rafael. Rats may be Nikolaos’ animal to call, but Rafael wants to be free of that nightmare. Louie appears to be his second-in-command. Dr. Lillian is one of his wererats. Irving Griswold is a reporter (and a werewolf) with the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch; Anita has provided him with a number of exclusives in the past.
The Church of Eternal Life is…
…a church for vampires: “the first church in history that could guarantee you eternal life”. They recruit humans to become vampires. Makes those Mormons not seem so bad… Bruce is the day secretary there. Malcolm is a master vampire and it’s his church: he’s the Billy Graham of vampirism.
Dead Dave was a cop who got bitten on the job; naturally, they kicked him to the curb. Dave now runs a bar and passes info to Anita. Luther is Dave’s daytime manager. Raymond Fields is Anita’s go-to guy about vampire cults. Mabel’s is a cafeteria near the office Anita likes to patronize; Beatrice works there. Beverly Chin was saved, and in turn, saved Anita when Anita stormed in to rescue Bev. Thomas Jensen has finally decided to hire Anita to put his daughter, Iris, back in the ground, even though she still refuses to forgive him.
One of the vampire victims was Maurice who lived with Rebecca Miles; she’s living with another one already, Jack. Estelle Hewitt died in 1866. I don’t even want to think about what the vampire did to her.
Freak party-goers include Phillip, a human who strips at the club and is addicted to the bite; Rochelle in her black wire bra and holey crimson skirt; Madge came with her husband; Harvey (he’s the one in the Leather ‘R Us outfit); Crystal is the overweight one in the long black negligee; and, Darlene is Edward’s date.
Vampires are made by other vampires. Zombies are raised from the grave by an animator. Ghouls crawl out on their own. Humans Against Vampires (HAV) is a hate group against vampires, yeah, surprise. There’s a rumor about a special death squad.
The Cover and Title
The cover of my book is lilacs in the background and the author’s name with a drill bit emerging from the bottom of the cover…hmmm, I suspect Anita’s about to get screwed.
The title is the strip club that Jean-Claude owns, where all the action truly begins at Guilty Pleasures.