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Saturday, September 25, 2010

'Happy Hour at Casa Dracula' by Marta ACOSTA

From the BLURB:

Latina Ivy League grad Milagro de Los Santos can't find her place in the world or a man to go with it. Then one night, at a book party for her pretentious ex-boyfriend, she meets an oddly attractive man. After she is bitten while kissing him, she falls ill and is squirreled away to his family's estate to recover. Vampires don't exist in this day and age -- or do they? As Milagro falls for a fabulously inappropriate man, she finds herself caught between a family who has accepted her as one of their own and a shady organization that refuses to let the undead live and love in peace.

‘Happy Hour at Casa Dracula’ is the first book in Marta Acosta’s ‘Casa Dracula’ series... and it is fabulous!

Milagro is a writer down on her luck. Nothing has really gone Milagro ‘Mil’s’ way since becoming a graduate literati from F.U. university. And to highlight Mil’s string of failed jobs and failed boyfriends is her ex, Sebastian Beckett-Witherspoon. The man she loved and who abandoned her is launching his first novel and Mil has to endure his dazzling success and well-aged looks with head hung low.
While at the launch for Sebastian’s book Mil meets a suave gentleman with dove-grey eyes called Oswald. She is oddly and hotly drawn to Oswald, and that’s why the events that follow their encounter are so deplorably despicable. Oswald happened to cut his lip, and Milago accidentally fell on his mouth and ingested some of his blood... completely unhappy coincidence. Now Mialgro is being tailed by her ex, an insane vampire vigilante group is after her and Oswald’s odd-ball family insist she stay with them.

Why in the heck have I only just discovered this series? There are currently four books out; ‘Happy Hour’ was released in 2006. Honestly, I am kicking myself that it has taken me this long to discover these books!

‘Happy Hour’ reminded me of Molly Harper’s ‘Jane Jameson’... if Jane was Latina. Acosta and Harper have similar voices, in so far as they are both hysterically funny and incredibly distinctive. Also, both series hinder on the excessive likability of the heroine. The same way that Jane Jameson was self-deprecatingly witty and quick with pop-culture comebacks, Milagro is self-deprecatingly Latina and quick with fabulousness.

Milagro has just my kind of humour; her observations are precise hit-the-nail-on-the-head perfections that will leave you weeping for their absolute truth;
Instead I had my mother Regina, rats in the walls, and boyfriends who were like beach reads, momentary fun but nothing you’d ever bother to buy in hardcover. I worried that perhaps I, as a nonserious person, was only a beach read as well. I had just reread ‘Middlemarch’, and I had a deep and sincere desire to be a deep and sincere character.
I was also really impressed by Acosta’s writing of Milagro’s vampiric transformation. For all of Acosta’s belly-aching laugh lines, she is capable of going very dark and gothic when the vampirism mythology calls for it. When Milagro becomes infected with Oswald’s blood, she undergoes a physical transformation. Her heightened senses and delirium have her hearing morse code from the rats scurrying in her walls. Acosta can be utterly creepy and respectful of the vampire lore – and I loved her ability to balance the serious horror with heightened humour.

The story really starts when Milagro is invited to stay at Oswald’s family estate, while she recovers from her ‘infection’. From here the storyline veers into Oswald’s family history, the persecution of ‘vampires’ and where Milagro fits in this tight-knit community of bloodsuckers. It is also during this time that Milagro and Oswald’s romance heats up...

Even Acosta’s descriptions are melt-in-your-mouth lusciousness;
His polite smile was even and his light brown hair was brushed in an unsuccessful attempt to subdue the natural waves. His eyes were brown, too. Slim and neatly groomed, he looked like a really sexy mathematician unaware that he was a prime number.
As funny as Milagro is, Acosta has written her with real heart. A lot of Milagro’s observations are about being a brown girl in a predominately white (Swedish-looking) world. Milagro muses on being mistaken for wait staff at soirees and silently communicating via head-nod with fellow assimilated Latinas. Milagro’s observations on middle-class racism are never a main focus, but they are interesting side-observations made by Acosta that serve to make Milagro a fascinating woman.

As much as I absolutely and thoroughly loved ‘Happy Hour’, the ‘Casa’ series also seems to have similar pitfalls to ‘Jane Jameson’; in that the character’s strong voice doesn’t seem to leave much room for plot. By the end of ‘Happy Hour’ I did realize that not a whole lot technically happened. In the same way that ‘Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs’ was lite on story, ‘Happy Hour’ is similarly plot-lite. It’s not a deficiency while you’re reading, and to be honest Milagro is so funny and fabulous that I don’t really mind the lack of forward plot momentum. It is only when it comes to reviewing the book that I notice the overall storyline wasn’t terribly meaty. To be fair, ‘Happy Hour’ sets up plots for future books, and regardless of plottiness (what? It’s a word!...now) I will keep reading the series because Milagro is just so darn funny and I have fallen in lust with Acosta’s writing.

‘Happy Hour at Casa Dracula’ is a fine and fabulous first book in what promises to be a superb series. The heroine, Milagro, is positively divine and under Acosta’s talented pen her magnificence pops on the page. If you like ‘Jane Jameson’, if you appreciate heroines with strong voice and an author with a killer sense of humour then you need to read this book pronto!

4.5/5

3 comments:

  1. This is one of those series I want to start this year - I have the books but hadn't really heard anything about them. Great to see you liked them, they just got bumped up!

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  2. Ooooh...I need to read this. Especially is we have a Jane Jameson heroine :)

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  3. ooooh I cannot believe you had not read this series before!!! i LOVE it! Im dying for Honeymoon, the last in the series!

    Cant wait to see what you think of the rest of them =)))

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