Milagro De Los Santos is having serious problems planning her wedding to fabulous Oswald Grant, M.D. Her future in-laws loathe her, her dog just died, and Oswald's family has a genetic anomaly that makes them crave blood. Then her extravagant best friend hijacks the role of wedding coordinator, and the secretive Vampire Council assigns conniving Cornelia Ducharme to guide the couple through the ancient vampire marriage rituals.
To top it all off, Milagro's career is on the skids. She's reduced to ghost-writing the memoirs of a loony little man who claims to be a shapeshifter. And why does Cornelia's decadent, way too attractive brother, Ian, always show up whenever Milagro is away from Oswald? When a series of accidents interferes with wedding plans, Oswald worries that Milagro is cracking under the pressure. Is she just paranoid, or is a hidden enemy trying to make sure Milagro doesn't wed the undead?
Milagro De Los Santos is flying high. She is engaged to the love of her life, Oswald Grant. She has a ghost-writing project to keep her busy and a firm grasp on her red-coloured cravings.
Never mind that she and Oswald are fighting constantly, minus any make-up sex since the vampire council has banned copulation until the wedding. She is writing a memoir for Don Pedro, a self-proclaimed shapeshifter who also happens to be a complete nutbar. And Milagro’s blood cravings are only under control when she’s not around her ex-beau Ian Ducharme. . . the man who makes her blood fizz and her chichis ache.
But apart from that everything is fine. . .
The first two books in the series were all about our protagonist, Milagro De Los Santos, wanting to fit in. Milagro wanted to fit into her fiancées family and to be a part of the vampire society she had been infected into. But this third book is about what happens when the square peg has been rammed into the round hole. . .
“So you ate your pomegranate seed, but now you are not content to be queen of the underworld?” Ian asked.Marta Acosta has some powerful writing juju going on in this third instalment of the ‘Casa Dracula’ series. Ms. Acosta draws on some fabulous references throughout ‘Bride’; rapid-fire allusions that swirl within the text and enrich the paranormal. Oswald and Milagro’s pre-marital struggles feel like a head-nod to Pygmalion, with Oswald as Henry Higgins trying to change his flower-girl into a lady she’s not. On a baser level it felt as though Milagro was a wolf trying to be tamed.
Milagro’s ex-lover and still-crush, Ian Ducharme, plays a vital role in this third book. . . even more so when his wacko sister, Cornelia Ducharme, comes to help plan Milagro and Oswald’s wedding. Ms. Acosta has said that she drew on Henry and Mary Crawford of Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’ for the characters of Ian and Cornelia. The Austen hat-tip is wonderful and befitting these twisted siblings, even more so when the Ducharme’s layers are peeled back. Cornelia Ducharme reminded me of Daisy Buchanan, and in fact the Grant mansion prompted me to think of Gatsby’s sprawling estate. . . even more so for the nostalgia Milagro feels for her first few months living with the Grant’s. I also couldn’t help but think that Milagro was Ian’s green light at the end of the dock.
The exploration of duality is explored when shapeshifters are introduced to the Casa Dracula universe. Then there’s the Greek mythology and the story of Persephone. Pomegranate seeds permeate the text – both literally and metaphorically. Milagro as Persephone caught between two worlds, always trying to live in both but belonging to neither. This theme is encapsulated in Milagro’s choice between two men – sweetheart Oswald and bad-boy Ian. And furthermore by Milagro's wish for all the normal things; love, family, white picket fence... while she's also desperate to fit into the hush-hush vampire society.
The duality conflict has been a staple of all the Casa Dracula books. The series is first and foremost a comedy-of-manners, and Ms. Acosta has always explored social niceties and hierarchies via Milagro’s Latina heritage. This has been one of my favourite aspects of the Casa Dracula series - that for all its paranormal tagging, the books have also been an exploration of modern bigotry. It’s not just vampires who are society outcasts. . .
Milagro has been referred to as a common Mexican girl; she has been relegated to the maid’s quarters and been the ‘odd one out’ in her group of blonde-haired blue-eyed university friends. Ms. Acosta has written some corker observations about Mexican Americans and their standing in society, like this comment made by Milagro’s friend, Nancy:
“Oh, darling, everyone’s using Spanglish. How else would you communicate with household staff?”Acosta writes laugh-out-loud, so-wrong-it’s-right social observations that keep me thinking and chortling throughout the book.
One of my favourite things about this third book is the romance. Right from book one Milagro has been caught between two men – the safe and steady Oswald, and the dark and brooding Ian Ducharme. I have always been Team Ian, and my reasons felt justified by his appearance in this book;
I said. “I do hope we can continue to be friends.”I don’t want to say how the book ends because it concerns Milagro’s final, romantic decision. I will say that the love triangle is solved, beautifully and messily. I cried. . . but I won’t say if it was tears of joy or frustration. But I will say it was an ending that left me panting for the fourth and final book ‘Haunted Honeymoon’.
I didn’t expect him to burst into laughter, but he did, and I snapped. “What is so damn funny?”
When he finally stopped laughing, he looked more relaxed and said, “You and your attempts to be polite.”
“You think I’m incapable of fitting in with your swanky society pals?”
He stepped forward and took my hand. At his touch, a hot fizz went through my body. He looked into my eyes and asked softly, “Why are you so eager to be like everyone else when you’re Milagro De Los Santos?”