As someone who usually hates reading a series out of order, I was pretty curious to see how Jeri Smith-Ready’s Lust for Life would fare in terms of catching me, a new reader, up to speed and keeping me hooked with characters I hadn’t formed connections with yet.
Lust for Life is the fourth and final installment in the WVMP Radio series, which focuses on Ciara Griffin, a recovering con artist-turned-vampire who works at the local radio station “WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In this latest chapter of Ciara’s story, she has to deal with not only planning for her wedding to fellow vampire and fiancé Shane McAllister, but also with fending off a pack of vindictive vampires out for her blood. (Kind of puts the whole “’til death do us part” thing in perspective when you’re already undead, doesn’t it?)
The plot, for what it was, was a simple formula (good guys kill one bad guy, bad guy’s friends come back for revenge) but it worked for the novel overall. It wasn’t so much about the plot than it was about the friendships and interactions between the characters, most of whom are friends, coworkers, or lovers.
Unfortunately, though, sometimes the side characters blurred together. I’m not sure if this is because I jumped into the final book without having read the first three, but sometimes I had to double back to the first chapter and reread the little introductions to each side character so I could remember who was a human or a vampire and where each character fit in the narrative. By the time I finished the first fourth of the book, though, I got the hang of it.
I’m particularly guilty of shying away from paranormal romance for a number of reasons, but Lust for Life really surprised me, mainly in terms of Ciara’s characterization. As the heroine of the story, Ciara was the rock of reason among the rest of the group – and it’s a large group, believe me; I almost got lost during all the character re-introductions because I didn’t know anybody. I also found it very comforting that she was a realistic female character in that she’s not either wholly helpless or wholly independent. She asks for help when she needs it (none of that oftentimes overbearing “I need to prove myself” sub-plot here) and Smith-Ready does a solid job of making her likable, witty, and warm – by which I mean if I had to pick any of the characters as a front seat passenger in a cross country road trip, I’d probably pick Ciara. Let’s be real, she’d probably have amazing stories to tell.
Shane, unfortunately, I was undecided on. Sometimes he fell a little too flat for me, and his character became more of the generic ‘dark guy has a dark past’ type of love interest usually seen in paranormal romances. (He was spared the cliché of having a dark secret, because we already know he’s a vampire.) Other times, though, I would see a flicker of something more in his character – usually when he’s giving a mini-speech to Ciara about love and death. In the end I’d probably give him a rating of ‘good guy to go to for interesting conversation but would not date.’
What I really enjoyed about Lust for Life the most was the universe Smith-Ready created around the vampires. The idea that, without an anchor to the time periods during which they were turned, vampires can ‘fade’ and wither away to nothing was a new spin I haven’t yet seen, and I appreciated the cleverness behind the creation of the radio station as a way for the vampires to stay connected with their eras of creation. After all, they do say that music can save lives, and nothing’s more literal than the cool spin vampire lore receives in this book. I also really enjoyed the snippets about the Control, the agency that acts as a shield between the vampires and the humans and keeps the supernatural a secret. It added a bit of a sci-fi twist to the paranormal story, of which I’m always a fan when done well.
The book’s ending, I’m sure, comes as a shock to fans of the series, and it surprised me as well. Without giving anything away, I can definitely say I didn’t see that coming, and it was clear Smith-Ready tried to give the series as a whole the best possible ending she could.
I guess the big question now is: was Lust for Life good enough to make me want to start from book one and read the whole series? Sadly, no. But for fans of the series, the book provides an exciting final installment and a satisfying ending for characters that are no doubt close to their hearts.
3 out of 5 stars
Gabby Taub, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a rising senior at New York University studying creative writing. She enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore.