Undead and Unreturnable: A little goes a long way

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsUndead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson paranormal romance book reviewsUndead and Unreturnable by MaryJanice Davidson

Warning: This review will contain spoilers for the previous books in the QUEEN BETSY series.

Undead and Unreturnable is the fourth book in MaryJanice Davidson’s QUEEN BETSY series. In the first book, Undead and Unwed, we met Betsy, a shallow fashion-conscious young woman who died and woke up as a vampire. She tries to get back to her normal life, but discovers that the supernatural community expects her to participate. In Undead and Unemployed, Betsy has become the new vampire queen and is expected to do queenly duties, including recognizing the extremely sexy Eric Sinclair as her consort. In Undead and Unappreciated, Betsy discovers that her sweet half-sister is the devil’s daughter.

Now, in Undead and Unreturnable, Betsy and Eric are planning their wedding, but Betsy keeps moving the date back, which makes Eric wonder if she really wants to marry him. This causes a lot of tension between Betsy and Eric, as does Betsy’s concern that they’ll never be able to have a child. (She has suddenly realized she loves babies after her stepmother gives birth to a baby boy who is only quiet when Betsy’s around.) Betsy is also being haunted by ghosts who want the queen of the vampires to do something for them so they can pass on. When one of the ghosts turns out to be the victim of the serial killer that the local police are hunting, Betsy and her friends try to stop the man. In her free time, Betsy is narrating her biography to a young admirer and she’s contributing to the supernatural community’s newspaper by writing an advice column.

I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the first three QUEEN BETSY books that I was surprised that they entertained me since humorous paranormal romance is not a genre that I seek out. But I thought Betsy was truly funny and the books were short enough that they were over before she started to annoy me, which I am certain she eventually would. A little Betsy goes a long way.

In my review of the last book, I mentioned that I thought it was time for some advancement in Betsy’s character and I thought the same thing here. For all she’s been through, she remains shallow and silly with mostly trivial concerns and an inability to take anything seriously. While this is what makes Betsy funny, it keeps the reader feeling like Betsy and her friends and family are not real people and nothing that’s happening to them could be important. I find it difficult to become absorbed in this sort of superficial story, which is why these books are not too satisfying for me and why I feel like I can read them only once in a while instead of reading the series straight through. Just like I’ll eat an occasional bowl of ice cream, but I wouldn’t make it a steady diet or I’d pretty soon be sick of it. That’s pretty much how I feel about QUEEN BETSY.

The overall plot hardly advances in Undead and Unreturnable. In fact, you could probably skip it and not feel like you’ve missed anything. The rocky relationship between Betsy and Eric feels contrived to create romantic tension and a few steamy sex scenes. Speaking of that, be aware that Betsy can be really vulgar at times.

Nancy Wu continues to do an amazing job with the narration of the audio version of the QUEEN BETSY series. She’s so perfect for this role. Undead and Unreturnable is 5.5 hours long.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. The way you describe Betsy reminds me of the way Charlaine Harris initially wrote Sookie Stackhouse (for her Southern Vampire Mystery series – initially meaning “before it was turned into a TV show”). Shallow, silly, a little dumb. That’s not a bad way to write a character, but the author has to do interesting things with it in order to make readers care.

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