The rather misleadingly-titled The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires is a warning not to holiday in England - you never know what you might bump into when sitting in a fairy circle in the West Country. Portia Harding, a thorough sceptic with a scientific mind, is holidaying with her friend Sarah when Sarah poses a wager that Portia will find something that she can't explain rationally and will have to admit to belief in the paranormal. Portia is confident that she'll win the wager, so the two of them plan to visit haunted houses, sťances, a fairy ring, that kind of thing.
Our heroine is both very intelligent and very dense - intelligent in book-knowledge, dense in her initial inability to face up to the fact that some strange supernatural things are going on around her which cannot be explained rationally. Fortunately, by a third of the way through the book she has accepted that she's right in the middle of some strange stuff and instead gets involved in her Trials
- seven tasks she has to complete to prove that she is worthy to be a "virtue", something that was passed onto her without her knowledge. However, her trials have now become more complicated as she is now responsible for the fact that the hero in the story, Theo, a Nephilim (surely the singular is a Nephil?) has had his soul removed and is now a vampire. Portia thinks she may be able to help Theo get his soul back, so this is the cause of another quest.
Although a love story (supposedly), The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires feels more like a lust story with the main attraction of Theo to Portia being his looks, although he apparently likes her for her character, which
is appealing once she gets over her inability to accept the supernatural events plaguing her
(although she also foolishly jumps into things and ignores others' warnings, which isn't particularly endearing). The reader doesn't really get to see the
two fall in love; they just suddenly find themselves there, and pretty thoroughly in love, too. Some of the conversation between hero and heroine
is toe-curlingly cheesy, particularly from this English reader's point of view, although it might be more bearable to American readers.
The setting in England is enjoyable, although the author makes some rather basic mistakes (she suggests we use kilometres rather than miles for road distance measurements
and she has a local character named Milo, for example), but she writes with evident affection about some of the more unusual west-country people and places. Although there
is a fairly substantial plot, the subsidiary characters aren't particularly fleshed out, and we didn't really get to understand what made these people tick. There
is lots of explanation of events and of the supernatural world but little true depth in the characters who
carry us through the story.
And the misleading title? The Vampirism that afflicts Theo is a minimal part of the story, he's not described as 'red hot' and indeed doesn't really behave in that way, and he's not the last of vampires as far as we know; we learn little about vampires at all in this story. For those attracted to
"Vampire" in the title, this story may be a disappointment, being more about the supernatural and completing a quest, but for those who want a light read, The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires serves reasonably.