The Undead Next Door is the fourth book in Kerrelyn Sparks' "Love at Stake" vampire series, previous books being How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire, Vamps and the City and Be Still My Vampire Heart. The vampire hero of this book is Jean-Luc Echarpe, head of the European Coven and
a famous fashion designer. Unfortunately, the fashion press are beginning to notice that Jean-Luc doesn't seem to have aged for thirty years and still looks incredibly young for someone who designed for Marilyn Monroe. Jean-Luc knows that it's time for him to go into hiding for twenty-five years before re-emerging as his own son. His chosen hiding place is the small town of Schnitzelberg, Texas, where he decides to go out with a bang with a fashion show before hiding underground for
the next quarter of a century.
However, at the opening of his clothing store a few weeks before the fashion show, his attention is taken by a young woman who appears to be copying his designs. Heather Westfield is rather more curvy than the models at the store, and her life hasn't worked out as she hoped when young, but she still feels she can design dresses that people like her can actually wear. When she finds herself talking to the strange Frenchman and being offered a job, it all sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, a crazed old man tries to attack and kill the Frenchman and Heather wades in to help, which now means that the assailant, who the Frenchman names Lui, knows about her and her life is in danger.
The Frenchman introduces himself as Jean-Luc Echarpe and tells Heather that she and her household will now need to be protected. As Heather gets to know the various other people around Jean-Luc, including Emma and Angus from the previous book, she finds that things don't add up. How old is he? How long has the warfare between him and Lui going on? Why does her housekeeper have strange visions about blood and teeth and darkness? As Lui begins to try to get to Heather in order to upset Jean-Luc, the town of Schnitzelberg seems less safe than it used to be, and Heather has to rely on Jean-Luc, despite being unsure of him and his history.
As usual with Kerrelyn Sparks' books, the pacing is good, the characters interesting and appealing, and the world of the Vamps and the Malcontents well described. It's not necessary to have read any of the previous books in the series to understand this one, although there is quite a large cast of characters to get to know in this book if
the reader is not previously familiar with them. Heather is a particularly
admirable heroine: she's intelligent and works out the vampire/immortal thing before she's actually told, which means the reader doesn't have to wade through pages and pages where the vamp is trying to prove what he is. Like all the other books in the series, this is a good, lighthearted read.