For you low-attention span peeps, let me start with the most important part of this review:
Now let me explain:
Although I dabble occasionally in the Paranormal Romance genre, I steer clear of the whole wolf/shifter/vamp phase that the genre has been going through lately (Thanks, Sookie. Really...). I haven't read a Vampire story-line centered book since they all started featuring pouty-faced, cover-model, broody Vamps that lament about their lost humanity and sparkle in the sunlight. (Seriously, sparkles? It is the single most important reason you will never find Twilight on my reading shelf. Ever.) No, I believe that the last true Vampire book that I read where the Vampire was actually a Vampire, and not some underwear model that drinks his non-fat blood latte from a bottle, was Queen of the Damned (and don't you dare bring up that movie that we all pretend was never made.) My favorite Vampire-centric book is The Vampire Lestat, back when a Vampire was a sadistic S.o.B. who reveled in his own glorious existence, saw the world as a steak-house and never whined into his blood-stained hands about how he wished he were not a monster.
So, it's safe to say that I had pretty much given up on the genre as more and more books appeared that only compounded my belief that the genre, as I had known and loved it, had died. I was challenged to read Nightlife: New York by two people. I hrmed and hawed and finally gave in, ready to give Luedke a run through the iron gauntlet that is a C.E. Kilgore review. I do not toss around Five-stared necklaces frivolously like a drag-queen in Mardi Gras. (I love you gals so, so much)
Luedke starts by introducing the male protagonist, Aaron, your everyday young-twenties man working as a waiter, numbly living through the routine of his life. The first chapter gives the reader a good feel for Aaron's character, and it was easy to connect with his pretty typical sounding life. He wasn't drop-dead gorgeous or anything uber-special. He was just a guy who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or right place, depending on your perspective.)
I'll make a quick note on style here. Luedke's style is an easy-going eloquence. No big words that made me reach for the dictionary, but it's not dumbed down to tap-water, either. It's relaxed enough to accommodate the rather fast pace of the novel, but it still allows the reader to get comfortable inside the lives, thoughts and actions of each of the characters. There were a few times where I felt there was a slight language barrier where I wish I spoke French and Puerto Rican, as Luedke seamlessly inserts the character's native languages into the dialogue. Translations are provided in the form of thoughts or asides, and the languages do aid in character authenticity; still, I wish i had paid more attention to French when I lived in Canada. I probably would have enjoyed Michelle's character that much more.
Michelle is the main female character, a Vampire with a French accent who is a drop-dead bombshell. I do kind of wish that Luedke had perhaps gone on a further limb away from the PNR circuit and made her not quite so attractive, but much of her attractiveness is explained with the inherent Vamperic magnetism, which is an accepted piece of Vamp lore, so I let it slide. Plus, Michelle was a lot of fun.
Fun. Yes, I think fun is one of many apt words for describing Nightlife: New York. Though not as dark as I would have liked (I really like my Vampire fiction a bit heavy and violent), the story, pace, dialogue, erotically heated intimacy and following Aaron as he acclimated to his new Nightlife was a really good time. That's all I ask for, really, in a book. Give me a really good, enjoyable time with a few new/fresh angles and I'll be a happy reader.
So, five stars to Nightlife: New York for giving me a good time without being campy, giving me Vampires that aren't apologizing for being Vampires (or sparkling), and a multi-layered, erotic atypical romance.