The Vampire’s Housekeeper Chronicles [novella series]
By J Bennet
Reviewed by martin willoughby
This is a six-novella series about a young woman called Deidre who takes a job as a housekeeper for an old vampire called Nathaniel. They are witty and well-written, with human and supernatural characters the reader can care about or hate.
Deidre is desperate for a job. Any job. When the agency sends her for an interview at a rundown Mansion in Dayton, Ohio, to work as a housekeeper for an old man with certain peculiarities, she jumps at the chance. Not for the wage, but mainly as it’s a live-in job and she’s about to be homeless.
As soon as she enters the house, she knows something is up. Could it be the blood on the walls? The spider webs? The rapper and the eco-warrior? That the last two are ghosts? The interview doesn’t start, and she runs. After realising how desperate she is for a job, she goes back, fights her fear and gets the job. But on her terms.
Nathaniel, the ageing vampire, is as desperate for a servant as Deidre is for a job, so she forces a few terms and conditions on him. No more killing humans, even if they are Mormons. Instead, she agrees to get some human blood from a local frat house, paying them for the donations. She also gets cow’s blood from the local butcher and cow heads for The Thing in the Basement. In time the cow brains become a useful food source for Brendan, the zombie she adopts, a zombie who likes to play by digging a grave and then popping out and ‘scaring’ her. Though, no matter how hard she tries, Brendan never gets the hang of the Thriller dance.
In the background are several supernatural creatures. Rick is actually Bigfoot and likes taking people on nature walks near his home. Drew is a well-sculpted young man whose family are several shades of ‘were-‘: were-ferret, were-frog, were-wolf and many others. The novella about Thanksgiving at the were-family home is delightful, funny and occasionally sentimental.
Anton is another vampire who Deidre meets at the local bingo evening. She takes Nathaniel there to get him out of the house, where she also meets Rick, alongside a leprechaun who believes himself to be an elf and a fortune teller who can cast various spells of dubious effectiveness.
The first three stories are gentle, witty tales that will leave you smiling but lay the foundations for the attention-grabbing final three. In order the series is:
1 – Employment Interview with a vampire. Deidre gets the job, deals with a grumpy, prune juice-loving vampire and gets to know the two house ghosts, Dex and Sloppy Joe. Dex turned up at the mansion in 1974 as part of his ecological awareness campaign and was subsequently sucked dry by Nathaniel. Sloppy Joe was sucked dry as a 17-year-old and thinks of himself as a white rapper. The house doesn’t like her at all, and the laundry machines try to eat her.
2 – Duel With A Werefrog. Nathaniel becomes smitten with Sylvia, an ageing gold digger who has her eyes on Nathaniel’s mansion. Sylvia knows he’s a vampire and figures he’s also very wealthy. She also has another man in tow who turns out to be a were-frog, part of Drew’s family. The duel between the two old codgers is comic. How does a were-frog who’s confined to a motorised chair duel with a man who can turn into a bat?
3 – Clash With A Vampire Relation. Nathaniel’s sister comes for a visit. But it’s not familial love, just a way to get her hands on his cash. Deirdre does her very best to protect her grumpy boss but has to rely on the Thing in the Basement to save the day.
4 – Apprenticeship With A Vampire. Hunter brings pizza to the house. Regularly. After all, Deidre can’t cook, and she needs to feed her large appetite. That he’s the only one who can deal with the weird house is another benefit. He’s also replying to Deidre’s advert for an apprentice vampire. Will he fail? Will he pass? Will the local monster-hunting nutjob Jude Cross get to kill him?
5 – Thanksgiving With The Were-wolves. Deirdre has a serious crush on Drew, the were-ferret. Not his were-form, but Drew himself. A chiselled mountain of a man who’s just broken up with his girlfriend, a witch called Vanessa, who helps out at the local food kitchen, among other charity work. Drew, in order to win Vanessa back, decides to take Deidre along as his ‘girlfriend’. When one of the family gets cut, dangerous chaos ensues. To make matters worse, Deirdre doesn’t even get to eat much.
6 – Showdown With A Supernatural Hunter. Jude Cross is back and out for revenge. This time he has a whole team of hunters with him. He manages to cage some of Deidre’s friends and is coming for the rest of them. In the end, it’s up to Deidre, Hunter and three of the frat-house boys to stop them from murdering their supernatural friends.
J Bennet has created a host of likeable characters, including the house, and has a witty way of writing that, if not having you laughing out loud, will leave you smiling and giggling throughout. Deidre is an excellent every-woman character who you will get attached to quite quickly, while the background characters fill the novellas out well. You can even get to appreciate the house and the washing machine.
What may surprise you is that the novellas are self-published.
At this point, some of you will have switched off and started asking why I’m reviewing them. Here’s why. I’ve bought and got for free many ebooks on my kindle that were written by self-published authors. A good number were absolutely dire, and I barely got beyond the first dozen pages. A large number had good ideas but needed more effort put into the editing, resulting in me not finishing them or not picking another by that author.
Then come authors like J Bennet, who make up about a quarter of the books I’ve downloaded. Although there are problems, such as the name of the pet zombie changing in one of the books, the care put into them and the style of writing is of a high standard that modern editing usually destroys. The books are written in the raw, and all the better for it.
We have become used to highly polished books, a number of which have been edited to a point where all originality has been removed. These free and cheap ebooks provide a viable alternative and will often surprise you. Nor do you need a kindle. Have a look at Amazon’s site for the free software that you can install on PCs, Tablets, and phones.