Author: Maggie LaCroix
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Published: The Writers Coffee Shop, 28 August, 2014
Monsters generally know their place: vampires get to be sexy while zombies just decompose. But Maggie La Croix’s Zombified conjures up an entirely different kind of undead raised by good old-fashioned Voodoo. These gorgeous walking corpses don’t eat brain, they don’t stagger, and their bodies are spared the indignities of putrefaction.
Take Henri Jolicoeur. More than one hundred years after his death he is still a bewitching Adonis. But zombification does have its downsides. Henri has a master, a powerful Voodoo priest whose spells keep Henri, his teenage zombie sister, and five other poor souls in perpetual servitude.
That is, until a hurricane devastates their New Orleans home and the zombies are evacuated to the Texas border town of El Paso. The curse is broken. They are free and intend to stay that way. But how can they pass for human when they don’t eat or sleep and they’re reeling from black magic withdrawal? If that isn’t enough, they have a traitor in their midst, their master is hot on their trail, and a mysterious stranger in black is watching.
Enter Josie Cortez, a cowboy boots-wearing reporter at the local newspaper who desperately needs a good story to save her moribund career and get her editor off her back. One look at Henri and his weird little family and she knows she’s struck journalism gold. But strange things keep happening around Henri, things that remind Josie of her own tragic family history with black magic, a history that cost her her beloved mother and led Josie straight to the bottom of a bottle. Josie would rather forget all about that. Forgetting Henri, however, is easier said than done, even if falling for a man without a heartbeat could get her more than a broken heart. It could get her zombified.
They say never judge a book by its cover. I try not to, but for this once I admit that I saw the cover and even though zombies are not my favorite breed in paranormal stories, went with this book. Yes, I can be shallow like that sometimes.
When you think of zombies, you might think of mindless brain eaters, but these zombies were a little different than them, thankfully. I never thought that the idea of romancing a zombie could be an interesting one, but here we are. I guess there’s a first for everything.
Henri is a zombie, a good looking, not at all decomposing, always thirsty zombie. He’s considerate, quite kind, and not much of a fan of swear words. Him and a few others, including his young sister, escape their current Master after hurricane Katrina, and try to stay off his radar. Henri is one of those zombies who agree with the saying ‘dead things should stay dead’. So while looking for a way to end his undead misery and trying to make sure his sister and friends are safe for the future, he crosses paths with Josie, one of the local news reporters who’s trying to climb back up to the good graces of her boss with a story about the hurricane survivors.
I have to say, despite being a book about zombies whom I’m not a fan of as I said earlier, this plot was intriguing. I’ve never encountered a story before where the zombies were the good guys rather than brainless, decomposing corpses. So I did like the plot, but the execution seemed like it needed a little bit more work.
The timeline, for instance, or rather the timeline of the hero and heroine’s points of view seemed a bit off. I got used to a certain, shall I say, system when it comes to these novels that I enjoy. We spend some time with either the hero or the heroine, and then, when it comes to a climactic point, we shift the view to the other. I don’t think there’s a rule when it comes to this, or in my excited readings I never paid much attention to it, but the time we spend with one point of view is not that long usually. But in this book, it seemed like there was no such balance when it came to the hero or the heroine’s perspectives. Sometimes we were with Josie for a couple chapters, and then we’d switch to Henri for a few paragraphs only to go back to Josie again. I felt like this took a little from the flow of the story, this unexpected and untimely shift in perspectives.
Another thing that prevented me from falling fully into the story was the storytelling itself. It wasn’t bad per se, it just seemed like it needed more work to make it flow more smoothly. This may sound a little silly, but you know how zombies walk in movies? They stagger woodenly instead of the the usual gait of us non-zombies, and this story was that stagger of zombies. It was okay, but it didn’t go as smooth as I expected. But with a little work, I think this can be overcome easily because the idea is a good one, the characters interesting, and the plot is unique, I mean I never read a romance about zombies before.
As for the characters themselves, I gotta say it was a bit difficult to connect with them. Not that they weren’t relatable or interesting, because they were, but simply because I think we weren’t given much chance to fully get inside their heads. Sure, we did have their perspectives, but I felt like we weren’t truly there, as if the point of view approach was simply a way to tell the story. It wasn’t as if we were listening to the story from their points of view, but rather, we were listening it from, well, the author. Does this make sense? It was like reading a biography while I expected to read an autobiography, if it makes more sense.
All this may sound like this wasn’t a worthy read, but make no mistake, it was. Like I said, the plot was an intriguing one, the zombie crew was a peculiar one that made me very much curious about them, and just the general idea of romancing zombies-yes, I know what it sounds like- made this debut novel a good one to try. What I read was the advance reader’s copy, so the final product might be a smoother one, and if not, then I’m sure the author can make it flow better in the next book, hoping there will be one. And that, I’d be looking forward to as well since we left things hanging a little bit, and for that I’m glad. I thought the relationships needed more time, and more books covering the same people over a longer period of time might just work if the author turns it into a series.
Those who like stories about zombies, and those who don’t mind a different, and sexier, approach to this breed of creatures, give this book a try. I have no doubt you’ll find at least one zombie to your liking among this group of the undead.
I’m adding three spoonfuls of this story into my hodgepodge. Now I know to check for a pulse when I meet a sexy man, even before I check his derriere. Good plan, eh?
On freedom and sexy zombies
There is no bigger slave than a zombie. A decomposing shell of a man responding only to the basest, brain-eating instinct, the zombie has lost all agency, all freedom. He is a servant to his new nature.
That’s the idea that started me writing Zombified. In old Haitian folklore, they sometimes talk about Voodoo priests reviving dead people, sometimes with a white powder, to keep them as house slaves –an idea steeped in Haiti’s past as a particularly brutal French slave colony. The zombies in Zombified are gorgeous corpses who are spared the indignities of putrefaction (mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to write sex scenes with rotting flesh!). But as sexy as they are, they are kept in virtual shackles by a powerful Voodoo spell cast by a long line of Voodoo priests. In that state, they are forced to do vile things for the enrichment of their living masters. They are slaves.
I have always found servitude and captivity particularly revolting. Freedom is so central to our society and to our personal identities. We can’t be full humans without it. And yet, we let others tell us what to do everyday. Sometimes, we even let ourselves get in our own way. Josie, the living woman who’s at risk of being zombified in Zombified, is letting psychological trauma shackle her. She is struggling to process the mysterious death of her beloved mother and her feelings trap her in a self-destructive spiral.
Freedom is not easy. In Zombified, the zombies are suddenly freed when their spell is broken. They are like inmates released from prison after long incarcerations. It’s exhilarating, sure, but it’s also a moment of crisis, loss and uncertainty that can end in disaster. With my zombies, I wanted to play on the range of human reactions to newfound freedom. One zombie immediately embraces his darker urges and animalistic libido (He’s a fun character to write, for sure). Another one runs away with her girlfriend, choosing love over family. The one who does the best perhaps is the older zombie, the more mature one, who just wants to be left in peace with his harmonica and his dark religion.
But they don’t all embrace their freedom with such abandon. One of them freaks out and returns to his master, betraying them all in the process. One falls into a funk. And Henri, their de-facto leader, gets a little judgy.
Freedom is uncompromising, limited only by the freedom of others. Freedom can be tasteless, even immoral in the eyes of some. Many people struggle with that concept and Henri, a hot strong-and-silent type, is one of them. His aristocratic nature and background –he was the son of a Louisiana Creole plantation owner and a seminary student before he was murdered – take over and he disapproves of the zombies’ admittedly questionable choices. In his mind, the only honorable thing to do is to find a way to end his un-dead existence for good and return things to the way they were always supposed to be –with him 6 feet under. But Henri is too good a character for me not to mess with. So I brought in Josie, the bewitching human, gave Henri some very undignified carnal urges and let them exercise their freedom all over each other. What is a free zombie to do?
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When she first embarked in fiction writing, Maggie thought, Piece of cake. After all, she’d been a newspaper reporter for ten years; writing was her daily bread. But Zombified, her first novel about a band of sexy zombies, was anything but easy. The story wasn’t conveniently laid out for her at a press conference; it had to be coaxed out of her own imagination. Plot points resisted solving, descriptions meandered, and characters misbehaved. But just when things seemed bleakest, it happened. Maggie fell in love with it all: the zombies, the love story, and even the rituals of writing.
Maggie likes her leading women flawed and her science fiction sexy. She went to school for journalism and political science. She lives in the United States.
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