Flirt is one of the later installments of Laurell K. Hamilton's ANITA BLAKE VAMPIRE HUNTER Series. I have not read them all from the beginning, but I have read numerous books, the last five novels leading up to this one, and I really enjoyed them.
A note on the cover art: Only NY Times bestselling authors can get away with shitty, ambiguous cover art on an erotic urban fantasy novel. Nobody looking at this cover would have the first clue what the hell kind of book this is or what genre it is. This cover is a testament to the fact that everyone already knows Laurell K. Hamilton's name, and her publisher would rather ride on that name than invest in a decent cover.
Now, if you're a fan of this series or Laurell K. Hamilton, you already know that the later novels in the series, particularly this novel and others following it, are seeing a lot of critical backlash. The star of the show, Anita Blake, has gotten herself into a predicament in the series. She is psychically tied into a large crowd of vampires and various weres, is a carrier of numerous kinds of lycanthropy (but doesn't actually change), and is the only living necromancer the vampires haven't managed to kill off. But, she's still human, more or less.
Sounds pretty interesting right? (Only if you're sick in the head like me)
The catch: Anita is the epicenter of everything around her. She has gobs of power flowing to her night and day from this massive gang she is psychically tied to, and, because of the nature of her vampire master, Jean-Claude, Anita is also a succubus, who feeds from sex, via a unique kind of power called the ardeur. Anita needs to feed from sex regularly, to keep herself and gang flowing along with sufficient power levels. No Food = Death. She would first kill off a vampire and were slaved to her life-force before she died.
So, long complicated-erotic-story short: she must have sex, a lot, and often its orgy style. Not kidding. Some of these books have Anita taking on several dudes at once. Very interesting mechanics, but not for the faint of heart.
This series is perhaps becoming too complex. I am not the first person to say that. Many a fan who loved this series has turned on it in a blinding rage and written scathing reviews.
I had mixed emotions about the beginning of this book. Its a setting where Anita is hanging with the THREE men she lives with (only a fraction of all the men she has sex with on a weekly basis), they are in a restaurant, chatting it up, flirting with a waiter. Seems too innocuous, heading into the boring zone. I was scratching my head, wondering what the hell is this scene doing in the Anita Blake series I know and love?
Then Anita gets kidnapped, in the same restaurant, a few days later, and it starts tying together and making sense.
Laurell K. Hamilton is a very skilled writer. If you ask me, she created the Erotic Urban Fantasy genre, all by herself, and since then, gazillions of aspiring perverts have been clamoring to write similar material.
I am one of those perverts.
By the end, I felt much better about the flow of the story, the intensity. It wrapped up pretty well. I felt like the boring restaurant flirt scene, for which the book was named, had some meaning. You see, Anita is one of those people who doesn't play games. Her world is always about power – who has more – who isn't powerful enough, power alliances, keeping powerful enemies within your sights, and keeping a pile of guns and knives close at hand (strapped to various parts of her anatomy). Playing flirtatious games just isn't her reality. She raises the dead for a living, she is a US Marshall called upon to hunt rogue vampires and weres, she just doesn't have that light, flippant flirtatious kind of personality.
And here, in FLIRT, the one time she experiments with being a flirt, she almost gets the poor waiter killed, because her enemies targeted him along with all the other men in her life.
Beyond that little drama, we caught a glimpse into a moment when Anita had to make a fairly difficult, immoral decision, in order to save the lives of everyone she loved (many, many different men). Anita chose to enslave a man completely, to claim ownership of his soul. She turned a man into a puppy dog that would follow her to the grave and sit and beg for scraps till the end of his days, because he knows nothing but love for his master.
That was kinda shitty, but, she had to do it.
Though this is not one of her best books, not by far, and though the $10 cover art budget sucks balls, I still enjoyed the book and saw a glimpse of the deeper meaning that Laurell K. Hamilton strives to bring forth from her twisted tales.
So, I give it a solid four stars ★★★★