I’ve got a theory. I think Dressed to Slay (2006) is actually a long-lost episode of Buffy. The Scooby Gang has been hit by another demonic curse. This time, instead of falling silent or bursting into song, they’ve all been turned into Cordelia, and I mean first-season Cordelia. (All but Giles, that is. He miraculously escapes the Cordelia curse, but picks up a Russian accent.)
The comparison breaks down pretty quickly, though, because if Joss Whedon had written Dressed to Slay, I’d probably like it better. I’ll say it right up front: Dressed to Slay was not my cup of tea.
The first chapter consists of the three Crosse sisters infodumping their entire life histories to each other. These girls grew up together, so they’re telling each other things they already know. There’s so much fashion name-dropping that I hope Juicy Couture and Jimmy Choo paid Harper Allen for the product placement. Then, as the plot thickens, our heroine gets into an argument about Mariah Carey in the middle of a fight for her life, and breaks the fourth wall to dispense fashion advice to the reader, also in the middle of a fight for her life:
If any goth-types reading this are thinking, God, how stupid can this chick be not to know vampires can’t be killed with lead? I have two things to say to you. One: I hoped the books and movies were wrong on that; and two: a couple of black dresses are admittedly a good starting point for a wardrobe, but at a certain stage, why not consider adding a few pale neutrals?
The plot consists, for the most part, of Megan and her sisters doing moronic things. Megan mocks herself often for behaving like a “Too Dumb to Live” horror movie heroine, but keeps doing it anyway. The heroines are saved by dumb luck more often than not. Along the way, they have catty arguments and exchange dialogue that’s sometimes funny, but more often than not feels like it’s trying too hard to be Hip And Zany.
Megan has two love interests. One is dull as dishwater. The other stands over her smirking while she goes into anaphylactic shock. Be still my heart. (Literally?)
But what I really couldn’t get over was what felt like an enormous plot hole in the middle of the book. This is spoilery, so I’ll try to be vague: Megan breaks into the office of the villain and finds a strange weapon there. She immediately decides to go kill vamps with it. I can almost ignore the fact that there’s no foreshadowing that suggests this type of weapon would even work on the undead — Maybe Megan’s super-special slayer heritage clued her in somehow — but …the whole scene implies that Megan intentionally walked into the “lion’s den” without bringing a stake of her own. Not to mention, why would the villain, who knew the weapon’s provenance, leave it out in the open? I guess the heroine and villain are equally matched in the Too Dumb to Live department.
Overall, there’s just too much character stupidity in this book. It’s hard to empathize with the protagonists when you spend the whole book wanting to hit them with the Clue Bat.
If Dressed to Slay has a saving grace, though, it’s a complete lack of pretension. Harper Allen clearly knows she’s writing camp. If there’s anything worse than a bad vampire novel, it’s a bad vampire novel with delusions of grandeur. That’s one flaw you won’t find here.