Tate Hallaway, Almost to Die For: A Vampire
Princess Novel (New American Library, 2010)

You've read it before. A young girl who is sort of an outcast but doesn't realize the beauty and strength within her. But then a vampire comes along and her world is turned upside-down. Oh hell no, I'm not talking about Twilight, I'm talking about a book you can actually read all the way through without wanting to poke your eyes out with a dull spoon. I'm talking about Almost to Die For, a new novel from Tate Hallaway that'll keep you turning the pages not because you want to get through it, but because you can't help yourself.

Ana Parker -- aka Anastasjia, but hardly anyone calls her that except her mom -- is on the outside of your typical "Beverly Hills 90210" high school experience. Kids think she's a witch, and no wonder; her mom is part of a coven that Ana is expected to be initiated into. Just one problem though; Ana is a dud when it comes to magic. She's tried, but failed. Her best friend Bea is a whiz at it though, which makes Ana all the more sure there's no coven in the cards for her. On initiation night, Ana is presented with a reason why she doesn't have her mom's touch when her dad shows up for the first time in Ana's life. Ana's dad, Alexander Ramses, is a king of vampires who wants Ana to take her place by his side as Princess. Ana's mother is less than pleased, since witches and vampires are deadly enemies. Ana's parents were like Romeo and Juliet...if those young lovers had survived, then had their relationship crash and burn. This leaves Ana to pick up the pieces, with both parents telling her their way is the right way. Meanwhile, she's got a hot new vampire protector and a gorgeous teenage witch-cum-vampire hunter who has a crush on her. What's a girl who just wants to get through high school to do?

While reading Almost to Die For, it wouldn't have surprised me in the least if "Tate Hallaway" was a pen name for a paranormal romance writer. Well, yes and no. Tate Hallaway is, in fact, a paranormal romance writer, with many novels and stories under her belt like Tall, Dark & Dead and Dead If I Do. Tate Hallaway is also the pseudonym of Lyda Morehouse , a Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Science-Fiction writer. Almost to Die For is Tate's first YA romance, unless she's got any other aliases hanging around. And it's a good one. Ana is a fully-fleshed character that you can almost hear talking as the story progresses. Her world of witches is very wiccan in approach, and the vampires are different enough from what's been done to death in the recent past to make readers genuinely interested in learning more about them.

Almost to Die For grabbed me at once; the hip but cozy first person narrative reminded me of Charlaine Harris' Sookie from the Southern Vampire Mysteries, and Katie Maxwell's Fran in Got Fangs? or Circus of the Darned (Katie Maxwell being a pen name for well-known paranormal romance writer Katie MacAlister...I sense a trend here.) With an "OMG, BFF!" vibe from the first paragraph, I snuggled into my sofa and prepped myself for a good time. And a good time it was, too. At 241 pages the story flies to the end all too soon. 

"Just watch me" is Ana's final sentence in Almost to Die For, which leaves the door wide open for sequels. Tate Hallaway gives readers young and old what they want from a YA romantic heroine; plenty of guys hanging around, snappy comebacks you only wish you'd had back in high school, friends who are there for her come what may, and the promise of being Someone Important once she figures out what that is exactly. There's a new princess in town, huzzah!

[Denise Dutton]

Tate Hallaway and Lyda Morehouse, along with information on the novels under each name, can be found at the writer's Web page.