Several people have recced the Sookie Stackhouse series to me, most recently Harris' agent, and since I was interested in the other stuff he recced to me at the time, I decided to buy Dead Until Dark. Of course, the next five or six bookstores where I looked for it had later books in the series, but not that one. I finally found it at the bookstore nearest my work, and bought it there.
Sookie Stackhouse, the first-person narrator, is a waitress in northern Louisiana who has, she tells us, a disability, but not one that is immediately obvious. Also, we learn that vampires are real and have recently come into public consciousness as a disease/series of allergies caused by a mysterious virus. Sookie is insanely curious and would like to meet one. When the book opens, she is about to get her wish.
Sookie's disability is telepathy, and she seems to have some abilities connected with the supernatural as well, because when a vampire shows up at the truck stop where she works, she can tell immediately what he is. Later, she learns that she cannot read his mind, which for her is incredibly peaceful, even arousing.
The mystery plot revolves around serial murders of waitresses who were "fangbangers" (vampire groupies), and whether a vampire is involved with their deaths. This plot is entwined with a romance between Sookie and the vampire, Bill, who was made during the Civil War and has returned to his ancestral home--Sookie's town--to live.
The romance plot, to me, wasn't all that original; the charm is all in Sookie's breezy narrative style and the details of smalltown life she gives. As first-person narrator, she conceals details of her former sex life from the reader; we learn of her anxieties about having sex with someone whose mind she can read assessing her physical capabilities even as he caresses her, but we are not told until after she has sex with Bill that she had been a virgin. That annoyed me, because I see it so often in romance novels, and it feels like an unnecessary concealment of facts.
There's a sheen of charming naivety to the narration, I think, which can distract from Sookie's complexity and the issues involved in her having a vampire drink her blood and causing a magical improvement in her physical and mental abilities.
Sookie and Bill have a few setbacks, mostly after Sookie sees other vampires behaving badly, but they mostly get along in a trusting way. It's clear the romance is meant to rise and wane over the course of the series, rather than being resolved in a single novel.
I'm going to read at least one more in this series. I enjoyed the first one, but I didn't become deeply involved with the couple, and might not enjoy reading the entire series.