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Shadow Lover by Anne Stuart

A new Anne Stuart book, even a re-issue, is always cause for celebration for me. Anne Stuart is one of the authors who inducted me into romance, so to speak, and years later, she’s still one of my favorite authors. 

So when I got a chance to review the ebook re-issue of Shadow Lover courtesy of NetGalley, I couldn’t wait to dig in. Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

Victim. Lover. Both? His dark game is seducing her– just as it was when they were young.

How can he still have that power over her? Eighteen years ago, she saw him die.

Wealthy, selfish, and greedy, the McDowell family raised Carolyn McDowell–a foster child–like a modern Cinderella. Neglected and ignored, good-hearted Carolyn adored scion Alexander despite it all, though even he tormented her.

When Alex ran away one night, Carolyn followed and witnessed his murder, though she never told anyone. Her beloved Alex died when he was seventeen. There was no doubt.

Eighteen years later, Carolyn returns to the decadent milieu of the McDowell clan to care for her dying foster mother, Sally. As greedy relatives gather to claim their inheritances, a stunning stranger arrives, claiming to be Alexander. To Carolyn’s utter shock, Sally greets her “son” without question, and no one but Carolyn believes he’s a fraud.

As she delves into the mysteries of both the past and present, Carolyn quickly realizes that the resurrected Alex is a dangerous combination of seduction and power. Is this stranger after the McDowell fortune, or is he really, somehow, the Alex of old, come back to claim her? How can he be an imposter and yet know family secrets only the real Alex would remember? Was someone helping him?

What would you do if the boy you loved returned almost twenty years later, and you fell in love with him all over again–even if you were sure it couldn’t be him?

What a premise. Very similar to Mary Stewart’s classic, The Ivy Treeand ripe with possibilities. 

Caution: Spoilers Ahead

Maybe recognizing the premise of this book as so similar to The Ivy Tree set the bar impossibly high, but somehow Shadow Lover just fell flat for me.

As with The Ivy Tree, I figured out the secret to Alex’s identity fairly early on, but that in no way detracted from the mystery of the book. The bigger mystery, you see, is just who Alex and Carolyn are, anyway, because neither are exactly what or who they seem. 

That mystery should have been the crux of the book, but Stuart instead dispenses with those mysteries about two-thirds through the book. The mystery of Alex and Carolyn’s identities should have formed the basis for both their motivations and the motivation of the villains, but instead, we have a muddle of unclear or confused motives and a denouement that is unsatisfying at best.

Stuart can usually redeem even a hackneyed plot with her characters, but that doesn’t happen with Shadow Lover. She’s known more for her heroes than for her heroines, but Carolyn was unmemorable to the point of being a non-entity — I just couldn’t get a grasp on her at all. She comes off as either dumb as a box of rocks or just bland at best, and the bombshell that’s dropped about her identity seemed less important to her than lusting after Alex and hating herself for it.

Speaking of Alex, in Stuart’s rogues gallery of mad, bad and dangerous to know anti-heroes, Alex is near the bottom. He’s not as dull as Carolyn, but his actions make little to no sense half the time. When he’s told about a major secret in his own past, he shrugs it off or conveniently uses it to move the plot along, depending upon his mood.

There was still time to save this book, however. I kept thinking of Now You See Him, another of Stuart’s books, and how that book, featuring a similarly bland heroine and another (much, much better) mysterious hero was redeemed by the interactions between the two. Francy was a bit of a bore, and Michael was, by virtue of the book’s plot, hard to get a handle on, but sparks flew in their love scenes or even when they spoke on the phone. I kept waiting for that to happen with Alex and Carolyn, to no avail. They had zero chemistry together.

And finally, the book’s biggest problem is the villain, or, more succinctly, lack thereof. The villain’s actions are never explained well enough for you to believe why he/she would go to such lengths. He/she simply didn’t have enough to lose to take the risks, and didn’t gain enough, either. Puzzling that Stuart chose this particular villain, because creating a believable villain within the framework of this story would have been so, so easy. 

Shadow Lover gets 2 strange phone calls out of five. Truthfully, it only gets two because it’s ANNE STUART, and I cannot bear to knock it down to one.

I find it hard to believe that I have just written a bad review of an Anne Stuart book. Here’s hoping I never, ever have to do that again.

Shadow Lover

Anne Stuart

Onyx, 1999 / Belle Bridge Books 2013 (ebook)

Sound like something you’d be interested in, sweet thing? Try these:

The Ivy Tree/Mary Stewart

Ritual Sins/Anne Stuart


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Teaser Tuesdays: Ritual Sins by Anne Stuart

If it’s Tuesday, then this is a teaser.

Today’s teaser is a tough one. How’s that for a tongue twister? If you’re ever tempted to take a teaser from an Anne Stuart book, be warned: it’s hard to find two sentences that don’t give the plot away or are not, ahem, too racy for excerpting. Ah, that Anne Stuart — my kind of lady.

So this teaser is from one of Anne Stuart’s most controversial books, one I’d some how avoided until recently, Ritual Sins:

“As long as you’re afraid of me, you’ll never destroy me. And that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

As teasers go, that one’s pretty succinct. But that sums up the beauty of Anne Stuart’s writing — she rarely wastes a word. Her Harlequin and Silhouette titles were just as developed and finished as her later single-title releases, like Ritual Sins.

Here’s the synopsis for Ritual Sins, courtesy of Amazon:

Rachel Connery is a woman with a mission—to destroy Luke Bardell, the charismatic man who seduced millions of dollars from her dying mother, thus robbing Rachel of her inheritance. Now Rachel wants revenge—and she’s willing to enter Luke’s lair and risk the lure of his magnetic personality to get it. Luke Bardell is a master manipulator. He always gets what he wants from people, and Rachel Connery looks like an especially easy mark, She is beautiful and angry and spoiled, and the challenge of melting her icy exterior inspires him. For Luke it is a standard ritual. But desire is a dangerous weapon that cuts two ways. Rachel could get trapped in a nightmare of forbidden feelings…or she could use her strength and intelligence and fierce will to find a way into Luke’s heart and force his utter surrender to her—body and soul.

Ritual Sins was first published in 1997. Contrary to what a recent All About Romance blog post says about pre-Millennium contemporaries now feeling dated or reading like historical fiction, Ritual Sins still feels fresh. Whether that’s Stuart’s timeless writing or the strange nature of the story I don’t know, but I was actually disappointed that I’d waited so long to read Ritual Sins. It’s now available in e-book — what are you waiting for!?!?

Introducing Teaser Tuesdays here at Ye Olde Sweet Rocket. Here’s how it works:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read/nearest book
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So if you have a blog, play along by posting your teaser/link to your blog in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, share anyway in the comments!

So what are you reading, babies?


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Rakes, Fake Rakes, Anti-Heroes and Reformed Villains

Here’s a gratuitous picture of Basil Rathbone, everyone’s favorite villain. And he’s in costume as the dastardly Mr. Murdstone from “David Copperfield!”

It’s Villains and Anti-Heroes Week here at Le Sweet Rocket! In today’s riposte, we’ll look at just what makes for a good bad boy hero, be he a rake, anti-hero, or straight-up villain!

Romanceland is the land of the bad boy, the rake, the bodice-ripping pirate and dark knight. What woman doesn’t swoon at the idea of reforming a rake, melting the heart of the ice-cold nobleman or even making an honest man of the deadly mercenary? It’s the tale as old as time, indeed, and one that is the basis of countless romance novels.

But what separates the dark hero from the true anti-hero? The villain from the rake? Or, better still, the real bad boy from that worn-out romance trope, the fake rake?

It’s a fine line for an author to toe, to create a hero that’s deliciously wicked without being so degenerate that readers are turned off rather than turned on, and it’s often one that separates the bad boys from the real men, the fake rakes from the reformed villains.

Both the  fake rake and his close cousin, the Duke of Slut, can, in fact, be traced to this very difficulty. Fake rakes and Dukes of Slut are famous for their wicked exploits, but we rarely see them in action — we hear about them second hand.  The heroine hears horrified whispers and snippets of conversations to tell her that the hero is baaaaad, that he uses and discards women like handkerchiefs, that he’s dueled/shot a man in cold blood/cheated at cards, but we never catch a real glimpse of this bad behavior.  It’s the easy way out, for authors who want to have a bad boy hero but don’t actually want to risk losing readers by showing their bad deeds.

The difference between a fake rake and a real rake is all in the telling. An excellent example of a real rake is the Duke of Tresham from Mary Balogh’s More Than a Mistress. When we meet Tresham, he’s engaged in a duel, the result of his affair with a married woman. The heroine, Jane, a domestic servant, interrupts the duel and sets the wheels of the plot in motion. Jane becomes Tresham’s nurse when he’s injured in the duel, and afterward, his mistress. Whereas a fake rake would have gone into the vapors at the thought of besmirching a young virgin’s honor by first risking her reputation by moving her in with him, then setting her up as a mistress, that’s hardly Tresham’s style. He’s so despicably snobbish and selfish through much of the book that it rarely occurs to him to treat Jane with anything but pettiness and unwitting cruelty, but slowly, throughout the course of the story, he is redeemed by Jane’s kindness.

Tresham’s despicable actions make him as much an anti-hero as a rake. Anti-heroes, unlike rakes, fake rakes or Dukes of Slut, are not necessarily debauched or slutty, but are, instead, so at odds with the heroine that it’s hard to imagine them being in the same room, much less falling in love. Elusive, dark, brooding and naturally fascinating for it, the anti-hero is the standard hero of the Gothic romance, and often the medieval, as well.

Gunnar from Lord of Vengeance is a good example of an anti-hero, but an even better example may be Michael from Anne Stuart’s Now You See Him. Since Stuart herself has often bemoaned the fact that she came to romance too late to write Gothics, it’s no surprise that many of her novels feature gothic overtones, particularly her heroes, most particularly Michael. A secret agent (think Daniel Craig’s take on James Bond), Michael seeks out the book’s heroine, Francey, because he suspects of her being involved with an Irish terrorism ring. He lies to her about his identity, leaves her in the lurch at least once or twice, and, despite his developing attraction for Francey, has no plans of abandoning his career to be with her. Oh, and did I mention that he’s a stone cold killer? Yet he’s one of Stuart’s best anti-heroes, which, considering that’s pretty much all she writes, is saying something.

Just as Tresham could have been an anti-hero, Michael could easily have been a villain, which brings us to our final breed of romance bad boy, the reformed villain. The reformed villain is perhaps the most challenging hero to write, because, in order for him to be successful, he has to first be very very bad, yet not so bad that readers can’t stand to see him redeemed. When this works, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, it’s often because the villain suffers from fake rake syndrome, or because he’s simply not bad enough to be believable as a villain. A reformed villain for the ages is St. Vincent from Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter.

As is often the case for the reformed romance villain, St. Vincent appears in two books in a series. His first dastardly appearance is in It Happened One Autumn, where he is a cad of the first order. He betrays and deceives his best friend, then abducts the heroine of that book. Plus he’s a degenerate gambler and a rake (naturally). St. Vincent was so heinous, in fact, that many Kleypas fans were worried that he could not be redeemed, when they discovered that he would be the hero of Devil in Winter. St. Vincent’s redemption works because he is not redeemed off the page, between the two books; he’s paired with Devil in Winter’s heroine, Evangeline, because he’s marrying her for her money, and he proceeds to be a real horse’s ass for much of the book. This wouldn’t be a romance if he weren’t eventually reformed, but the reader sometimes wonders how, exactly, that’s going to happen. Which is as it should be with a reformed villain.

When the redeemed villain plot fails, it’s often because the author is afraid to let the villain be too despicable, lest he be irredeemable. A good example of that problem is Elizabeth Hoyt’s Thief of Shadows; one of that book’s villains is so obviously being set up as a hero for a future book that his motives are so obscure and his behavior so wishy-washy that as a reader, it’s difficult to believe in him, either as a villain or as a future hero.

Why, if rakes, anti-heroes and reformed villains are so difficult to pull off, do we love them so? While our desire to believe that true love can conquer even the worst in human beings is strong, I think there’s more to it than that. A believable rake, villain or anti-hero almost always comes with fascinating back story, for one thing, which makes for an page-turning read. The redemption provides inherent drama and plot of the most human, and therefore natural, kind. I suspect, however, that we love a good bad boy because it takes a very talented writer to create a character who is so bad, and yet so good…


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I’m In Love With…. Villains!

It’s Villains and Anti-Heroes Week here at Le Sweet Rocket! In celebration of the best villains and anti-heroes romance has to offer, here’s a kick-off post featuring some of my very favorite villains!

Sometimes the villain’s the best part of the story. Or at least, in these cases, the hottest part! Here are a few villains I just love…

Orson Welles as the dastardly romantic Charles Rankin in The Stranger!

Dana Andrews menaces Ruth Warrick in Daisy Kenyon!

Richard Armitage (featuring that rarest of creatures, the attractive mullet) as the wretchedly sexy Guy of Gisbourne in BBC’s “Robin Hood”!

Basil Rathbone as, oh, just about any Basil Rathbone character!

Hot villains often make reappearances as reformed heroes/anti-heroes in romance novels. Some romance anti-heroes/reformed villains of note:

Conner Winslow from Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree

Freddie Sullivan from Mary Balogh’s Dancing With Clara

Lord St. Vincent in Lisa Kleypas’ It Happened One Autumn/Devil in Winter

Almost all of Anne Stuart’s heroes

Almost all of Victoria Holt’s heroes


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The End of a Very Gothic Week – What Happened to the Gothic Revival?

Kathleen Woodiwiss’ “The Flame and the Flower” was one of the death knells for the Gothic Revival.

So, what happened to stem the tide of Gothic Romances that flooded the paperback marketplace from the mid-1960s through the 1970s? Why did Gothic Romance disappear from the romance/paperback market? Aren’t you a little bit curious?

We’ve spent this Very Gothic Week tracing the lineage of the Gothic Romance, considering how a 150 year-old vampire contributed to its explosive growth, and raving over a modern example that makes us long for the dark days of finding a great (or not so great) Gothic Romance in every drugstore, bookstore, whiskey store and library paperback shelf in America. As this Very Gothic Week concludes, it’s time to solve the mystery of the disappearance of the Gothic Romance.

By the mid-1970s, Gothics were everywhere. As we discovered in earlier posts, Gothics became so popular that several paperback publishers produced dedicated lines just for Gothics — so popular that one publisher even had a sub-Gothic Gothic line just for Satanic Gothics.

As with anything else, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and that’s part of what brought the big dark house down. Or, as Dean James of Mystery Scene writes:

As with any glut in the marketplace, there were many inferior products. A fair number of these books featured dimwitted heroines who went into that proverbial dark room at the head of the stairs with no thought to the danger within, and if they had been murdered, well, it would have been little more than they deserved. Unfortunately, the really good books in this genre got tarred with the pitch of the bad ones, and eventually the rubric “Gothic” became as much a term of derision as anything.

But ubiquity doesn’t explain the death of Gothics away (or, if it does, perhaps we’re nearing the end of the paranormal romance era, at least I hope we are).  The threats came from the outside, as well, and one of the biggest was the one in the picture above — the bodice-ripper.

To understand the effect that books like Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower and Shanna, and Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love had on audiences of the mid-1970s – early 1980s, one has to understand what romance novels to that point had lacked entirely: sex. Before The Flame and the Flower, Sweet Savage Love and other sexually explicit romance novels of the 1970s, the extent of the “romance” in a romance novel might be a chaste kiss on the lips. Heroes and heroines did not sleep in the same bed, nor did we see their bedrooms.

Compared to the explicit historical romances of the 1970s, Gothic Romances had begun to seem dated, stale. The chasm between bodice-rippers and Gothic Romances was one filled with irony — while historical romance was on the cusp of the sexual revolution, even most contemporary Gothic Romances were still wandering the dusty towers of a much more sexually repressed era. The fact that the quality of Gothic Romances had declined inverse to the quantity only made matters worse, and by the end of the decade, Gothics were disappearing from shelves.

Yet Gothics did not disappear altogether. During the 1980s, they were sublimated into category romances published by Harlequin, Silhouette, Zebra and others, appearing occasionally in the guise of a spooky historical novel or a contemporary marketed as romantic suspense. Anne Stuart and Jenna Ryan are two romance authors who regularly wrote category romances with overt or subtle Gothic influence, while Barbara Michaels, who’d written a number of Gothics just as the genre was fading from popularity, wrote single-title romances labeled romantic suspense that had much in common with her Gothics.

And for a brief period in the 1990s, Gothics made a mainstream reappearance, even if they weren’t marketed as such. Silhouette’s Shadows line, published from 1993 to 1996, was, according to the tagline, dedicated to “the dark side of love.” As such, the line featured books with paranormal and suspense themes that were much darker (and often more violent) than books published under the imprint’s other lines.

A number of the Shadows books were Gothics updated for a modern audience — i.e., they featured sex or sexual situations. Among the Gothics published under the Shadows imprint were Carla Cassidy’s Silent Screams,   Sandra Dark’s Sleeping Tigers, Patricia Simpson’s The Haunting of Briar Rose, and Lori Herter’s The Willow File.  The woman running from a scary house theme was also employed on some occasions, as evidenced by the cover shown above. As though the women-running-from-houses cover art wasn’t throwback enough, the Shadows line published books by two authors who’d published Gothics during the genre’s glory days, Anne Stuart and Jane Toombs.

Like the Gothics published during the 1960s-1970s, the quality of the Shadows books varied wildly. The line published at least one bonafide classic, Anne Stuart’s Break the Night, but few of the Gothics were high quality. At some point in the late 1990s-early 2000s, the line was resurrected as Silhouette Dreamscapes; many of the books that had been published under the Shadows line were republished under the Dreamscapes line, along with new books, most with a paranormal theme.  The quality, alas, had not improved with the imprint re-title.

If history is any indication, we’re due another Gothic revival any day now. As for me, it can’t get here quickly enough!


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What Are We Hiding on Our E-Readers?

One of many, many reasons why e-readers are so popular.

I read with great interest a blog post on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books earlier this week about a phenomenon I’ve experienced for years but had no name for: reader shaming.  Don’t know what that means? Your e-reader likely does.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, genre fiction — i.e. romance, fantasy, Westerns, vampire porn — accounts for the majority of e-book purchases.  Why? According to the author, Antonia Senior,

Bibliophiles are furtive beasts. Their shelves still boast classics and Booker winners. But inside that [e-reader’s] plastic case, other things lurk. Sci-fi and self-help. Even paranormal romance, where vampires seduce virgins and elves bonk trolls.The ebook world is driven by so-called genre fiction, categories such as horror or romance. It’s not future classics that push digital sales, but more downmarket fare. No cliche is left unturned, no adjective underplayed…In digital, dross rises.

No wonder blogger SB Sarah at SBTB took umbrage enough at Senior’s article to respond with a blog post titled “Reader Shaming.” Attitudes like Senior’s drive the very trend she reports on — we’re “shamed” into going underground to read anything but best-sellers, award winners, or safely respectable books.

Reader shaming is territory I know well. It all began with a box of Silhoutte and Harlequin romances left behind in a house my family bought when I was a young teenager.

The only reason the box hadn’t been discarded completely was that it was too heavy for my mother to carry and my father kept forgetting to haul it away. My mother, who read Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins and Anne Rivers Siddons, never gave the books a second look; the awful late 1980s-early 1990s covers on the books were all she needed to see. Besides, my mother shunned category romances. One of her sisters, a prodigious reader of category romances, had shelves and shelves full of these books, and my mother would always roll her eyes and say, “I don’t know why she reads that trash, much less why she keeps them.”

One interminably boring weekend, having already read the books I’d brought with me, I started digging through this box of books. Of course I dug furtively; I would have been mortified, had my mother, my father, or worse yet, my brother, caught me even considering reading a Harlequin. I squirreled away about ten or fifteen books that seemed promising, and hid them in a duffel bag.  I read them only behind the locked door of my bedroom.

I stayed up all night that night reading Anne Stuart’s Break the Night. I found out later that Break the Night — and Anne Stuart — were anything but typical for category romances, but I was hooked nevertheless. Having read this book, I couldn’t understand what my mother, and so many others, held against romance novels. Even the less-entralling ones that I plucked out of the box were better written than any Danielle Steel novel, and the better ones, such as those by Anne Stuart, Judith Duncan and Ruth Wind, made much of the “women’s fiction” that my mother read seem amateurish.

Still yet, I hid my stash of romances away. Nor did I become bolder as I grew older; if anything, I was even more ashamed to admit that I liked romance novels as an adult. I found it impossible to reconcile my degree in English with my love of a genre that could produce something called The Playboy Sheikh’s Virgin Stable Girl (click the link if you don’t believe me) in earnest. And so began my ridiculous cycle of  hiding my romance novels under beds, dragging them out to read only when I was sure I was alone. I was allowing myself to be reader shamed.

If what Antonia Senior claims is true, that every e-reader in the world is hiding romance and other genre books, then why do I feel embarrassed about allowing myself to be reader shamed? Why, if everyone else is doing it, do I feel like I’m doing a disservice to the romance genre because I refuse to carry around a vintage Anne Stuart or Laura Kinsale paperback, but rarely leave home without my e-reader loaded with their books?

I put part of the blame on romance publishers. For years, romance publishers have marginalized their own product by publishing them with covers that most rational people would find hideous. Even if the covers do not feature scantily clad heroes or heroines, the flowery script and panting book descriptions are enough to make many of us embarrassed to be seen with them. Case in point, the first and a later printing of Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm:

No one would assume, from looking at either cover, that Kinsale’s writing is more accomplished than that of most mainstream novelists, or that the book addresses such themes as mental illness and religion. The Fabio-esque hero on the older cover leads you to expect purple prose; the newer one is just boring.

It’s also hard to negotiate respect for romance novels when publishers continue to publish umpteen Playboy/Sheikh/Cowboy/Virgin/Rake titles every month. It’s not the repetitive nature of the titles that’s the problem — it’s the fact that publishers evidently feel that we, as readers, will accept poor quality writing as long as it’s in a recognizable package. So they perpetuate the prejudices against their books by releasing as many cliched and rehashed titles as they do well-written books. The end result is, of course, that even if you’ve managed to find an awesome Playboy Sheikh novel, you don’t really want to read it in public, knowing that you will have to defend your choice of book.

But I place the majority of the blame for my reader shaming on myself. There’s still a part of me that feels guilty for enjoying romance novels, that feels as though I’m wasting my education by reading these books. This despite the fact that many of the romance novels that I read reference history, classical literature or mythology that requires education to appreciate!

Writers like Antonia Senior who refer to genre fiction as downmarket dross only exacerbate our own reader shaming behaviors by validating for us the prejudices we perceive against the books that we love. They force us farther into the underground territory of our e-book readers, and reinforce to publishers that genre fiction is not worth the type of care that goes into selecting covers and weeding out the foolishness that is standard for mainstream literature.

As for Senior, she, too, is a victim of her own prejudices — the only genre fiction she’ll admit to reading is “male-oriented historical fiction… Swords and sails stuff.” I’m not saying that Senior’s prevaricating, but I wonder if she’d have easily admitted a predilection for bodice-rippers or futuristic romance?

Senior may be snarky, but she’s far from brave. After all, she’s “keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.”  Brave is my aunt, who used the shallow shelves she built herself that lined the stairways in her home, to proudly display her mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s Harlequins, Silhouettes, Candlelights and Avons. While I wish I were that brave, I would like to add that the covers on my aunt’s collection of books were much less hideous.


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Book Review: Some Kind of Magic by Theresa Weir

A book doesn’t have to be perfect to be enjoyable. If the writing is above average, if the characters come alive, even a lackluster plot can be interesting. Such is the case with Some Kind of Magic.

Synposis:

Claire is celebrating her birthday, having just been dumped by her gigolo of a boyfriend, and wishing something exciting would happen during a long, snowbound Idaho winter. Her friend Lizzy gives her a voodoo doll and a pair of S&M handcuffs as a birthday gift, and it’s not long before Claire has an opportunity to put both to use — on her way home from her birthday bash, such as it is, she’s taken hostage by an injured prison escapee. But is Dylan really what he seems?

I actually read Some Kind of Magic when it was released in the mid-to-late 1990s. I was a teenager then, and remembered loving the story. Time had dimmed my memories of this book, however, and I was anxious to re-read it when I saw that it was available as an e-book on Amazon.

If I wasn’t quite as thrilled with the book the second time around, I credit the fact that, as a more sophisticated reader, I saw problems with the plot that I could not have recognized when I was younger.

Still yet, so-so Theresa Weir is still better than 99% of contemporary romance novels.In fact, if this book were by anyone but Theresa Weir, I’d likely be raving about it — the problem is, if you’ve read any of Weir’s other novels, such as Cool Shade or Last Summer, then you expect nothing less than perfection. Some Kind of Magic doesn’t quite deliver, but it’s an entertaining read nonetheless. Despite an uneven (and at least in one spot, contrived) plot and some wishy-washy behavior by the hero and heroine, Weir’s talent elevates Some Kind of Magic to an enjoyable, if imperfect read. Weir’s gift is creating characters so believable that you feel like you know them, and Dylan and Claire no exception. Both are engaging characters, due almost wholly to Weir’s uncanny ear for dialogue; even when they’re frustrating, Dylan and Claire are fun to read. No one writes a tortured hero quite like Weir, and if Dylan doesn’t always behave the way he should, he always behaves in a way that’s believable for his character.

If you’re looking for a light, quick read that will have you laughing aloud even when you’re scratching your head about plot points, pick up Some Kind of Magic. I give it 3 out of 5 pairs of warm sweatpants. Even if you don’t typically read romance, you’d have to be a joyless sort not to like Theresa Weir’s romance novels, which can be counted on for quirky, out of the ordinary premises and memorable characters. You simply can’t go wrong with anything by Theresa Weir.

Did you like Some Kind of Magic, boo? Here are a couple more books like Some Kind of Magic:

In the Midnight Rain by Barbara Samuel/Ruth Wind

Chain of Love by Anne Stuart