Saturday, 28 July 2007

When Darkness Comes by Alexandra Ivy

This book is unspeakably awful. The clues are there from the very first page.

First clue. The copyright is owned not by Alexandra Ivy, but by Debbie Raleigh. Which probably means Debbie who lives in Raleigh NC. A whole different ballgame from Alexandra Ivy.

Second clue. On page 13 the heroine says she's an idiot 'when it comes to choosing men.' That means she's had a lot of relationships. That many of them have gone bad. And that she's chosen to blame herself entirely. In other words...a doormat tenement ho'. Well. If you make your partner choices based entirely on looks no wonder things can go a little wrong.

The heroine says she's 'passably average' in the looks department. Passably? Does that mean she is plug-ugly? But all the handsome vampire warriors think she's lovely. Are they blind or just stupid?

Both Dante and Viper talk about the heroine Abby's 'innocence and purity.' Ha, ha, haaa. On nearly every page she's using a phrase like 'Holy hell, holy crap, freaking this, freaking that.' She's a D.O.G. (with capitals) I know some romance readers get very excited when a no-class dog has a handsome guy fall for her. I'm not one of those readers. I tend to feel sorry for the guy. Saddled with a hag as a partner. Or in Dante's case; a nag hag. Because, boy, does Abby whine and like to have the last word. Which is usually a curse. So actually, Dante ends up with a potty-mouthed nag hag.

And who on earth still eats pancakes, eggs and bacon for breakfast?? Apart from our heroine Abby that is. She will be a 20-plus size before she is 30-years old.

Just why does Abby find it so hard to get proper work? Her cultural references seem to be TV soaps, Buffy, Dawn of the Dead and shopping in malls. So obviously she's not had an education. Why is she so convinced she'll end up as a bag-lady pushing a shopping cart around? Ok, her parents were not the greatest but it's not as though either they or her six siblings are still around to weigh down her life. At one point Abby says she's afraid of becoming 'a cheap hooker servicing drunks in a sleazy motel.' But that is exactly how she talks and behaves for the whole of the novel. This is not a heroine who has any good aspirations of what she is going to do with her life. I thought Buffy was a middle-class teenager not a no-class loser.

Later there is a petty squabble between the main couple about whether he thinks she is stupid. The poor guy has to spend time stroking her horrible, shallow ego. How is that of any relevance to the plot?

There is a mystery in this story. Why did Selena, the supposed all powerful previous Chalice, die? But this question is dragged out for the whole of the book. The hero, Dante, who's mission is to protect the Chalice, hasn't a clue. Or a clue about getting a clue. He confesses that he spent his time lusting after Abby instead of carrying out his job. Jerk.

This novel has everything in it. Witches, zombies, lightning-bolt shooting wizards, onion (?) demons, and vampires who are not afraid to sink their fangs into their enemies. None of it amounts to anything like a coherent plot. Just one lightweight TV episode after another. Suddenly in chapter 12 the chief baddie, up til that point known as 'The Master' changes into someone called 'Rafael.' So he promptly loses all his charisma and mystique, becoming just another expendable bozo in the process. And around this point it also becomes clear that someone changed their mind about who was going to be the chief baddie in the story. The focus becomes the witches not the wizard.

Like I said. Awful.

Sometimes authors put just a little too much of their own life experiences into their novels. Which is what happens in this case. Unfortunately all of that experience is sordid and most people would be better off without reading about that kind of life and the attitude that blames others for all personal failure.

For readers who like no-class heroines with a bit of style and dignity, I recommend Eye of the Beholder and On a Wing and a Prayer, both by Jackie Weger.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Black Ice by Anne Stuart

I don't understand the heroine, Chloe. She gets tortured by a sadist with a hot knife and all she worries about is that the so-called friend who sent her into such a dangerous situation will be angry when she returns her ruined designer clothes. In fact. Until the aforementioned friend, her room-mate Sylvia, was horribly murdered I was half-inclined to think she was one of the bad people in the plot.

One of the interesting things about this novel is that quite a few women get killed. But not in that slash-and-kill sexual way but in a 'bad people die' sort of manner. Another quirk is that it is the hero who is the object of sexual desire for most of the women featured in the story.

This novel is much better than a 'romantic suspense' genre. It is actually a good thriller with a hefty helping of sex and romance between the main couple. And a high body count. Plus quite a bit of emotional and physical pain.

Just for a change I thought the bad people were all totally plausible.

Obviously Black Ice is not as mesmerising as Cold As Ice. The heroine spends too much of the novel sleeping or drugged. And the relationship between the main couple has almost no quiet moments where they can just enjoy or discover each other's personality. However Chloe and Bastian do get around to declaring their love for each other...something that was missing from Cold As Ice.

It's still a better than average romance read though.

I like Anne Stuart's couples. Despite the fact that they are all privately educated, tend to come from old money and are better-than-average in the looks and women. I dislike the romance trend (no doubt started by the success of Jane Eyre) where handsome heroes get involved with dogs.

The moral of this story; being special is stressful and dangerous; much nicer (and safer) to live an ordinary life. Pooh. I also feel obliged to add that some people might view Bastian as a sexually incontinent creep.(Obviously not Chloe though.)

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Cold As Ice by Anne Stuart

The very best romance I have read in a long, long time.

And the reason is. Peter Madsen. Just thinking his name sends warm shivers running up my spine.

The persona of Peter completely pervades this novel. When the story isn't being told from his pov he still dominates totally the thoughts of the heroine. I can't blame her. Peter is divine. Not least because, despite his self-assurance, the mission crumbles around him and the reader gets a real feeling of doomed love. Although what he sees in the blonde, cultured, successful Genevieve Spencer (who at 30 years of age could only be described as 'young' by a truely ancient author) is anyone's guess.

It's very similar to Diamond Bay by Linda Howard, although the morals which characterize Cold As Ice are a lot more dubious.

The thriller part of the novel is pretty pathetic though. The evil chief baddie, van Dorn is an incompetent nit-wit. But I don't care. It just gives more opportunity for the main couple to spend lots of time on verbally sounding each other out.


Gross scenes; absolutely none.

Best scenes; when Genevieve thinks she's in 'some third-world bog' and it turns out she's in a millionaires hideaway in California; when the ugly orphans backchat van Dorn.

But best of all; some lovely, lovely prose; mainly focused on a man who is in the process of falling deeply in love and he doesn't understand the why's or the wherefore's of it all.

Plus; strictly speaking, only two consumation scenes...all the rest is foreplay.

Be warned though. Anne Stuart is a hit and miss author. Years ago I tried to read some of her books and they were desperately uninvolving. Don't bother to buy her novels without reading reader reviews first and having a good think.

And don't think I'm blind to the flaws in the novel either. But they all add to the enjoyment of reading it. For instance; Peter gets shot and seriously injured, not because Genny is TSTL, but because he's killed, prostituted himself to men and women and lied in the course of his duties for the Committee. Also Genny had seriously considered sleeping with clients for career advancement. So they both know about making adult decisions.
(Just for the record. I have no trouble in liking heroines with 'magic vaginas.' If that keeps the hero happy.)

Basically. This is the story of a captive who gets her captor to fall in love with her. And then she in turn falls in love with him for no other reason than that he makes her happy. (Something that she hasn't been for a long time.) So, lots of emotional risk taking...just my kind of story. He in turn rescues her when he doesn't have to. And she shows her gratitude by accidentally getting him shot and almost killed...twice. Poor Peter. Not that he doesn't thoroughly deserve all the bad things that happen to him. It was a total pleasure to read as Genevieve inexorably reels him in despite all his tough talk.

I had absolutely no trouble believing in their HEA.

(Happily no stupid personal issues to deal with. Or miracle cancer cures or other deux et machina crap to deal with.)

I read this novel in the course of 2 working days. On the commutes and in the evenings after work. And for the next 5 days I kept re-reading parts of it. My favorite kind of book.

Genre; Romantic suspense. Movie rating 15; murder. (there's a lot of talk about depraved deeds done in the past but not much happens in the story itself), profanities, sex scenes.