This paranormal romantic suspense takes us offworld to Harmony, a world colonized by a high-tech futuristic Earth but then cut off from the home planet and reverting back to today's level of technology in a setting that is parallel to our Pacific Northwest. On this new planet, latent psi abilities are common, enhanced by tuned amber. The heroine of this book, Lyra Dore, makes her living, such as it is, by tuning amber, though she also explores the alien ruins and sells relics from them (and has another source of income with great potential, besides).
The main plot is a little slow to get started but hums along pretty smoothly, involving a murder in the Amber Inc. laboratory and the theft of an alien artifact that may or may not be dangerous in the wrong hands. Toward the end, though, the resolution of this plot line becomes predictable. The secondary plot concerning Lyra's secret admirer actually has more suspense initially than does the industrial espionage of the main plot. Unfortunately, it too loses steam at the end, going with the obvious resolution instead of adding an unexpected twist.
The romance subplot is what carries the book in the first half. Cruz Sweetwater walks back into Lyra's life after an aborted courtship a few months earlier, which enabled him to get close to her so his family's company could gain control of the valuable ruin she had discovered. Now, as she sees it, she's useful to him again. Though she is just as willing to use him (to vault her career to a higher level of exclusivity) as he is to use her (for her unique paranormal talent), she's portrayed as being the one with superior ethics. Part of this undoubtedly derives from the feud between their two families, with hers being working class and his having gained power supposedly by cheating hers a few generations back.
Several plot elements are rehashed from previous Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz books outside of the Curtain World/Ghost Hunters series. For example, Jeff, the young Sweetwater employee who wants to break from the family business, reminds me of Josh Trevelyan from Absolutely, Positively (1996). The connection with art galleries and relics is reminiscent of Sharp Edges (1998) and Eye of the Beholder (1999), the latter of which also has a metaphysical guru like the one in Obsidian Prey (Ghost Hunters, Book 6). The theft of a crystal and murder of a lab tech occur in Soft Focus (1999), along with the hero's demand to have a second chance with the heroine. Then there's the family feud from the Jayne Ann Krentz Collection - Eclipse Bay: Eclipse Bay, Dawn in Eclipse Bay, Summer in Eclipse Bay series.
The heroine is JAK's standard feisty, principled, independent woman with a chip on her shoulder, running around doing dangerous stuff but sure that nothing bad could possibly befall her--and she doesn't need any help, thank you. The hero is likewise stock: controlling and dangerous, but also loyal and protective toward his family and perceptive, sensitive, and generous with the heroine no matter how bitchy she is. Lyra resents the power held by Amber Inc., and she certainly doesn't approve of how the Sweetwater family got to the top, but she isn't too proud to cut corners and act unethically for her own advantage.
These characters are a melange of likeable and unlikeable characteristics, and the mix doesn't make me want to get to know them quickly. They have just enough depth to support the story line. Not enough to carry the romance line, which is rather weak. If the author didn't keep telling me how each one broke the other's heart, I wouldn't have seen it.
The three sex scenes are almost required in this book, because there isn't much romantic tension. Even though Cruz says to Lyra that she's making it as difficult as possible for him to get her back, she really doesn't: there's no groveling, no romantic gesture, not even an apology from him. They didn't have sex the first time around, and she chalks it up to him just doing his job, which was stealing the ruin from her, and not getting attached enough to her to want to take her to bed--which apparently did little more than sting her feminine pride. Then when they do sleep together, she says sex is just sex and doesn't mean anything (though it was good for her, the first orgasm that didn't require a "small personal appliance"). Although she claims he broke her heart during that first "fake" courtship, the only sign of her anguish is that she filed a lawsuit against Amber Inc. Where are the emotions?
Although the writing style is somewhat passive, the plot is predictable, and the characters are stock, Jayne Castle's storytelling still carries the day. This was an enjoyable enough read, more like the first few books in the Ghost Hunters series.
4-star review originally posted on Amazon October 2, 2011
For several years I reviewed very few books because Amazon got snitty about authors as reviewers. When I read back through those old Amazon reviews, I decided to copy some to my own website.
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