tl;dr: paranormal romance with unclear mythology but interesting character arcs
Anyone who knows me is aware of my rather myopic preferences on romance novels. I like contemporary romance. I don’t typically read any other sub genre, including but not limited to westerns, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and especially not historical. This also extends to other forms of media, including television and movies. I say all this up front because it colors how I feel about this book.
When I first began reading it, I was pretty surprised to find a very strong paranormal or magical element to the story, since the publisher’s description does not accurately represent this side of the story. It was glaringly obvious from the second chapter that something was afoot. There are some protestors outside of the archeological dig site that most of the book takes place at, and the leader of the protesting group shares a weird glance between herself and Sabrina, one of the main characters.
Sabrina gulped for air, realizing she’d been holding her breath for the moments she’d been trapped in the woman’s gaze. The discomfort that had enveloped her faded the farther they got from the gate, but a ghostly after-feeling remained, as if the encounter had dug up and resurrected something ancient inside her that had been buried deep eons ago.
I almost threw in the towel in that point, because I do not enjoy paranormal romance, particularly since I didn’t think it was supposed to be one. But let me be clear–this is a paranormal romance, with some sort of Celtic mythology about soulmates. This mythology is not explained very well, and actually, the author spends more time discussing the archeology setting than the paranormal premise of the novel, which is that Sabrina, despite being married to Dominic, is one half of a soulmate pair with Ian, her husband’s best friend.
The push and pull between the two soulmates was executed well, and the anguish they feel about having to stay apart is palpable. It dragged on for a very long time, though, and I felt like the impetus for them finally coming together was somewhat out of character for how Dominic is supposed to be (logical, hardworking). The jealousy and hurt feelings by everyone made sense, even for the other people on the dig who weren’t directly related, since it affected the whole environment to have hostilities between people who had leadership over the group.
In general, the characterization was mostly good, but I think that the similarities between Ian and Sabrina, and then between Dominic and Meggan, could have been a little more obvious, with more time spent on that than yet another sex scene that didn’t serve to further the plot. I also felt that the story maybe could have benefitted from some kind of prologue, maybe giving some explanation into the soulmate thing, giving a clear mythology to extrapolate the rest of the story from.
The conclusion was good, and left a fitting bookend to the story that was satisfying, leaving the reader able to imagine the new normal for all the main players.
I found the smut to be too crass and explicit. I’m not a huge fan of certain crude words for body parts, and this book was overloaded. There are 321 instances of the f-word. It was pretty gratuitous at times. A little can go a long way.
Some of the writing was also a little awkward, where some sentences weren’t as clear as they could have been. Example:
Dominic’s comments fisted Ian’s hands at his sides, but he held his anger in check.
Now, I know that the author here intends to describe how Dominic’s words caused Ian to feel anger, and therefore tighten his hands into fists, but the way it’s written here is as if comments could become sentient, grab hands, and manipulate them. There were a few of these scattered around, phrasing that I had to read and reread before I understood what they were supposed to mean.
Overall, I felt like the book could have done with some trimming of excess to make it a little tighter. I also felt like some themes were introduced in early chapters and completely dropped until the end; for example, Sabrina’s adventurousness in bed and Dominic’s preference for more straight-forward sex. In the entire middle of the book, it’s a non-issue, and I think that would have been a good way to show the divide between Sabrina and Dominic, and emphasize the similarities between Sabrina and Ian, but instead, it’s a non-issue until the very end. Even the growing chasm between the newlyweds isn’t apparent until the author points it out, instead of slowly introducing it over time, because all of a sudden, Dominic has no time for Sabrina anymore.
I didn’t hate this book. That doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement, but considering that I really dislike paranormal romance, and even more so that I didn’t feel like the mythology was well-explained at all, it’s a fairly positive reaction from me. Someone who enjoys Celtic mythology and adultery plots would probably really enjoy this, especially if they have a high tolerance for highly explicit (bordering on pornographic) smut. There were a lot of interesting interactions between characters, but I needed more. More explanation, more nuanced plot development, and maybe less sex. (Did I just type that? First time for everything, I guess.)
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