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Book Review: Hellsbane by Paige Cuccaro (Series, #1)

February 14, 2012 4 comments

Blonde woman standing near statue of an angel.Summary:
Emma Jane Hellsbane has always had the ability to sense other people’s emotions, and she turned that into a comfortable career as a “psychic.”  All that changes when the cute jock from highschool who mysteriously disappeared halfway through senior year lands on her doorstep with a clawed stomach.  She swiftly finds out that he’s a nephilim–half human, half fallen angel–and so is she.  Without intending to, Emma Jane finds herself swept into the war between the angels and the fallen, as well as attempting to pay off the debt for her father’s sin.

Review:
This was a classic case of not a bad book but I’m not the right audience for it.  I definitely don’t think the summary of the book that I read was quite as clear about the book’s Christian leanings as the one I just wrote for ya’ll.  If it was, I wouldn’t have picked it up.

What we have here is what I’m thinking is probably a new category of Christian fiction I was completely unaware of –Christian paranormal clean romance.  Now, I know at least two of my followers who would absolutely LOVE this book for exactly those reasons.  Alas, that’s exactly why I didn’t like it.

The Christian mores and doctrines have a strong presence.  We even go so far as to have Emma Jane come from a Catholic family but be an agnostic herself until hell and heaven literally show up on her doorstep.  As an agnostic myself, I found it rather patronizing to have an agnostic character proven wrong by flesh and blood angels and demons.  Y’know, like that would ever actually happen in real life? The whole scene just felt smug.  On the other hand, I could totally see as a Christian enjoying seeing someone convert from agnostic back to Catholic.  And yes, this book is heavily Catholic.  There is a lot of talk of saints and levels of sin and etc…  This of course means that there are things that I just don’t agree with (like the whole Emma Jane being held responsible for her father’s sin), but that’s only natural considering that this book is geared toward people who believe in those sorts of things.  Kind of like how I can’t stand The Chronicles of Narnia for similar reasons.

The fact that this is a Christian romance also means that there is ZERO SEX.  There is one pretty tame kiss.  If you want clean romance, this is your book, but if you’re like me it, um, is not.

The only thing that bothered me that I can’t chalk up to not being the target audience is the surprising lack of racial diversity in a book set in Pittsburgh.  Seriously, woman, I know there are black people in Pittsburgh!  And we’re not just talking oh the characters are white.  They all seem to be blonde-haired, blue-eyed white people.  This would make sense maybe in um….Wisconsin perhaps.  Not Pittsburgh.  Cuccaro really should focus on more diversity in her future books.

These things said, Cuccaro is generally a good writer.  The plot is complex, the characters well-rounded, and the sentences are well-written.

Overall, this book is well-written for its target audience–Christian, probably Catholic readers looking for some clean paranormal romance.  If this sounds like you, you should check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Review: Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Man in cowboy hat looking into the distance.Summary:
Dana doesn’t want to sell the family ranch in Montana, but her siblings are insistent and without her mother’s new will, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  The sale gets held up when a body is discovered in an old well on the ranch.  A new marshal is brought in from out of town to investigate, and it’s none other than Hud, Dana’s ex-fiancee.  Can they find the killer?  Can Dana save the ranch from her greedy siblings?  Will renewed love overcome old hurts?

Review:
This is a Harlequin romance novel, and they are not meant to be super-serious or make you ponder life.  It’s light reading akin to viewing the hot summer blockbuster movie.  So does it do its job?

The murder storyline is just complex enough to be compelling but not so complex that too much thinking is required, so plot-wise, Daniels does a good job.  The characters are fairly well-rounded, and Daniels eloquently presents a true-to-life modern Montana and not the romanticized vision of the old west often seen in books.  (My brother used to live in Montana, so I’m speaking from experience here).  Hud and Dana are sigh-inducing as a couple, but are also still believable.  Their love story could happen in real life, so that makes for an enjoyable read.

However, Harlequin romances are definitely supposed to be romance.  I was expecting at least one good sex scene.  What you get is a scene that, I kid you not, consists almost entirely of he kissed her breasts, there was passion, they went to sleep.  I’ve seen better sex scenes in historical fiction that wasn’t even marketed as romance.  Is this a Harlequin thing?  Are they supposed to be that clean?  I definitely remember them being a lot more hot and heavy when I was 15, but well, that was 9 years ago.  In any case, this sex scene left much to be desired.  Much.

The book also suffers from a lack of good editing.  This definitely isn’t Daniels’  fault.  Daniels makes mistakes most writers will make periodically in a book this long, but the editor failed to catch them.  I’d say there are around five easily noticeable errors in the book.  I find it easy enough to roll my eyes and continue on. If that sort of thing bothers you, though, you should be aware.

Overall, Daniels provides an intriguing modern day crime mystery set in rural Montana with a touch of romance and sex that happens off the page.  If you like light, fairly clean genre fiction with a dash of intrigue, you will enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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