by Lisa Andel, fantasy (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-297-4
I don't know what to make of Lisa Andel's McIntrye & Coventry, the first book in a planned series called Special Investigations. You know what I think when I'm reading this story? I find myself wondering whether this book started out as the first book of as some kind of contemporary series with secret agents and tough heroines which found no buyers in New York so Ms Andel decides to add in everyone's favorite paranormal elements into the story, put in some sex here and there, and voila! Even if this is not the case, it sure feels like it due to the awkward introduction of paranormal elements into the story and how this book turns into some befuddling sex-with-ooh-demons thingie towards the end. If I start reading the first twenty pages this book and then skip to the last twenty or so pages, I'd be wondering whether these pages belong to the same book.
Our heroine is TJ Coventry and she's running a private investigation company with her best friend Rand McIntyre. Her five brothers are in some kind of secret agent business. I believe it is called Sequels Please Or We Will Shag You To Death, Incorporated. TJ and Rand go a long way, and apart from him taking her virginity and her occasional hormonal lusty fantasy moments about him, their relationship is pretty platonic. Then one day she gets a client who is looking for her brother and this brother happens to be working for TJ's own brothers when the man vanished. Meanwhile, a hot guy starts sniffing around TJ so Rand, who's busy hitting the sheets with anything female that moves, suddenly decides that he wants TJ after all.
Unless I am to operate under the assumption that every book I purchase online is a paranormal romance, I find the introduction of the fact that Rand is a half-werewolf a little too abrupt, as if the author has forced that aspect into her story without doing much to ease the introduction. It's like, bam, all of a sudden Rand is now a half-werewolf so yay, no cosmic laws have been broken and I don't have to worry about having something too different in my hands. Rand and TJ have sex so suddenly that I am taken aback. There's no buildup and TJ doesn't even let him pant a little as payback for all the times he shagged other women to the point that he let his past time interfered with the running of the company. He announces that he doesn't want the other guy shagging her and - wham! - she's begging him to shag her instead and that's it.
The story takes on an even more bizarre turn, with TJ having no control over who's shagging her (and it isn't just Rand shagging her in this story, mind you, but at least she's willing and lucid when she's shagging Rand, so that's something) and Rand and TJ realizing that they're in love because she cries out his name when some other fellow is shagging her. I admire that fellow, by the way. Most guys will feel mortally offended if the woman they are shagging cries out another man's name, but hey, these people aren't human so I probably should judge them by some kind of Anita Blake-like standards instead. But then again, she knows that he loves her because he's not too concerned when she showed up and unwittingly foiled his plan to take an old girlfriend to bed so really, it's love. I don't think I can believe that. I'd actually believe that it's love between them if they come clean and tell each other that they'll get married but they'll also want to sleep with other people now and then. Some swinging couples manage to have a happy marriage, after all, so that's not an impossible notion. At least, it's a more believable notion compared to the author attempting to pretend that TJ and Rand are conventional monogamous people in a loving relationship when they can't seem to control their desires for other people very well.
The relationship is very underbaked. It's all typical alpha-macho possessive macho garbage on Rand's part, with the usual werewolf lingo like "Mine!" tossed all over the place, and these two don't make love as much as they have sex before insisting that they're in love. The external plot turns out to be little more than an excuse to turn the story into a half-baked attempt at sexual musical chairs so I don't even have a decent paranormal mystery to make up for the subpar romance. It also doesn't help that late in the story Ms Andel often switches from TJ's first person narration to third person narration and back again without warning that the smooth flow of the story is interrupted every time this happens. A standard narrative technique from the start that allows the reader to get used to the switches in points-of-view (if there is going to be any) instead of the sudden introduction of a third person narration so late in the story when the reader is expecting by that time to encounter only first-person narration would have prevented this problem.
McIntyre & Coventry feels like a very rough draft of an author who starts out wanting to write a fanfiction based on her favorite Kelley Armstrong novel, then decides she wants to write a story inspired by Laurell K Hamilton instead, and before she gets to sit down and touch up the story here and there once she's finished on the first draft, the story somehow gets published instead, oops. The plot is halfbaked, the relationship is underdeveloped, the sex scenes are cold and far from erotic (they are actually quite mundane, come to think of it), and therefore, this story just doesn't deliver.
This book has a very nice cover though, I must say. I wish the story could have measured up even a little.
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