Dark Angel
by Cassandra Collins, paranormal (2000)
LoveSpell, $5.50, ISBN 0-505-52414-7


If I ever wonder how a Colleen Collins story will turn out to be without the wacky one-liners hurled my way at 1,000 mph, I can stop now. Dark Angel, written under the pen name Cassandra Collins, is actually a decent, atmospheric novel with quirky noir overtones. I'm not sure how readers will react towards the fact that the hero, a guardian angel ghost of sorts, and the heroine hardly spend time together, but I am flexible if the story is engaging.

For a while, the story is just that - engaging. Scarlett Ray is in trouble. Some upstanding citizen with shady dealings want her dead over a dispute over Scarlett's burger shop. Frankly, if I am in this situation, I'd hand the whole stupid shop over to the bad guy. But romance heroines are a different breed of martyrs, so Scarlett has to get shot point blank before she sees sense.

And she also starts getting visits from a guardian angel of sorts named Jake Miscusi, a throwback to all of Scarlett's James Dean fantasies. Together, they will form some sort of bond preordained by destiny (according to Jake) while they smash and kick some baddie butts.

Thing is, despite Scarlett's thick-headed predisposition to martyrdom for the sake of her Mom's shop, she is a decent heroine who actually has a sense of humor. But Jake is like a charisma vacuum - when he appears, he somehow sucks all the interesting personality out of Scarlett. The poor gal becomes a "Yes, Jake, oh Jake, I need you Jake" ninny, a far cry from the Scarlett interacting with her protective clients and friends. Thing isn't going the way it should when I start wishing Jake wouldn't appear any time soon.

Otherwise, Dark Angel is a decent, moody story with an interesting premise. This author can get into paranormal suspense, I think, should she get fed up of writing about pregnant ninnies for the Harlequin line. If the hero has cut down on his destiny-tao-mantra speak and hasn't plunged the whole story into cornball territory, Dark Angel would be a better read.

Rating: 78


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