by Ciar Cullen, contemporary (2006)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-013-4
Before I begin, I should warn people that one of the main players in Ciar Cullen's Mayan Nights is called Shield Jaguar. Contrary to popular opinion, Shield Jaguar is not making any appearances on the upcoming The Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. Shield Jaguar and his "young wife" Lady A'Ok ruled the Mayan city of Pacal.
Meanwhile, our actual principle players are the heroine Tamara Martin and the hero St John "SinJin" Twaine. I don't know which is worse, "SinJin" or "Professor Sin". Anyway, he's known as the "Ivy League beast" due to his tendency to fire his gun at people and generally behave crazy after the death of his wife. SinJin concentrates his efforts on locating the lost tomb of Shield Jaguar and our heroine Tam is joining him because she's convinced that finally, after all those years, he's about to make an archeological breakthrough of all breakthroughs and she's going be right there to be part of the glory. "Tam and Professor Sin discover the Tomb of Shield Jaguar" will be a headline straight out of a Goosebumps novel.
When they meet each other, she realizes that SinJin is not some old professor but a cute one. He's rude and beastly though, hmmph. SinJin is not happy that a woman is sent by Princeton to help him in what he believes to be a "man's job" but she's a cute one. The magical first meet is pretty auspicious as she, not knowing who he is at first, gives him a few verbal middle fingers before fainting right in from him. The rest of their relationship is much better, fortunately, as they argue with and lust after each other while having horny dreams in lovely italicized fonts.
Ciar Cullen is setting herself up to be a pretty eclectic author with every book of hers that I've read being a paranormal romance that's different from each other. Mayan Nights is probably the least paranormal of her efforts so far though since oblique Tomb matters and italicized dreams aside, the villain here is human and the story focuses a lot on the dynamics of Tam and SinJin to the point that Pacal for the most part remains mostly a backdrop in the story. Therefore, the story would have been pretty dull were not for the fact that the main characters are fun to follow.
Tam is a pretty fun heroine - she may be hot and looks like a pin-up from a men's magazine but she can cuss like nobody's business and she's definitely one of the guys where her work is concerned. SinJin is a rather stereotypical "tortured rugged Indiana Jones" type hero and he won't win the Politically Correct Gentleman Of The Year award anytime soon. In another story he may be obnoxious but here Tam gives back as good as he dishes out so, with the correct kind of heroine sparring with him, SinJin comes off instead as cranky and rather socially-inept. That's not a bad thing, really, since as a character, SinJin comes off like this big brutish fellow who's actually a softie underneath his wounded and gruff exterior and Tam is that person to break his shell. These two characters are fun together as their constant verbal sparrings come off as playful antagonistic banter instead of toxic confrontations.
Therefore, I really have an enjoyable time reading Mayan Nights even if for the most part nothing seems to happen in this story and events only pile up towards the end of the story in an out-of-the-blue "Where did that fellow come from again?" manner. The premise about the Tomb and Shield Jaguar and all doesn't really come together very well, as if Ms Cullen herself isn't sure just how big a role the paranormal element related to the Tomb should play in this story. Therefore, the paranormal elements show up here and there as if they are actors hired to play extras in a movie but aren't sure of their lines or whether they are even showing up in the right scene. Perhaps if this story is longer, Ms Cullen would have found the opportunity to incorporate the paranormal elements and the subplot about the bad guy into the story in a more cohesive manner. As it is, this is a pretty fun but not exactly a memorable read. I like it, but I believe I like some of the author's other books much more.
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