Slow Burn
by Brenda Jackson, contemporary (2007)
St Martin's Press, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-312-94049-2


First off, I believe a round of congratulations is in order because Slow Burn is Brenda Jackson's 50th published book. I really hate to puncture the cheer but I also have to point out that I find this book dreadfully boring from start to finish. It is, frankly, a chore to read.

The problem is this. If we subtract the number of Westmoreland books and some stand-alone trade paperback titles, we are still left with some thirty or so books that make up the huge epic dynasty series that is Madaris and Friends. Slow Burn is part of this series, and goodness, it doesn't feel like a story in its own right as much as a roll call for characters in past and future books to make an appearance. The whole thing is pointless if you're like me, not really a regular follower of the series, or worse, someone new to the series.

The story, supposedly, is about Skye Barclay showing up at the doorsteps of the abode of Justin and Lorren Madaris to locate her hitherto long-separated biological brother Vincent. You see, Skye was adopted as a child and she only quite recently discovered that her biological brother is out there somewhere. Having tracked down Vincent to the Madaris doorstep, she meets the holy, mighty, and incomparable Madaris Messiahs and is quickly assimilated faster than you can ask, "So, does this cult serve Kool-Aid?" She finds romance with some Madaris bachelor named Slade. Skye and Slade - I can only hope their kids won't be named Rubble and Granite.

But really, Skye and Slade are completely flat. They decide that they are attracted to each other 40 pages or so into the story and the rest of the story comprise mostly Madaris folks from all over the place showing up to be introduced to Skye. I am bored out of my wits reading these scenes because every Madaris guy is too hot for words while every Madaris woman is too beautiful and too sassy. Apart from their jobs or nicknames, I can't tell anyone apart because they are all the same cardboard character trotted out again and again until I feel like I'm trapped in an endless insurance commercial. What is Ms Jackson doing? Perhaps long-time fans will be thrilled to see familiar names showing up and squeal like excited fans in a rock concert - "Oh, that's my darling Clayton, EEEEEEEE!" - but I'm bored out of my mind.

When the plot does get moving late in the story, things don't get better. The all-powerful Madaris Messiahs naturally only have to make a few phone calls here and there and all of Skye's problems are solved. Skye doesn't do much in this story. She's so flat and passive that the only big things she does here are locating Vincent at the pearly gates of the Madaris Paradise and planning to marry her nasty fiancé to - don't laugh - protect the Madaris clan from that one puny and pathetic sniveling loser of a bad guy. I tell you, when I come across her brilliant plan to protect her loved ones, I suddenly realize that I like Ms Cardboard Girlfriend here so much better when she's just standing there blinking like a confused goldfish while the Mighty Madaris Messiahs solve all her problems for her. Slade is like his fellow Madaris guys in this story - apart from his job and name, he's practically indistinguishable from those guys. He comes with some clichéd baggages in his past, nothing too major. Really, he and Skye could easily be created using those Random Character Generator things one can find online. They're really that flat.

Character development is pretty much nil, but the plot isn't any better. The villains are one-dimensional cardboard characters who are the way they are because they are cartoon characters like that. The Secrets of Skye's Family thing is inconsistent and full of head-scratching moments that I wonder whether the author is making things up as she goes along.

Flat romance, dull and lifeless characters, rambling prose, insipid plot, and way too many cardboard and indistinguishable secondary characters cluttering up the pages all make Slow Burn more like an interminable session of boredom. This one is way too self-indulgent on the author's part and really beneath the author if I am to go by some of her previous books that I have read.

Rating: 40


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