Do You Believe?
by Ann Lawrence, paranormal (2005)
Tor Romance, $6.99, ISBN 0-765-34888-8


Ann Lawrence's Do You Believe? is a step-by-step paint-by-numbers cliché of all the missteps an author can make when it comes to a "sexy and dark" paranormal romance. This author has a number of LoveSpell paranormal and historical romances tucked under her belt but this is her first published attempt at a more "serious" paranormal romance outside her video-game heroes premise. I think the author needs to work on her thing a little bit more.

Our heroine Rose Early is, of course, a photographer. Her sister Joan has, naturally, vanished after a timely email to Rose yammering about some sinister "evil". Rose quickly flies down to the Marleton in the Cotswolds, England, to find Joan. Shouldn't she start by looking at the nuthouses? Joan had shown signs of being fascinated with "evil". Among Joan's possessions, Rose finds a copy of the successsful horror novelist VF Drummond's Do You Believe In Evil? with some scribblings at the margins of the pages such as "I believe!". Yup, Rose should start checking out at the local nuthouses. It turns out that Vic Drummond is actually Joan's lover and as he and Rose investigate Joan's disappearance, they become lovers too. Um, I don't know what to say except... you go, Vic?

The author also makes a rather typical misstep in assuming that sex clubs where kinky antics take place are naturally hotpits for Great Evil. In short, Ms Lawrence sometimes confuses skanky and gratuitous depictions of sex scenes with chills and spooks. There is one such club in this book, which exists to serve up skanky sex scenes that take place under dubious circumstances that Ms Lawrence tries to convince me as some Omigosh Evil Lives Here thingie.

But frankly, despite the presence of the sex club, this book is actually dull. Ms Lawrence seems to be writing as if she is trying to complete her grade school kiddies' report cards under a tight deadline - there is too much telling here and not enough showing. Character development is nil because they never develop beyond being superficial stereotypes, the paranormal elements of this story are sketchily developed at best, and the book ends up more cold and joyless to read than anything else. Do You Believe? is best retitled as Do I Care?.

Rating: 52


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