Spirited Away
by Cindy Miles, paranormal (2007)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22145-2


In Cindy Miles' debut paranormal romance for Signet, Spirited Away, we have Tristan de Barre, a knight, and his entire entourage of 15 knights who were all murdered off one fine day in 1292 by a man who blamed Tristan for the death of his son. They didn't just die, though, their ghosts linger around all these years in Tristan's home, Dreadmoor Castle. Is it just me or has Ms Miles been getting these names from a fantasy RPG game?

Anyway, we cut to today, where a thunderstorm has unearthed some bones and relics that draw archaeologists to the Castle like malodorous rapists to a hapless romance heroine on a dark and lonely street. To stave off the inevitable and make the best of a situation, Tristan insists that the Grey Archaeological Research team send only one researcher to play around the Castle. He wants to make sure that this pesky meddler can be kept at arm's length so that his cover isn't blown, you see. Tristan may be a ghost, but he has managed to somehow live as best as he could as a "human" all these years. I don't know how he imagines that a male researcher will be less meddlesome than a female one, but he is outraged when Dr Andi Monroe turns out to be actually Dr Andrea Monroe. Andi has an interesting history with Dreadmoor Castle that draws her to this place, and you know she's going to make poor Tristan's life complicated, heh.

Spirited Away is a pleasant read, but the setting will need some visualization on the reader's part, especially when the author has Tristan passing through solid objects but still able to sit on a chair, for example. How is anyone going to explain that, heh? On the bright side, Andi turns out to be a far more pleasant heroine. I was afraid during the first few chapters that she would turn out to be a neurotic no-life creature obsessed with mouldy old things, but Andi turns out instead to be a pretty charming and likable heroine. Unfortunately, she has this bizarre tendency to keep going back to Tristan when he treats her like dirt for the first half or so of the story.

Not that I blame Tristan, since he's actually Casper's surly big brother. It's Andi's inability to react accordingly to the hero's perceived nastiness that is the problem here. For example, when she falls, Tristan can't help her because his hands will go through her. But to Andi, this means that Tristan deliberately watches her take a fall. Apart from a single utterance of disbelief and outrage, she pretty much lets him get away with that. After a few scenes of this kind, I start to think that perhaps Andi need to get a spine and tell the man to get lost.

A bigger problem here is the unbelievability of the romance. Tristan treats Andi pretty "badly" for a long time whenever they share the same scene because of his situation, and at other times he is deliberately avoiding her. Therefore, for half or so of this story, there is hardly any romantic interaction between Tristan and Andi. And then, when Andi discovers Tristan's secret, all of a sudden they are discussing their feelings. What feelings? Where I come from, if you manage to fall for someone without having to actually know that person first, that isn't love, that's infatuation based on the fantasies you have built around that person.

Still, I guess I can't expect to find the love of a lifetime in every romance novel. At any rate, Spirited Away is the strongest during its second half, when Tristan's secret is out and those two stop playing silly games with each other. The writing is clean, the characters are on the whole likable and they don't behave like idiotic gerbils in heat, and the whole book is a pretty decent read. If you are looking for some old school paranormal romance and you can overlook the glaring weaknesses in this story, you may have a pretty good time here, who knows.

Rating: 78


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