Twisted Shadows
by Patricia Potter, contemporary (2003)
Jove, $6.99, ISBN 0-515-13439-2


Patricia Potter's Twisted Shadows is a baffling story. I don't understand what the heroine is doing half the time, and the annoyingly formulaic resolution to her family drama is no compensation at all. The kindest description I can give the "romance" is "tepid". All in all, another mediocre romantic suspense from Patricia Potter. Maybe that lady should put back on her cowboy boots and revisit the Wild West for her muse. Her so-called romantic suspenses are making her come off like an inept newbie when she was pretty good in her Western historical days.

But I guess she has to eat and keep her career alive somehow, what with the market nowadays heading towards the contemporary romance oversaturation glut. I hope she buys some yummy hamburgers with the percentage she gets from my $6.99.

Samantha Carroll runs an art gallery with her mother in some quiet corner of America where everything and everyone is nice and friendly. Then one day two men walk in and harrass her. They inform her that her birth name is actually Nicole Merritta and her birth father is Paul, a crime boss that is never arrested, but not for the lack of trying on the FBI's part. Shaken, she confronts her mother, who informs her that yes, Paul is a crazy crimelord who would have killed them all when he caught Mommy here trying to run away with Samantha/Nicole and her twin brother Nick. In the end, Momma was forced to leave Nick with Daddy and flee with Nicole to this place, where she then married the guy that she hired to protect her and Nicole.

To me, what the mother did sounds quite reasonable. But Samantha - let's just stick to one name here - flies off the handle. How dare Momma leaves Nick behind! How dare she! Ooh, doesn't Momma know that they are twins? Never mind that Nicole seems to have a happy life with Momma and Stepdaddy and never seems to be bothered by any "missing twin" feelings in her life, she is hurt because why can't Momma understand that twins have a bond?

Someone has been reading way too many Danielle Steel novels if you ask me.

Now Paul Merritta is dying and he summons Samantha to his side. Don't go, Momma tells her. But Samantha is going. She wants to see her Daddy - she refuses to believe what the papers say, because we all know papers lie and bluff - and reestablish her bond with Nick now. Then bullets start flying around her neck, an FBI dude named Nathan McLean steps in to start an instantaneous tepid lust thing with her, and Samantha shilly-shallies as she tries to figure out who to trust.

I don't get this woman. Firstly, she seems more willing to trust her newfound (and quite hostile) twin brother over the mother whom she has known all her life. Her trust in Nick has no basis, but she will cling to this to the bitter end. Her relationship with Nate is even more perplexing. She says that she trusts him again and again, and then she will blindside me with profundities such as "she trusted him, yet she wondered if she could trust his feelings". I didn't know you can trust someone and yet still mistrust his "feelings".

When it becomes apparent that heirs to Paul's crime empire are worried over Samantha's reappearance in Paul's life, Samantha's latest brainwave is to walk back to the pit of vipers to clarify that she doesn't want the business, she just wants to love brother and daddy forever. Also, there's one annoying instance when she is confronted by the possibility that she is trusting the wrong person in one chapter, she wails that it's not her fault - she didn't ask to be told that she had a twin brother and a "real" daddy. Uh, dingbat, momma warned you, didn't she, but did you listen? No. So it's your fault. Bend over, think of Daddy, and die, dingbat. Oh, and the next chapter sees her back to trusting wrongly all over again, as if character continuity only exists when the author deems it convenient.

Really, Samantha's rationale and decision-making skills can be so remarkably stupefying at times.

Added salt to my wounds is the author getting overenthusiastic with the labels "independent", "intelligence", and "courageous" when it comes to Samantha here. At one point she has Samantha declaring that she will not be a victim like the heroines in those crappy novels and movies. Newsflash, dingbat: by trusting stupidly and acting more stupidly, you are already halfway there. Now bend over and think of Daddy, and die oh diediediediedie, you stupid dingbat, die.

Her relationship with Nate is one of those "put two people in a bed together and voila - it's love" things. Half the time he is not trusting her while she, she trusts him but isn't sure about trusting his feelings, whatever that means. (Must be romance heroine speak for "I'm an idiot with Daddy issues!")

One of my favorite romances in a non-romance work is Anne Frasier's Hush - in fact, I'd say the romance in Hush is stronger than its formulaic serial killer suspense angle. What makes that one work? The author doesn't rush the romance. She doesn't even bother to cram in a rushed love scene. She lets me know instead that once the case is over, these two characters of hers will try and work out something. I find that more genuine than anything Ms Potter can throw at me here. It is ridiculous to have two characters waffling on trust issues acting on their lust only to declare eternal love once the case is solved. Really, who is Ms Potter trying to fool? I'd expect a romance author to know that it takes more than an obligatory quickie sex scene to drive home any romance she is writing.

And let's touch a little on the silly dialogues that litter this story. People don't just say "don't trust your father", they say "don't open the Pandora's box!". It is as if the more overblown phrases they use, the more they can hide the deficiencies in their meagre characterization. Obviously, it's not working with me.

I close this silly and rather baffling story thinking that there's a more interesting story in here than that Miss Blind Faith Samantha Searching For The Daddy Who Will Love Her Foreva betty bonkers tale I get. Remember that part about Mommy fleeing with her daughter, hiring a mysterious man to protect her, and they later fall in love? I think that will be a more interesting story than anything I can find here. Oh Ms Potter, you really know how to let opportunity slip sometimes. Drats.

Rating: 57


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