Second Sight
by Amanda Quick, historical/paranormal (2007)
Piatkus, £7.99, ISBN 978-0-7499-3791-1


Second Sight introduces the Arcane Society, which is a super-duper club for the Jean Grey and Charles Xavier types of late 19th century England. They are supposed to be a secret club, but they have a big prominent HQ full of gadgetry and stuff that would make Batman green with envy. The members all possess some sort of psychic ability, which for some reason doesn't come in as handy as I'd imagine, hmm.

Anyway, in this story, we have Venetia Milton, our genteel heroine who resorts to using her marvelous skills at photography to make a living and provide for her siblings and aunt. She is the latest artistic sensation in town, and when she gets a particularly lucrative gig at the Arcane Society, she believes that she is well on her way to opening her own gallery. All she has to do is to take photos of the Arcane Society's collection of ooh-so-mysterious stuff. Venetia, who has been posing as a widow in order to gain some semblance of respectability among the folks in town, soon discovers another perk of the job: Gabriel Jones, the guy who hires her, is hot. She decides to seduce him, but alas, her efforts don't seem to working... until one evening when they share that typical Surprise Passionate Kiss scene one can find in every book by this author and they are like, "Oh yes! We both want it too, so let's shag right away, ooh!" Alas, they are soon interrupted by unwanted guests who proceed to cause problems and force Gabriel to send Venetia away through some secret tunnel thing.

Back in London, Venetia reads in the papers that the love of her life - heroines don't do that one night thing, after all, unless their feelings are committed to that bloke forever and ever - is dead. She decides to mourn Gabriel by passing off "Mr Jones" as her late husband. It's a harmless stunt, because Jones is a common name. What will go wrong? Of course, Gabriel is not dead. He has, instead, gone into hiding and is plotting to draw out the villain who planned that intrusion into the HQ (so much for psychic people being able to stay ahead of normal people) and ruined his shagfest with Venetia. When he discovers Venetia's little tribute, he realizes that the villain would tie "Mr Jones" to him. That villain may even target Venetia to draw out Gabriel! So he decides to show up and be Venetia's real pretend-husband after all. He can catch that villain, protect Venetia, and shag her all the way to Sunday. Really now, what can go wrong?

Comparisons to Mistress are probably inevitable, given how the author loves to recycle elements from previous books into her present books, but this one is heavier on the mystery and lighter on the romance. As a result, this one is far less satisfactory than Mistress, especially considering how Ms Quick plots with more enthusiasm than competence when it comes to suspense. This one has a convoluted plot that will be more at home in a Scooby-Doo episode, only less interesting because everyone here is sober and nobody is going to rip rubber masks off the villain in the denouement. Gabriel and Venetia do have some pretty good chemistry together, but they jump from attraction to wanting to get married in an abruptness that never feels satisfying. Ms Quick is as inept at incorporating paranormal elements as she is at suspense in her stories, so the psychic elements in this story stand out in an awkward way as stiff and artificial. The author loves to throw big jargon as substitute for setting building, and compared to the more sophisticated paranormal romance stories out there today, this one feels amateurish.

Second Sight is on the whole a rather uneven blend of the best and the worst from this author. There are some moments that remind me of the better stories from this author in the past, but at the same time, this one also boasts a convoluted but dull and dry suspense plot that takes precedence over the romance. If only the mystery had been less prominent, maybe the romance could have shone more and made this story a far more entertaining read. This one is best treated as a comfort read for fans of this author, while readers new to the author should stick to discovering the author's better books that were published in the 1990s.

Rating: 70


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