The Price Of Passion
by Susan Sizemore, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81651-2


Susan Sizemore, apparently not happy with both The Price Of Innocence and On A Long Ago Night, continues to rework on the "Once when we were on some exotic foreign soils, we were lovers, we parted then, and ah, here we meet again on civilized British soils as we battle some cult/gang/thing looking for that treasure I found" plot.

... I have read this before, and this third time around I am still okay with it. This is because the author's prose still sing melancholy lullabies laced with sardonic, self-effacing humor. I'm not to sure how I'll react if the next book is exactly the same like the author's first three books for Avon, but for now, I'll retract my claws...

Where was I? Oh yes, The Price Of Inno- er, Passion. Cleopatra Fraser is a passionate archaeologist in love with everything Egypt and Greece. Because of her gender, she can only channel her creative energies via "assisting" her absent-minded father in his research. (Actually, she pretty much does all the work). When she was sixteen, she and Azrael David Evans ("David, please, not Azrael") were rivals and they constantly outwitted each other. One night, Cleo got fed up of taking care of her father and everybody and seduced David. David, not knowing she was sixteen, happily obliged.

Both didn't - weren't - looking for permanence, as both got their jollies with ancient artifacts too much to play hubby-wifey at that stage. Both just weren't ready, but that night seared them like nothing could.

So here they are today, in England, where Cleo is accompanying her estranged sister Ariadne ("Annie please") at the Season debut of the latter. Both sisters, raised on different soils by different hands, are doing their best to make up for lost time. It's not easy. Then comes David Evans to make Cleo's world all topsy-turvy again. They spend a lot of time staring across the room at each other and standing still as they have...

... flashbacks to the time when they were more reckless and wild. These flashbacks are fewer in numbers than the previous two books, but like the previous two, they sure are more interesting than the present romance.

A historical lover terrorist-gang-wannabe is looking for some artifact Cleo is said to possess, and that put a wedge on Cleo and David's reunion.

The middle of The Price Of Passion sags bad as the pace slows and the main characters just look at each other in pained longing/hate/indecision and start experiencing flashbacks. It's like a Neurotic Imsomniac Anonymous affair. That, and the haphazard reference to David as Angel, Evans, and Azrael, sometimes all three in one page, can be distracting and even annoying. The slow pace drags, and coupled with the slight déjà vu feel, this book dips from keeper status (the first few chapters) to being a very good but still pretty rough read.

It's uneven, and when it plods, it plods. But when it sings, ah, it really sings. It is so easy to forgive this book when it contains scenes like this one:

"Home? Father?" She touched her forehead, then looked distractedly around the riotous scene. "I'm supposed to meet his riverboat in Al Fayyum at three. Do you what time it is?"

Evans laughed, then dug into a deep, secret pocket of his vest, one Khamir's men hadn't discovered when they searched him. He brought out his gold pocket watch, one his father had given him when he graduated. He tossed the watch to her. "Keep it," he said, rather than thanking her for the rescue. He turned and ran, and bounded upon the back of the white horse he'd chosen. She'd called after him as he rode from the courtyard, but shouting and distant gunfire covered her words.

And she still had the watch. Amazing.

Where The Price Of Passion shines is its no-illusion depiction of David and Cleo's youthful indiscretion - both are selfish individuals who, despite an embryo of respect and mutual affection, will be wrong for each other at that time. Now, more jaded and burned by time and experience, only now could they find a middle ground for some happily ever after. Cleo and David's relationship is rocky, sometimes bumpy, sometimes dark, occasionally quite sunny, but it is definitely more real and enjoyable than those sunny Pollyanna "My love and misplaced forgiveness can overcome our baggage" romances out there.

If only I haven't read The Price Of Innocence and On A Long Ago Night, really. Then I will be able to give this book something like, say, 93. But my emotional resonance with The Price Of Passion is weakened severely because at the back of my mind, I keep hearing a voice that tells me, I have read this story in two different but still damningly similar incarnations before.

Rating: 89


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