Touched By Fire
by Catherine Spangler, fantasy (2007)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-425-21795-5


Touched By Fire is set in the same universe as the previous book Touched By Darkness, so read the review of that book to get the 101 on these Sentinels and their Conductors.

This one presents an interesting chicken-or-egg puzzle. You see, Ms Spangler in her everlasting wisdom announces in her canon that Sentinels not only need Conductors to increase their psychic abilities, they do it via that sexy mojo thing and a Sentinel is always sexually attracted to the Conductor and vice-versa. Let's not even touch on Ms Spangler's absolutely unnecessary insistence that the Conductors and the Sentinels will always be a heterosexual coupling. If she gets angry letters from offended readers, all I can say is that she asked for it. Anyway, I've said in my review of the previous book that this is one of the most absurd paranormal premises I've heard. This set-up is a clear contrivance on Ms Spangler's part to use sex as a short-cut for love.

So, what happens when this ridiculous set-up becomes the internal conflict between the hero and the heroine? Our Sentinel hero, Luke Paxton, discovers that Marla Reynolds is her automatic soulmate after she picks him up at a bar. There are some bad Belians running loose, so Luke needs Marla's help even if she doesn't believe his talk about Atlantis and that long-lost magic crystal thingy. Confused by all my talk of Belians and crystals and Atlantis? Don't be stubborn, go read my review of the previous book, darling. Anyway, after conveniently shagging Marla until she's besotted with him, Luke then decides that they can't have sex anymore because all that sexy mojo is interfering with his concentration. You can imagine how Marla reacts to that, I'm sure.

Luke is a typical hero of this kind of stories, capable and totally boring because he's hard to tell apart from all the generic heroes that populate the romantic urban fantasy landscape. Marla, on the other, is straight out of the Harlequin Blaze formula handbook for traumatized heroines guaranteed to make me grit my teeth in pain. Girlfriend here treats sex like a matter of life and death. Perhaps that is understandable due to some traumatizing violence in her past, but Marla insists in this story on picking up random men and doing precisely the very stupid things that she shouldn't be doing to get laid. What happened to finding a nice guy in the neighborhood to hook up with? From her hysterical overreaction to everything sexual to her continuous stupidity when it comes to sex, Marla is the Harlequin Blaze heroine from hell. It's a pity she's supposed to be the heroine. I tell you, if we force the villain to have sex with Marla and then deal with her in the aftermath, he'll be begging for a quick death soon enough and the world will be saved in no time.

Touched By Fire is a supremely irritating and completely artificial story. Come on, the author sets up the story so that the hero and the heroine will be attracted to each other due to... I don't know, hormones, electricity, or super glue, whatever, and then she has the two of them whining that the super glue between them is giving them problems. It's like reading a story where the author has stuck two characters in a leaking lifeboat and then have them whining about the leak for the rest of the story.

I hope the next book in this series will have a real plot and characters that don't feel as if they are paper cut-outs from a story by Christine Feehan. Then again, the author has decided her canon to be full of ridiculous nonsense, so I can't imagine how she's going to salvage the series. Maybe she'll prove me wrong with the next book, but I can only imagine for now that the course is set straight for the iceberg; I have best tighten the safety belt and pray for a quick end.

Rating: 47


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