by Gabi Stevens, paranormal (2010)
Tor, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0680-0
The Wish List is almost a charming old-school paranormal romance in the sense that there are no vampires or werewolves or leather-clad heroines totting machine guns and twenty-inch samurai swords. We only have the Arcani, a bunch of magic-casting folks, who co-exist with fae folks like pixies among unsuspecting humans.
Our heroine, Kristin Montgomery, is naturally special. She is a Rare One, a child of two humans who could nonetheless do the woo-woo. Kristin's only family have been her Aunts Rose, Lily, and Hyacinth. She has no biological relationship with them, but they have always been in her life and she adores them. When the story opens, they leave her their house to stay while they all head off for a vacation. They also drop a bombshell on her: the Aunts are fairy godmothers who can do magic, and she's about to come into her powers and take over their gig. Of course, they can't stay to teach her how to use her magic. That role is assigned to Tennyson Ritter, a grouchy but handsome fellow. Any attraction between those two will be tested when a plot begins to brew, caused by what seems to an ancient foe of the Arcani who naturally targets Kristin because she is so special.
If I am to pinpoint my biggest reason for not giving this book a fabulous grade, I'd say the problem lies with the hero, Tennyson. It is bad enough that he waves a wand, which is not exactly the most dignified kind of action one would force an alpha male type of guy to do, but he displays absolutely zero convincing chemistry with the heroine.
Tennyson starts out being a whiny hero. He's always complaining that the heroine is wasting his time, he'd rather be doing his scholarly thing... he's constantly grumpy and finding fault with everything around him, which makes him come off like a recalcitrant child rather than an adult. Occasionally he would lose his head and kiss or paw at the heroine, but such slips of his control are not enough to convince me that he's genuinely in love with her. Worse, it is another secondary character who starts the heroine on her path to studying magic, as the hero is too busy whining about how rude the heroine is to actually do his job. To top it off, he's also complaining about having to actually carry boxes for the heroine. Did I mention that he waves a wand?
It doesn't help Tennyson's cause that the villain, who also courts Kristin in this story, is a hundred times more convincing in his desire for Kristin. Okay, so this villain wants to kill off his enemies and rule the universe - big deal. At least this villain aims high. Compared to Tennyson's frequent belittling and fault-finding of Kristin, this villain's treatment of Kristin is far more acceptable in my eyes. For example, late in the story, Kristin falls briefly into the villain's clutches. What is Tennyson's reaction when he reunites with her? Being all concerned about her well-being, perhaps? No. He throws a minor sulk because the villain kissed Kristin, and tells Kristin that she is his and his alone. Perhaps fans of the alpha male hero will adore this behavior, but this is just another one of the many reasons why I cannot believe in the romance between him and Kristin. Tennyson doesn't seem to like her at all - he views her more like something that he wants to keep because he can't shake off his lust for her.
The funniest part about Tennyson is that he is set up to be the next ruler of the governing Arcani council. This man can't even be nice to his charge - how is he going to sway people into supporting him and believing in his ideology? Tennyson would probably spend his days as a ruler locked up in his room and complaining to his unfortunate assistant that everyone out there is rude and undeserving of his time.
Kristin is a pretty good heroine because she is often capable and she also demonstrates a reasonable degree of intelligence. However, she is also a victim of the Special Heroine cliché. If she is so special, how come she is not given more attention by the governing Arcani body? Her Aunts ditching her without even telling her anything about her powers is so obviously an illogical plot device to force Kristin into some contrived fish-out-of-water comedy, and in the context of her very awesome special nature, such callous negligence on the Aunts' part doesn't make sense. I'm told of how special Kristin is and how every Arcani that matters seems to know that. So why aren't they treating her accordingly?
Tennyson being a whiny brat and the unbelievable romance aside, the story could still work if Kristin is an ordinary Arcani and Tennyson is a socially awkward scholar charged to teach her the basics of woo-woo. But because the author decides to adhere to the formula and blindly turns Kristin into a Special Heroine and Tennyson into the Best Alpha Male of Them All, the whole premise becomes illogical.
Ms Stevens has a light and breezy style of storytelling and this is an easy read, but The Wish List falls apart too easily when I begin to think even a little about the whole premise. And that's not even taking into account the hero and the zero chemistry between him and the heroine. This book just lacks that special kind of magic, I'm afraid.
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