Friday, April 4, 2008

Spiritual Noelle by Jet Mykles

TITLE: Spiritual Noelle
AUTHOR: Jet Mykles
PUBLISHER: Loose Id
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 34k)
GENRE: Paranormal ménage erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Witch Noelle has made a decision. She wants to be in a relationship with Daniel, the witch she’s been helping teach how to control his powers, and his leashed shapeshifter Jake. Abandoning her family’s holiday plans, she returns to their reclusive home to put her plan into motion, helped by a storm that traps them in the cabin for days on end. The only problem is, Daniel keeps insisting he’s not gay, but Noelle suspects his feelings for his best friend run far deeper than he’ll admit…

Coming into an established series in the middle is always a dangerous practice. If too much backstory is left out, a reader is left wondering what’s going on. If too much is put in, it often gets dry and dull while the reader waits for the story to pick up. I knew I was taking a risk by finally getting around to reading this story.

As far as I can tell (and I could be wrong because I haven’t read anything else in this series), this is Noelle’s first story. She might have been introduced in an earlier book, along with her conflict regarding Daniel and Jake. I don’t know. I do know that it feels very much like walking into the middle of the movie. The author attempts to fill in the details of the extensive paranormal world she’s created somewhat early in the story, and for the most part, I think she succeeds. But where it’s less successful is providing necessary background to the main characters themselves, specifically Daniel and Jake. It would have been easier to accept the holes I had regarding their motivations and the like if I was more invested in them – and Noelle – as characters. But unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

It started with my distrust and dislike for Noelle. The story is told in 1st person from her POV. On the very first page, there’s this:

I was intrigued by her sex life. My little sister had leashed two shapeshifters, a rare feat in and of itself. But even more amazing was that, by all accounts, these men were not only gorgeous, but they had been lovers before she leashed them. I’d spoken to Meg myself on the phone on Thanksgiving before the family sat down to dinner. Although my sister was notoriously close-mouthed about her personal life -- when she had one -- I’d gotten enough to know that yes, the men were not only involved but that now all three of them were in a sexual relationship. Two men. My little sister had two men.


If she could, could I?

This is pretty much the introduction to Noelle. There’s no mention of the men, or her feelings, until after this. In fact, the paragraph prior to this is all about Noelle and her family as well. This makes the entire scene that follows, where she calls the men, drops in uninvited, and gets herself stuck with them, feel very calculated and manipulative. Without knowing anything else about Noelle, I get a sense that this is all about one-upmanship for her. That, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. There’s certainly enough romances out there that start out in that vein, only to grow into something more. But it didn’t work here for me, mostly because I don't think that was the intent. I disconnected emotionally from Noelle, especially since it just seemed that all she really liked about Daniel was that he was the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen.

Daniel also presents a problem. From the beginning, he is sullen and resentful. I can’t for the life of me figure out what there is to like about him. He clearly doesn’t want Noelle around when she arrives, and the sense that she’s intruding on the two men’s lives together – they live together as platonic best friends – hangs heavily through all their early scenes. Even when Noelle starts to put her plan into motion and seduces Daniel, he takes forever to rise above his bad temperament to reach a place where I could even start to like him. It’s not that I think Daniel was ever a bad guy or anything, but his feelings for Jake are clear from the get-go, and Noelle always feels like a third wheel, even after everything has supposedly been sorted out between them.

The story’s strengths never seem to overcome my inability to engage with two of the three main characters. Though there are some minor editing issues with missing words and the author has a propensity for exclamation points that annoys me, the prose is relatively smooth and easy to read. The sex scenes are reasonably hot, as well. It’s just never quite enough to compensate for how manipulated Noelle made me feel.

Readability

8/10 – Minor editing issues and an overuse of exclamation points pull me out of what could have been very smooth prose

Menage

3/10 – The sex is hot, but I didn’t believe the romance or invest in the trio in the slightest

Characterization

7/10 – Developed all right for the length of the story, but two of the three are incredibly unlikable for more than half the story

Entertainment value

4/10 – I spent most of the story disliking two of the three characters and feeling incredibly manipulated.

World building

7/10 – The author does what she can to explain the heavyduty paranormal aspects of her world, but for new readers to the series, it’s clunky and leaves a lot of questions unanswered

TOTAL:

29/50

6 comments:

gaia19 said...

I am a fan of the authors, but this isn't something I'd read. Your review touches on everything I don't like to read about. Funny though, the author won a EPPIE award for this story.

Book Utopia Mom said...

It just proves different strokes for different folks. What's a bugaboo for me isn't for others. Or maybe the judges had read the other stories in the series and that colored their opinions. Who knows?

gaia19 said...

You touched on upon the editing issue. I wonder if that's a big deal with the EPPIE judges?

I can't remember who else was nominated in that category. I was happy when she won, though. Hopefully it was the best story that won.

Book Utopia Mom said...

I know I'm hugely picky about errors in the text, so it could be that I noticed things that the judges didn't. In this story's case, it was missing words. Usually prepositions, the occasional possessive. Those are harder to catch because a lot of people skip right over them when they're reading. At least it wasn't spelling mistakes and huge things like that.

And the exclamation point overuse is a personal icky thing for me. I hate them. I don't mind a couple scattered throughout a story, but too many makes it look like overcaffeinated text messaging. But I know that's a me thing.

Gabrina said...

Have you ever thought about being an editor?

Book Utopia Mom said...

Never seriously. I don't have any training in it other than what I did in college for papers and the like. I fear, too, that it would spoil my love of reading.