Friday, September 26, 2008

The Consolation Prize by Barbara Elsborg

TITLE: The Consolation Prize
AUTHOR: Barbara Elsborg
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 62k)
GENRE: Paranormal erotic romance
COST: $6.99

Chloe Lord has lost out on the recognition and promotion she deserves, but as a consolation prize, she is offered a four-day spa treatment at the Sunset Spa, which just so happens to be in the childhood home where she lost her entire family to a fire. She doesn’t want to go, but her sixth and a half sense, voices who have helped her throughout her life, refuses to let her ignore it. She doesn’t just find memories in Washburn Hall; she finds a naked man bound in chains. She can’t just leave him there, but little does she realize he’s a vampire and prey to a plot that will lead inevitably to his death…

The first book I read by Ms. Elsborg made me laugh out loud. Though this one looked like it might be darker, it was a treat to find rather quickly that the humor I appreciated in her Ellora’s Cave release was alive and kicking in this one. Or undead and kicking, at least. The author’s greatest strength for me is infusing her characters with a sense of humor, as well as her prose, that persists even when situations turn dire.

Where this book isn’t quite as strong as the first I read rests in the plot itself. Chloe’s sixth and a half sense are voices that compel her to do things against her will. Starting with the end of chapter three, there are mini-conversations among these voices that are probably meant to be cute, but the entire effect of them feels cloying. It strips Chloe of some of her power as they drive her through the plot. It’s not Chloe acting; it’s Chloe reacting to their commands, and more than once I wanted to shout at them to tell them to shut up. They start doing it with Luka, too, which only compounded the effect. It makes both of them look incapable of acting on their own.

It doesn’t help that when the plot gets stuck, something swoops in out of the blue to push it through the block. There’s at least two instances of deus ex machina in the action of the last quarter that just made me roll my eyes and think, “Well, that was convenient.” Again, it takes away any credibility Luka or Chloe might have that they can resolve their own issues. And I didn’t want that credibility taken away. I liked them. I just didn’t think they were altogether with it.

It makes the story uneven at best. It hurtles at a fun pace for a section, then gets yanked dead in its tracks by one of these moments. This sort of start and stop makes it difficult to engage in the romance, especially when the whole issues of mates gets introduced out of nowhere. The author’s voice does a lot to compensate for that, but in the end, it’s just not enough to make this anything but an average read for me.


8/10 – When the author lets her humorous voice shine, I’m in love.


7/10 – Likeable but more than a little thick


7/10 – She and Luka pretty much deserve each other.

Entertainment value

6/10 – The voices never worked for me, and the inclusion of at least two moments of deus ex machina in the last quarter weaken the entire story.

World building

7/10 – There’s a lot of vampire lore in this that’s specific to this world, and it’s not always disseminated in graceful ways.



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