Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reveal the Heart by Elaine Lowe

TITLE: Reveal the Heart
AUTHOR: Elaine Lowe
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 32k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $5.20

Hester Lowbridge has the incredible ability to decipher almost any language in existence. Her special talents are put to use by the American government during WWII, but when she is called in to help interpret for a man who nobody understands, she is stunned to recognize him from her erotic dreams. He responds in the same way, but when he calls her his mate, she doesn’t know what to think…

I have a small bone to pick with this story. Okay, a big one. I am not a reader who likes or chooses to come into a series after the first book if she can at all help it. I don’t like not knowing what happened before, so 99% of the time, if a book says it’s a sequel or part of a series to book(s) I’ve never read before, I don’t even bother reading the blurb. It’s generally a waste of my time, because I recognize that, as a reader, I am less likely to enjoy it. There was absolutely no indication with this story on the publisher website that it was a sequel. None. I got done reading this long novella and had such problems with the prose (and suspicions that I was missing something) that I went off in search of some answers. I found it on the author’s LJ of all places, a reference that this followed on in the same world as the author’s previous story, Enchant the Dawn. A book I haven’t read. And nowhere on that book’s page at EC’s site does it say it’s part of a series or that Reveal the Heart is its follow-up. And so I’m miffed, because I rely on this information to help me make informed choices. I regret that this is likely to seriously affect my buying at EC, because I just can’t trust their book pages anymore.

Maybe I wouldn’t be so miffed if the story was actually any good. It’s not. The characters are flat and/or stereotypical, the editing is sloppy (i.e., complement mistaken for compliment), and I can drive my minivan through all the plot holes. It all starts in the first chapter with some of the most awkward information dumps I’ve read, part of why I suspected I was reading about a world that had been written in a previous book:

That was her gift and her curse. Hester had always been good with languages. Her mother June had always thought that growing up in New York City under the watchful eyes of Mr. Giuseppe, an Italian baker, Ixchel, a Mexican seamstress and the countless other languages you run into while living in New York, well, she would have picked up a little here and a little there, so it wasn’t such an odd thing that she was fluent in five languages by the time she was six.

But whatever Daron and Sophia Hunter had done to her when they’d cured her asthma, well, it let loose that talent on a mighty extraordinary level. When Alan Lowbridge had driven into Tucson, Arizona, with his new bride and her six-year-old daughter, no one had thought anything odd of the family except that mother and daughter were strikingly beautiful.

That’s the first mention of any asthma and most of those people, and the run-on sentences border on incoherent. It’s like that throughout the story. Any time something needs to get explained, the reader is subjected to this type of awkward dump. The dialogue suffers as well. It turns out that the JD, or Jack as we learn his name is later on, can only communicate either by swearing or in song. That gets old really fast. Hester’s roommates come from Minnesota and New York, which means one is constantly saying, “don’t ya know,” while the other is in love with “ain’t” for everything, in spite of being an educated nurse. As for the plot, the mystery of JD’s communication issues just kind of gets resolved. Since this is a Christmas story, maybe I’m supposed to consider it some type of miracle of love.

The sound you hear is my eyes rolling. There’s a time and place for that sort of deus ex machina, but this storytelling is too sloppy to give it the benefit of the doubt this time. I really wish I had been warned that it was set in the same world as the other story; I never would have bought it or wasted my time.


5/10 – Awkward information dumps, cheesy dialogue, and homophone abuse made this incredibly hard to get through


5/10 – Flat, though at least he’s reasonably likable


4/10 – Never felt real, too reliant on awkward information dumps to explain character

Entertainment value

3/10 – If I had known this was a sequel, I never would have bought it.

World building

4/10 – The characters feel modern rather than period, and though some of the period details are nice, there are no decent explanations for anything outside of the awful information dumps



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