Monday, March 30, 2009

Strange New World by Jennifer Colgan

TITLE: Strange New World
AUTHOR: Jennifer Colgan
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 18k)
GENRE: Paranormal erotic romance
COST: $3.50

A man who walked through an electric fence unscathed. A woman trying to discern the potential threat of a new weapon. Two people caught in a deadly race for freedom. Dr. Martina Sanchez is assigned to investigate the effects the beam of Acheron has had on Chase Calder, but when she discovers a plot to kill him to hide the evidence he’d present, she decides she has no choice but to help him escape. Now, they’re both in danger…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

Finding action-packed, tightly plotted stories in short formats is difficult, especially in the romance genre. The shorter format is misunderstood by a lot of authors anyway, who don’t understand the different demands lower word counts make on a story’s construct and pacing. It’s hard to do well. So when I find stories that actually manage to excel at plotting and pace, it’s a joy, even if other elements don’t always work as well.

Chase Calder is out shooting pictures of Nevada when he experiences a freak storm and then blacks out. He wakes up strapped down in a hospital bed, in what is clearly an institutional facility, with the beautiful Dr. Martina Sanchez looking him over. Unbeknownst to him, he’s been exposed to a new weapon that has never been tested on higher life forms, and now, it’s manifesting in very odd ways. For instance, he can phase in and out of places, which explains why he was able to get through the electric fence surrounding the compound without breaking it or getting hurt. It takes no time at all for the general in charge of everything to see Chase’s continued survival as a threat to his new weapon’s viability, and when Martina overhears his intentions, she knows there is only one thing she can do – get Chase to safety. The ensuing action is briskly paced, tautly described, and increasingly breathless to read. By the time the pair reach a modicum of safety, the bulk of the story is gone and time has disappeared. I was left salivating at the prospects of what was to come, and then…it kind of fizzled out.

See, one of the elements within the story that didn’t work as well for me was the romance. From the moment she meets him, Martina harbors sexual thoughts about this gorgeous man, even at times when it seems hugely inappropriate to do so. It’s the one distraction to the action that propels the story, and it got to the point where I almost wished they wouldn’t hook up. It makes a little more sense for Chase to have some of the same thoughts because he never really understands the full extent of what is going on, but Martina has no excuse. For someone so dedicated to what she was doing, the sexual thoughts and reactions felt forced and lessened my acceptance of her as a character. With that in mind, however, I did find the last couple paragraphs of the story an absolutely perfect way to end it. It nearly made up for some of my misgivings about the early preoccupation with sex. Nearly.


9/10 – Tautly paced and vibrantly described


7/10 – Strong, resilient, and smart. I liked him a lot.


5/10 – I found her a little less believable than the hero, as her constant thinking about sex in the midst of all the danger seemed out of place.

Entertainment value

7/10 – I loved the action part of it, though the preoccupation of sex at inopportune times made the romance wear thin.

World building

7/10 – Explanations for the weapon and its effects aren’t as in depth as I would like, but the action makes up for it.



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