Monday, May 11, 2009

Deja Vu Lover by Phoebe Matthews

TITLE: Déjà Vu Lover
AUTHOR: Phoebe Matthews
PUBLISHER: Wild Rose Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 71k)
GENRE: Reincarnation romance
COST: $6.00

April isn’t exactly driven in her life. When her three best friends finished college, she dropped out in order to stay with them. With a small inheritance, she’s able to pay enough bills to keep a roof over her head without worrying too much about finding a full-time job. And men don’t seem to stick. So when she blacks out on a Seattle street corner and imagines herself back in the life of a young struggling actress, complete with horrific death, she has no idea what to do with it. The notion of a past life is totally foreign to her. Except it happens again, and again, introducing her to this woman’s love life as well. Then, she meets a man in the present day who smiles exactly like the man in the past. Her heart trips. And she can’t help but bring herself to find out if the doomed love affair she keeps reliving can be rekindled…

For anyone who actually pays attention to my scoring rubric, you’ll notice that there’s a slight deviation from the norm. I’ve specified heroes, in the plural. Don’t worry, that doesn’t make this a ménage. But with the exploration of the heroine’s past life, there ends up being multiple heroes in this unusual romance instead of the usual one.

I call this unusual, mostly because all the way until the very last chapter, I wasn’t actually sure it was a romance. This is the story of April, told in 1st person from her perspective, as she experiences her first past life flashback and then what she conceives as her first love. In spite of the rather grim memory that sets all this into motion, there is a whimsy to the entire story that perfectly reflects its narrator. April is a little bit ditzy, a little bit irresponsible, a whole lot ethereal. She lacks direction and thus just kind of floats along in her life, anchored only by her more responsible friends, or two of them, at least. She’s the kind of character that could get annoying very fast if her characterization wasn’t so delicately handled, but instead, she comes across as sweet and charming in that forgetful kind of way that reminds me of an early Goldie Hawn. It wasn’t long at all until I was just as devoted to her as her friends, so it was very easy to get swept along into her story.

As April discovers more of this previous life, her friends become increasingly involved. They try a regression group first, then start helping with more practical matters such as the logistics of this young actress April supposedly was. Throughout all this, April falls head over heels for Graham Berkold, a professor who she is convinced is Laurence, the actress’ lover. Graham is older, more worldly, and oops, married, but they start an affair that leaves April gasping for breath. Her friends worry about her, for good reason, because soon, April is making the same mistakes her previous self did, and the tale begins to take on a car crash mood. You know what I mean. The kind of mood where you can see the accident on the horizon, and know it’s inevitable, and scream at the driver to avert it, but he’s either deaf or you’re mute because you’re stuck in this track, no matter what. It’s a sense of inevitability that swirls and grows and leaves a big knot in the pit of your stomach. That was how I was left feeling as I watched April travel this path. Because I could see every mistake she was making, but was powerless to stop it.

I said at the top of this review that I wasn’t sure while I was reading that this was a romance, but it is, complete with an HEA that made me delightfully happy. It was the ending I was rooting for throughout the story, though didn’t honestly think I could get. I do think more could have been done to give it more of an emotional impact, because so much is spent on winding April up, some things fall to the wayside. But that’s a minor flaw for me in an otherwise incredibly enjoyable read. I plan on buying this one in print, that’s how much I enjoyed it.


9/10 – Occasionally, the transitions to her previous life memories weren’t terribly smooth, but I got so sucked into this, I couldn’t stop.


7/10 – Impossible to delineate any one personality for this score, the lower number is due to likeability rather than flatness


9/10 – Ditzy and free-spirited and a disaster waiting to happen

Entertainment value

9/10 – Delightful even as gradually gets darker and darker

World building

9/10 – The only place that didn’t feel as real to me was the present day Seattle, surprisingly enough



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