Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dark Side of Dreaming by Ann Bruce

TITLE: Dark Side of Dreaming
AUTHOR: Ann Bruce
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 31k)
GENRE: Erotic romantic suspense
COST: $5.20

Ex-thief Cleo Moran has come out of retirement to steal a statue that once belonged to her family. The only problem is, the man she intends to rob is just as smart and savvy as she is. Foiling her burglary is simple. Letting her just walk away is not…

Don’t ask for a better blurb than that. I read this novella through twice and still don’t know what happened in big chunks of it.

It doesn’t start out badly. There’s a one-page prologue of a harrowing dream that hints at a suspenseful ride ahead. But then it turns left into Cleo’s foiled heist, and the story stumbles into forced chemistry and confusion as we meet the owner of her would-be prize, Sasha Michaels. Sasha sends her along her way, but when Cleo gets home, she’s attacked by someone who expects her to have successfully taken the statue. She fights him off, but Sasha shows up and won’t leave her alone, convinced her attacker is the same one who attacked his sister.

The story only gets more convoluted from there. The problem is, none of it really gets explained. The whole first half of the story is primarily Cleo and Sasha fighting – and losing the battle with – their attraction. We have no history on either of them, and no sense of personality, so essentially they’re just bodies going through the motions. I felt nothing for either of them, and the sex wasn’t unique or hot enough to compensate for that lack of connection. They each have reasons to want the statue, but their POVs dance around what those issues are. It’s probably meant to be suspenseful and surprising as a result. It’s not. It’s annoying and distances me even further from cardboard characters who could’ve used a dose of something interesting to keep me engaged.

The plot starts picking up about two-thirds of the way through the story, but while the pace quickens, the jumps get bigger. The author has a bad habit of mentioning characters by name in ways that assume prior knowledge, but in effect only leave me scratching my head. For instance, the attacker gets named on page 79 (out of 109), identified by name in casual conversation between Sasha and Cleo, but not once mentioned by name prior to that for the reader to go, “Aha! That’s who the bad guy is!” All it accomplished was to make me think I’d missed something, and then go back, re-read, and then do a search on the name to see if I was being foolish and/or blind. There’s even more instances of it after this, but that ends up spoiling what are meant to be surprises (but actually come across as sloppy plotting). The ending is as unsatisfying as the whole first half.

For a novella, it felt interminably long. For suspense, that’s the kiss of death for me.


4/10 – Lack of explanation, huge leaps in the plot that came out of nowhere, and flat characterizations made this a real chore


3/10 – Definitely alpha, but lacks any kind of depth to make him interesting


4/10 – Without knowing more about who she was or why anything was important to her, she’s just a figure on a chase

Entertainment value

3/10 – Sloppy plotting and poor characterizations make this memorable for all the wrong reasons

World building

4/10 – In spite of an intriguing beginning, any sense of time and place is sacrificed for the sex



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