Monday, 5 May 2008

‘Hellbent & Heartfirst’ – Kassandra Sims (Tor Books)


My journey into the previously unexplored sub-genre of ‘paranormal fantasy’ begins with the tale of an aid-worker that falls for a mysterious Texan with a line in breaking curses and killing demons. Soul searching, side ways glances and magic ensues and I was left wondering just what the difference between ‘paranormal romance’ and ‘urban fantasy’ actually is, they both look the same from where I’m sitting…
It’s made very clear right from the start that our heroine, Jacyn Boaz, really needs a man. Not only is she divorced but her work as an aid worker (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) has depressed her to the extent that she is ‘mentally and physically exhausted’. I sometimes miss obvious stuff in books but even I found myself telling Jacyn that she really needs to settle down with someone nice! That someone turns out to be Jimmy Wayne, a Texan made up of every stereotype and cliché you can think of. Go on; think of a cliché… Yep, that’s Jimmy Wayne. What follows is a kind of dance where they get to know each other for a couple of hours and then tear each other’s clothes off on a regular basis. I felt like I was reading Laurell K. Hamilton all over again…
I yelled at the book, telling the two characters to get a room. They promptly booked into a hotel…
Call me old-fashioned but is this actually romantic? I’m working on the assumption that the term ‘romantic’ is being used to describe the target audience rather than the book itself. Lines like the one below back up what I’m saying,

‘Jacyn thought that he was probably the source of original sin, or at least had sent several women straight to hell just by existing.’

I have to thank Kassandra Sims for that line, not only did it make me laugh out loud but it also confirmed some of my worst suspicions about this book…
Oh yes, there’s a demon hunting sub-plot going on at the same time. Well, that’s what I was told but I had trouble finding it among all the soul searching and introspection that was going on. While this may be good solid stuff for a ‘paranormal romance’ fan I found myself tuning out after a while the result of this being that something big would happen and I’d have no idea how things arrived at that point!
I’m one book into this week and I have to say that I am dreading my next read if it is anywhere near as turgid as the book I have just put down. A ‘romance’ that isn’t romantic or an ‘urban fantasy’ with no plot to speak of? I can’t make my mind up and, to be honest, I’ve got better things to do…

Two out of Ten.

(If you're a fan of this sub-genre and look for all this stuff, that made me want to curl up in a ball, then this book is a respectable 'Seven handsome Texans out of Ten'. I didn't like it but I reckon you will.)

5 comments:

kendall said...

ROFL! Great review! The book sounds more "paranormal romance" from your description, and sure enough, that's how it's being marketed.

I agree there seems to be overlap in these subgenres. I think of "paranormal romance" as being aimed squarely at women (like traditional romance novels)--romances (which I hear can get pretty steamy, like you describe) with fantastical or SF elements.

I think of "urban fantasy" as being aimed at fans of fantasy set in the present-day (well, a bit more than that, but I'm keeping it simple); maybe with some romance, maybe not (I can think of plenty without romance, or at least, not traditional romance).

Liane said...

Uh-oh... I don't think the rest of your experiment is likely to turn out much better, because that's pretty much what paranormal romance is. Some books will be better-written than others, some will emphasize the urban fantasy elements more... but this particular subgenre tends to be heavy on the sex and light on the chaste romance.

I did a brief foray into paranormal romance myself a few months back -- just enough to confirm that it wasn't really my bag. Marjorie M. Liu wrote the best of what I read, but even those tended to de-emphasize the fantasy/thriller plot in favor of the romance (and the fantasy plots had more than a few logic holes, as best I can recall, although none worse than what you'd find in straight fantasy).

Graeme Flory said...

Hey Liane,

I think I'm going to reach the same conclusion as you. Three more days to go and then I'm back to what I like reading best! :o) I've got two more books to read, not necessarily 'paranormal romance' but 'romance' nonetheless...

scooper said...

I love urban fantasy and paranormal romance. I hated this book. I hated it so much that I didn't even finish it. The paranormal romances I normally read are nothing like this compilation of cliches.

One of the best paranormal romance books I read was recently: Hotter After Midnight by Cynthia Eden. It's a paranormal romantic suspense and an altogether great story. I found no negative reviews of it either.

majikgodss said...

I swear there is GOOD urban fantasy. Kim Harrison (for example) is an awesome writer, for example--Read something from her for an example :)

Other paranormal romance authors mock LKH. There is a line in (Michelle Rowan's maybe)a book where the character is standing between a naked werewolf and a half-naked vampire and comments that she feels like Anita Blake--that always makes me laugh.