by Candace Camp, historical (2003)
MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 1-55166-729-0
This book is set in Victorian England, but it may as well be Regency England. There are secret tunnels and ghosts and maybe even a hidden treasure, but the story is flat despite the mix of ghosts and possessions and seances thrown into the mix. Mesmerized is flat because the characters seem to come out of the most popular character cookie-cutter in the land and their actions and psychology are transparent and predictable.
Olivia Moreland (bluestocking, no interest in marriage, keen study of paranormal, eccentric and scholarly family members) investigates the psychic phenomena popular during the Victorian times and debunks most of them because she realizes that many of these psychics are fakes. Stephen, Lord St Leger, is annoyed when his mother starts buying everything a medium tells her and decides to see for himself if his mother is being fleeced by a con. He eventually ropes Olivia into her investigation, and to their dismay, they start seeing specters running around Stephen's country house. Predictably, they learn that they are psychically connected to some twelfth-century ghostly couple (star-crossed, she's married to an evil man, evil hubby killed them both and now they are wailing for attention - pathetic). And so they go.
Mesmerized is a readable story - the hero and the heroine make an enjoyable couple and the heroine isn't too stupid. There is no mercy stripping, silly misunderstandings, and other forms of painful torture. Readers that are fond of Amanda Quick kind of stories where the hero and the heroine fall in love as they work together to solve a mystery will like this one. But ultimately, there is nothing particularly original to make Mesmerized stand out. Although in a way this book does stand out because it's quite rare today to see an author faithfully writing formulaic historical romances when everyone else is scrambling for a piece of the romantic suspense or chick-lit money pie. Mesmerized is just a decent book, nothing more, nothing less.
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