by Jennifer Cloud, paranormal (2005)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 1-59578-158-7
When Itana Harkin was five, her mother cut her wrist and inserted a piece of silver one inch long and blessed by a priest beneath her skin. The reason for this ritual is simple if sinister: the silver keeps her husband away from her. Itana is a "half-breed" and she has been picked by an immortal, Veris, to be his bride even when she was a child. Therefore, technically she's his wife even if she has only seen him once and that was when she was a child. Having lived in fear that Veris will find her ever since she was a child, she now tries to stay under his radar while living like a normal human as much as she can. When she reaches thirty - which is five years from today - and Veris doesn't claim her, the contract or whatever it is that binds her to Veris will end and she will be free. All she can do is to be careful and patient.
Her neighbor Gershon is a stereotypical long-haired Fabio on Harley guy but I think I'm supposed to find him cute. No matter, Itana finds him cute and that's all that matters in the end. The two of them are attracted to each other but she's not going to be anything more than a friend and neighbor to him due to her current situation. However, Gershon has his own secrets.
What really impresses me about In The Flesh is how well-paced it is. The story isn't too long but Jennifer Cloud manages to convey very well the canon of her setting. This story could be considered an urban fantasy if we want to discuss labels, but there are stronger horror overtones here than a typical urban fantasy story. There is a very satisfying build-up and a grand confrontation of the bad guy towards the end along with love scenes too. Characterization isn't deep but it's enough to give me the impression that the characters are a little bit more than one-dimensional. Therefore, there is a pretty good balance between sex, story, and characters here.
I find the story more interesting than the romance though because Itana is pretty much a damsel-in-distress being led around and protected by Gershon in this story. She's not a typical sassy urban fantasy heroine and she doesn't kick butt, which isn't a bad thing at all. But she doesn't really do much of anything else in this story other than to be someone's wife and possession to be fought over by the macho guys banging heads in this story. Her romance with Gershon is typically a "You are my mate! I shag you! NOW!" kind of thing that I have encountered so many times before.
Therefore, the romance doesn't rank high on the memorability scale. However, In The Flesh is also a well-written and well-paced story with an interesting canon and some exciting action-horror moments. Nothing too scary or violent, of course, but it's still something that I don't come across every day and the fact that it's fun to read makes it all better.
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