by Vivien Dean, time-travel (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 1-59578-321-0
Price Of A Tattooed Soul is a story that has a nice build-up, getting me excited for more... and then it doesn't really go anywhere for a long time and finally ends with an anticlimatic fizzle.
The story promises to be an interesting one. Lydia Nicholls has an unusual thirtieth birthday. Every year since she was eighteen, at the exact time of her birth she will receive a mysterious birthday present - a music box and a piece of paper with what seems like a line from a poem. On her thirtieth birthday, she receives another music box, but this time paper has a name instead of a line of poetry - Delaney Michael Wessner. She realizes that all thirteen pieces of paper when placed in order results in a poem. Reading it aloud to the music box playing in the background makes Lydia feel dizzy and... woosh! She wakes up in a strange cabin in the wilderness with a hunk named Del. Yes, it's that Del and he has a fantastic story about knowing her through his dreams and summoning her to him by magic. Oh, and she's no longer in the present day. She's now in Montana and the year is 1894.
Time travel stories usually requires some suspension of disbelief on the reader's part when it comes to the easy adjustment to the new time period of the character that has traveled through time. However, Price Of A Tattooed Soul doesn't allow me to suspend my disbelief because Lydia actively seeks answers to her current situation from Del. Fair enough. However, once Rus and Lydia settle down, the middle portion of the story sees them dealing with adventures like mean white guys making life hard for Del's buddies, the Native American locals from the Kootenai tribe. Once Lydia agrees to stay with Del for a month, she becomes content to let questions go unanswered for the time being.
Therefore, this story brings up the questions I am willing to overlook in order to enjoy it, and then plagues me by not answering these questions until too late in the story. The middle portion of the story deals mainly with sex and some external problems that are pretty mundane compared to the fantastical premise. I find myself wondering when all the magic will come into play. For a long time, apart from the time-travel thing and Del's initial mentions of magic, this story could easily be any generic time-travel tale.
Lydia is an interesting heroine: she's smart, she can clearly take care of herself although she's understandably out of her league sometimes, and she has a sense of humor with no bizarre hang-ups about sex and bad ex-boyfriends that I could normally expect from a romance heroine. Del, on the other hand, is a character I find very problematic because much of the story is as long as it is because of his keeping secrets from Lydia. He drags her over from her time and does all he can to get her to stay with him for a month, hopefully longer, so the least he can do is to answer her questions, no? Fortunately, Lydia knows this and tells it straight to him. Unfortunately, this happens late in the story when she should have set him straight early on and avoid most of the guessing games which she (and me) has to play in this story.
Now, I really want to like this story more because there are some really interesting ideas in here. Unfortunately, after that very intriguing set-up involving music boxes and the concept of a man so lonely that he ends up summoning a woman through time to him, the story fizzles out into a Western romp that isn't so magical after all as well as a story about a woman trying to crack open the hero's head to get some answers. Late in the story some magical stuff finally happens, but by then the momentum is already dissipated. The last few chapters are really good, as good as the first few chapters of this book, but most of the middle sees the author failing to get the most out of her setting. Price Of A Tattooed Soul is a pretty good story but it could have been so much better, I believe.
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