by Annie Dean, paranormal (2008)
Loose Id, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-629-3
My Valentine features characters that played second fiddle to the main characters in The Average Girl's Guide To Getting Laid, but this one is a starkly different story compared to that previous book. For one, while the previous book is a chick-lit type of story, My Valentine has a reincarnation theme with the story going back and forth between the couple in the past (1805 onwards) and that in the present.
We have Ren and Beatrice in a charmingly unorthodox relationship involving plenty of alcohol and the fallout that still rocks their world years down the road. Ren overhears on his sixteenth birthday that his father and his mistress have murdered his mother. Fortunately it's free flow of drinks for everyone at the party. Beatrice is also getting drunk because of her upcoming nuptials to some duke, and she ends up being that fat girl that ended up sleeping with the football star only to be humiliated once the magic is over and sobriety returns. By the way, I should probably point out that there are some rather modern-sounding dialogs here that may not appeal to readers who like as much historical accuracy as possible in their historical romances. Given the length of this part of the story and the fact that this isn't a historical romance per se, I personally don't find this matter a big deal and it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of the story, but some readers may beg to differ.
In the present, we have of course Darnell Valentine and Maya Hanoush. Darnell has always been infatuated with Maya but Maya has always preferred to view Darnell as a friend. However, she starts having all these strange dreams about the folks that the reader will know as Ren and Beatrice, although of course she doesn't know that. As she tries to put together what her dreams mean, she will naturally come to view Darnell in a different light.
This is a more ambitious and even experimental story compared to Ms Dean's previous books, but I have to say that I vastly prefer the story of Ren and Beatrice and I really wish that the author has devoted more space to them or, better still, let this story be exclusively about them. Despite my soft spot for geeks, I find Darnell a bit of a bore. While Maya is a more lively character compared to the sweet but dull Darnell, I find Ren and Beatrice's dysfunctional relationship much more compelling, mostly because Ren makes a very nice tortured hero. He's quite like a well-drawn hero by Anne Stuart if I have to make any comparison. My opinion of Beatrice is really clouded by a silly stunt she pulled by the end of the first part of this story, one which seems geared solely to create some conflict rather than being anything in character for her. Hmm, come to think of it, perhaps I will like this book better if this is a time-travel romance where Maya goes back in time and hooks up with Ren while Beatrice and Darnell can find each other and make goo-goo eyes at each other at the sidelines.
For me, Ren makes this story because he's easily the most interesting character of the four main players. There's something about him that appeals to the hussy in me that has such a lamentable weakness for bad boys in need of some TLC. On the whole, My Valentine is a pretty good read, but because it is actually two stories interwoven and compressed together into one single volume, I can't help feeling that I am shortchanged when it comes to the more interesting story.
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