by Marcia King-Gamble, contemporary (2000)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-104-9
Illusions Of Love has the potential to be an interesting romance between two people who have mastered the art of hiding their true selves from people. But when the dreaded romance stereotypes start appearing, ugh.
Creed Bennett is a Master Illusionist that eclipses even David Copperfield when it comes to fame and all. But once, he was the son of an abusive drunkard who learns to survive and even thrive by playing the fool for others' amusement. It is only natural that he grows up to be a world-class magician.
Syla "Call me Skye" Walker has a lousy childhood too. She was once fat and she wears braces. She can't fit in and thus spends her entire childhood days bullied, teased, and alienated. Now, she grows up into a beautiful woman with perfect proportions and my, she is even a top gun journalist.
Their paths collide when Creed makes a homecoming visit, and Skye pegs him as a main suspect in a case involving several missing women, among the latter Skye's cousin. But when they see each other, ka-bam! The clothes fall off faster than one could say "Holy smoke!"
There is so much potential in this story. Skye and Creed can be so much more a fascinating character. Themes like disguises and being true to each other could be explored. Instead, what I get is another one of those Lemme break my work ethics without much qualms and shag the murder suspect romances favorite of Arabesque.
And the main conflict? A very disappointing "I'm not pretty, so I don't trust you no matter how much you keep chasing me and doing that to my erogenous zones!" drama from Skye.
All that build-up of characterizations, just for a petty ego-boost-for-heroine conflict? What a waste.
Still, what's left is a pretty ordinary but rather entertaining read. When Skye isn't trying too hard to be a Poster Girl for insecurity - obviously she's a vampire that can't see her reflection in the mirror, because she doesn't think she's pretty when she has this body that could make Barbie weep - she is a very likeable and witty heroine. When Creed isn't trying hard to be the cardboard flawless Romeo of the Century, he hints at intriguing inner conflicts the author never develops.
That's the main problem with Illusions Of Love. So much potential, so much promises, only for me to realize that these are all illusionary. This one is just another one of those broken-work-ethics romance typical of Arabesque, with little effort done to make it stand out from its sisters in the market.
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