by Julieanne Reeves, contemporary (2012)
Hellsgate Publishing, $8.99, ISBN 978-0-615-67103-1
Do take note of the actual spelling of the book title - it's Razing Kayne and not Raising Cain - and the author's name - Julieanne Reeves, not Julianne Reeves. Normally it seems like career suicide to make a debut with both the name of the author and a title that most people will spell wrongly, but judging from the hype this book is getting, maybe that so-called "business common sense" thing doesn't always hold true.
Of course, it's up to you to decide whether it's a good thing or not that this book is hyped enough that it soon comes to my attention. Well, I'm down $8.99 and I can tell you this: $8.99 is actually pretty good value for money as this is a full-length story in trade paperback format (just two dollars more than the digital edition), but the story is... well, there's no beating around the bush about it - this book feels like it's written by an amateur.
First, the story. I don't know what that fellow is doing on the cover art - trying too hard to impress the Chippendales into hiring him, I guess - but the hero is Kayne Dobrescu, our State Trooper hero who is blue. You see, two years ago, he came home to find his two children dead, drowned by his wife who proceeded to shoot herself with his gun, and his other daughter went missing. Today, he's doing that lone wolf "ain't no birdie touching my heart" country song thing, but that changes when he catches Jessica Hallstatt for speeding and he realizes that he really wants her to touch his birdie after all.
Jess runs a home and raises some horribly precocious adopted brats on her own, one of them looking and behaving just like Kayne's missing daughter, but let's all pretend that we don't see the connection there and let Kayne and Jess work out that "puzzle" on their own. Meanwhile, the bad guy - easily identifiable by the fact that he's nowhere as attractive as the good people in this story - tries to cause trouble even as Kayne finds himself in a tangled plot of family drama that I don't even want to try to figure out here.
Let's start with the worst thing about this story: the persistent presence of those horrible, horrible brats. These aren't realistic brats in any way, they are more akin to stumpy matchmakers embodying the worst saccharine excesses of a Full House marathon. More disturbingly, our hero and our heroine never once think it unwise or unsafe to allow these brats cling to Kayne when he's just a stranger, invite that stranger into their home, and practically insist that Kayne become part of their lives. But if these brats are taught to be cautious around strangers, then they won't be standing at the front lines scheming to create situations that bring our main characters together, right? Worse, the authors try to be cute by having these midgets speak in oh so precious ways such as, "Maddy make breakfast. Say no tell mama." Nothing about these brats feel real, they are cardboard cut-outs marked "plot device sawed off at the knees". What's more disturbing is how creepy they can be. I won't be surprised if these brats secretly worship the Cryptkeeper and will one day stab their adopted parents to death as sacrifice to the dark gods.
Next will be the awfully convoluted plot that is almost a parody in how over the top it can be. There are even menacing Russians involved, bringing the plot close to Austin Powers territory. The author also practically screams into my ears early on that the creepiest midget plot device, Gracie, is Kayne's missing daughter, but lets her characters take their time to figure that out.
And then we have the main characters themselves. Actually, Kayne and Jess aren't that bad, they're just bland. Jess is written to be this fount of maternal affection for lost children and very little else. She cries when she hears of Kayne's Inception-style family skeletons, and she feels hurt every time she overhears Kayne say something that she considers to be a sign that they aren't meant to be. If there is anything else to her personality, I can't see it here. She's a flat crying mommy machine.
And then there's Kayne. Well, he's a standard tortured action hero, except that there are many moments when his thoughts seem to be those of a stereotypical bitchy woman. I also don't know whether he's immature or he thinks way too highly of himself when he assumes that Jess would get jealous should she realize that Kayne slept with his wife when the woman was alive. Personally, I would be more worried if he didn't sleep with his wife, but that's just me, I guess.
The romance doesn't fare any better, as it's mostly lust at first sight, complete with her "puckering nipples", interspersed with their thoughts about how their previous spouses were nowhere as amazing as their current objects of affection. Okay, Kayne thinking poorly of his wife is understandable, but Jess doing the same of her late husband is just unnecessary.
Finally, there are some... weird... things in the story. For example, Kayne knows of Hallstatt Hall, but he's surprised to learn that Jessica Hallstatt lives there. Jess listens to the police scanner, and in one scene, she learns that an accident happened earlier through this manner. And yet, when Kayne brings up that the accident happened at the same place where her husband died, she acts shocked and horrified. I think the author forgot at that point that she had Jess listening to the police scanner a while back.
And of course, nothing screams "amateur hour" more than the author making all the pretty people the good guys while the ugly people are the bad guys.
I can go on all day, but I think that would be overkill. Let's just say that Razing Kayne is very unpolished. I can see some glimmers here and there that the author might have something great here if she had toned down the overwrought narrative, kept the mystery plot simpler, and got rid of those horrible children that do not even pretend to be anything but horridly blatant matchmaker plot devices, but that doesn't change the fact that this book is probably best left in the author's drawer.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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