LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52442-2
Historical Romance, 2001
I usually enjoyed Anne Avery’s books in the past, so when I stumble upon Fire & Ice at the new arrivals shelf at the local Borders, I throw it right into the book basket of mine without checking the back cover. Yes, I’m really too trusting for my own good at times. As it turns out, Fire & Ice is one of the most headache-inducing reads I’ve ever encountered.
Not because it’s badly written. It isn’t. But because oh, since this is a Gothic-style romance set in the 1930’s America, we have the usual cast of characters: the bitter, cruel Aunt Ruth, the snarling, brooding hero Elliot, and our spineless doormat heroine Kate all holed up in a large, labyrinthine mansion. Kate’s there to hunt for her late mother’s diamonds to buy a bookshop (don’t ask), and Ruth and Elliot just don’t want her around. Elliot and Kate, however, can’t resist gob-smacking even if he is still bitter that Kate abandoned him faster than a hyperactive rat on a sinking ship when he was framed and incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit.
Thing is, I really believe the artist did a typo on the cover. I believe it’s not Fire & Ice but Fire & Malice really, because this book is bitter. Not bitter as in funny sarcastic bitter or even bitchy bitter. Just mean, vitriolic venom for venom’s sake, as Elliot and Ruth really rip apart Kate to pieces and Kate takes it all like a target practice for the local dung-slinging tournament. It’s not even funny, much less a compelling read, and after a while I have to poke my head out the window and take a deep breath just to clear my head of all the bitterness and bile in this story. Then at the late leg of the story, Elliot and Kate suddenly become the best of friends. It is as if some merciful divine being has waved a wand and ooh, it’s a different story altogether. I don’t buy it. Actually, I don’t even care, to be honest.
Fire & Ice is all nastiness, meanness, and bile with no levity to lighten up the miserable atmosphere. Excuse me, I think I may need to take up a drug habit just to feel good about myself again. Okay, I’m just joking about the drug thing. Don’t do drugs, kiddies, save up to buy porn or something instead. Ahem. Topic? Fire & Ice. Just not nice.