Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-0728-7
Paranormal Romance, 2010
Gwyn Cready returns with another hard-to-categorize paranormal romance, Aching for Always. It is perhaps easy to label this one as a time travel romance, but there are more paranormal elements to this story than mere time travel. The story also does not follow the structure of a romance novel, especially in that the hero and the heroine take a while before they come face to face with each other. And the plot is an interesting one. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
I don’t want to give too many details away, because the surprises held in store by the premise is the only thing this story has going for it, so I apologize in advance should my synopsis comes off as too vague or oblique.
The prologue is certainly a gripping one. In 1684, an unemployed naval captain and his crew bring a ragtag crew of folks to a rocky island. It seems like a typical gig despite the oddity of the location. Ten-year old cabin boy Monk however overhears the two male passengers plotting to kill the rest of the crew over something mysterious, something he can’t really understand at that time. The drama that unfolds culminates in him diving into the sea, taking with him the young daughter of the man who meant to kill them all. He actually means to save the girl, mind you. I don’t want to give away much about this prologue, because eventually the reader will realize that everything that happens in the rest of the story goes back to this prologue, so email me if you really want to know more about the prologue and you don’t mind being spoiled.
We cut to present day in the first chapter, which is when things go downhill to crash into the rock bottom and doesn’t fully recover. You know how I always said that I’d love to see a heroine who is smart enough for once to use her body to trade for favors? Well, meet Josephine “Joss” O’Malley. I really should be careful about what I wish for, because Joss services her fiancé in return for him giving her a loan of $60,000 to save her business.
My problem with this scenario begins with the fact that Joss is a moron. She is a classic example of a nitwit who graduated with a business degree from the University of Stupid Romance Novel Clichés. Her mother’s map-making company is folding, and she is desperate to keep it afloat because, you see, she doesn’t want to disappoint her late mother. And yet, she can’t bear to downsize the company as someone always has a kid who is dying of something, she doesn’t even know how much her company is in debt (an employee has to tell her), and she doesn’t seem to have tried any other avenue to raise the capital she needs. Okay, so you say that going down on one’s fiancé isn’t so bad, since they are about to get married anyway, and I agree. But we are talking about an idiot who is selling herself for money because she is too stupid to do anything else to save her company. I don’t care if Joss prostitutes herself to Tinky Winky or Barry Manilow – she’s a nitwit.
And the pattern continues throughout the whole story, so make sure you have a tolerance for dingbat heroines when you get this book to read. Weird things happen in this story, causing her to meet the hunky Hugh Hawksmoor, a man from the 18th century who has somehow come to the present. Joss will soon learn more about her past while Hugh and his companions are looking for… well, everything goes back to the prologue.
Hugh is a pretty nice hero especially due to his touching fidelity to duty and honor, although I won’t blame any reader who finds him to be on the lawful stupid side. That’s the problem with this story: Hugh and especially Joss can frequently behave like people who were kicked off from the short time-traveling bus. They keep things from each other unnecessarily, fail to see the obvious and therefore are often the last to know about something, and Joss doesn’t seem like a 21st-century woman at all. It’s not because Joss is stupid – she is – it’s because Ms Cready has drawn Joss up like a heroine who is more at home in a Harlequin Presents story. Joss is a virgin despite her tendency to put out in the name of martyrdom, she comes off as unbelievably neurotic when it comes to sex (seriously, you’d think it will kill her when Hugh sticks it in), and she has all these small little personality traits that make me wonder whether she’d been locked up in a basement of a Puritan household in the last twenty years. Hugh reacts to her like a Greek tycoon would in those Harlequin Presents stories – he may suspect Joss of many things, but once he realizes that she’s a virgin, he knows that she must be an innocent dove. After all, virgins don’t lie or do anything bad – the hymen clearly programs a woman to behave as long as it is intact!
The plot of Aching for Always isn’t generic or clichéd in any way, which is why it is an awful pity that Ms Cready opts to plop into the plot characters that could have walked straight out of the Ruthlessly Ravished for Revenge and Pregnancy by a Sheikh Greek Tycoon mad house. Reading this book makes me wonder whether I have traveled back in time to 1989. At any rate, the only thing I ache for when it comes to this book is a better execution of the promising plot.