To Burn
by Claudia Dain, historical (2002)
Leisure, $5.99, ISBN 0-8439-4985-6

Claudia Dain's To Burn makes me feel as if I have been smashing my head against a wall for two hours straight, and dang, it really hurts.

Wulfred the Saxon and his merry men of murderous Stooges have sacked, ransacked, and killed pretty much everybody in Melania's happy Roman hometown. Now he has Melania and her staff at his mercy. What to do, what to do? Fight, hiss, bicker, fight, lust, lust, love, ooh.

Well, I guess I have summed up the story. Claudia Dain, in my opinion, is one of the best authors to have come out of the Leisure/LoveSpell house (in fact, I doubt she can thrive in any other publishing house, given the current homogeneity in some publishing houses I can mention). She takes the time to draw complex, real characters, but all that is missing in To Burn. In the end, these two characters are together only because the author says so. I don't see any spark or real chemistry.

The repetitious monotony of hate/want/hate/want soon wear really thin, and I begin to tune out. The problem here is that the author has really created two characters who are too much at the polar opposites, and then she somehow concentrates on monotonous hate-love battle of wills instead of trying to make those two characters find any common ground. Wulfric's fellow Saxons may be killing machines, but they are also amazing psychic people who can complete each other's sentences. Amazing. It is as if Ms Dain breaks up a paragraph and assigns a sentence to each of the Saxon Stooges, creating a dwarf chorus effect. Hi-ho! Hi-ho! It's a Disney cartoon, folks! (With scenes of PG-13 rated violence, that is.)

To Burn does shows some glimpses of amazing prose and characterization the author displays with more flair in her previous books (two of the three I've given keeper status, I'm rather embarrassed to admit, as I have a reputation to maintain). Disappointment is too mild a word to describe my reaction to this book.

In fact, in the dedication, the author thanks a Mr Tom for "rescuing this manuscript from the ashes of the fire." Gah. If you ask me, they should've let this baby burn and let Claudia Dain do a rewrite instead. To Burn, this doesn't.

Rating: 65

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