The Twilight Before Christmas
by Christine Feehan, contemporary/paranormal (2003)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-7628-X

Christine Feehan's fifth book for this year is actually a novella. But Pocket decides that readers are better off paying full-price for this book so that the author will be motivated to produce eight books next year for her fans. Ergo, The Twilight Before Christmas is published as a single full-length novel, large font, 284 pages, plus a "revealing" interview with the author added for all you readers out there that are just dying to know the answers to riveting questions like "How do the Carpathians celebrate Christmas?" and "Are the Feehan family's celebrations anything at all like the Drake sisters' holiday festivities?" I hope we can all remember amidst the fanfare that the Carpathians and the Drake sisters are really not real.

This is the second book of seven in the Drake sisters series. It is also the first book that sees Christine Feehan trying to diversify her repertoire by adding a romantic comedy element to the romance. It's a valiant attempt that's commendable, but unfortunately right now the author lacks the polish or the way with words to create humorous banters. The so-called banters in this book fall really flat. Lines like "Let's go shopping for groceries" and "Sounds good, I want to get home and put some decent clothes on" do not emit exciting romantic vibes like they should.

Kate Drake, a romance novelist the author says is half-inspired by Jayne Ann Krentz (calm down, Miss Krentz, really, put down that knife!), is a psychic sort. Like her sisters, she has returned home and now, Christmas is near and Kate decides that she wants to stay here in town. She buys the most eerie house in the place and plans to open a bookstore like every other heroine moving to small towns want to do. To only her surprise, the eerie house is located over some creepy crypt. Kate and Matthew Granite, our hero who is not a porn star but an ex-Navy SEAL despite what his name may suggest, must now solve the mystery that the seven Drake sisters of the previous generation fought to contain.

Oh, and apparently since all seven sisters are needed to fight the Great Evil that Threatens Christmas For Good, all seven sisters obligingly trot in for a roll call. I suggest that readers take a pen and write down all their names, because other than their names, all seven sisters are hopelessly nondescript and interchangeable.

Filled with clumsy repartees and often cringe-inducing attempt at comedy, The Twilight Before Christmas, like most of this author's books, has a really good idea but the execution is marred by stilted writing, shoddy lack of continuity between scenes, and clumsy characterization. Kate and Matt are pretty much cardboard cutouts reenacting some pretty hot love scenes. Matt is not an alpha male type by the way.

Given time, this author will find a way to polish her ideas into better written books, I hope. Right now, Christine Feehan is just pushing out half-baked ideas to her fans when she should be encouraged to work on her writing instead of starting three and four long-running series at the same time for three different publishers. At the rate she is going, her often very good ideas will never find a decent outlet and she is slowly turning into a fast food franchise equivalent of a romance author dishing out books that are more and more half-baked, underwritten, and sometimes even unreadable. Right now she's just another raw diamond being encouraged to churn out books as fast as she can by publishers. Can some kind agent please take the author under his or her wing and give her time and room to grow? At this point in time Christine Feehan is barely better than a typically awful self-published author, and frankly, a woman with her ideas deserve better than being turned into another worker ant for the publishing industry.

Rating: 60

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