When I Wake
by Rachel Lee, contemporary (2000)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-60655-3

Never mind the appearence of some ancient and supposedly magical mask called the Storm Mother. When I Wake is a strictly by-the-book romantic suspense, adhering to the formula known only to probably a zillion romantic suspense authors out there.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. Take a dysfunctional, whiny heroine whose existance is to be miserable because of her mission to please Mom and Dad. Meet Veronica Coleridge, the latest in the Les Miserables heroines from this author. She has lost her hearing, her husband, her child, her mom, and oh, her dad is dying. Anyway, the dying Dad has to deal with his depressed daughter - pathetic, if you ask me, as it should be the other way around - by sending her on a wild-goose chase over the Mask that may have caused her mother's death.

(No, I'm not making this up, by the way. It's the plot! I guess it's cheaper than therapy, what with Daddy's upcoming funeral costs and all.)

Dugan Gallagher is the unfortunate hero stuck with babysitting our miserable heroine. He's a salvage expert who is bagged on board to help Veronica find the mask.

There are attempts at decent soul-baring conversation between these two, but Veronica's insistence on feeling self-pity for herself can be irritating. I've lost count of how many times I want to shake her and ask her to snap out of her doldrums. She needs therapy or at least a two-hour session on a 900-number line, not gallivating around looking for mythical archaelogical treasures.

If the romance is pretty watery, the suspense is worse. The villains are like cackling Yomesty Sams and Marvin the Martians in Gucci suits, with all the strategem capabilities of Wild E Coyote. And somehow Veronica could still get into trouble with these buffoons. Young people.

The only bright spark in this story is Dugan, which is a decent, rugged fellow one could sure use around in moments of danger. WIW is well-written, but the formula of depressed heroine + cackling villains is really getting old.

Rating: 72

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