Eternally Yours
by Jennifer Malin, paranormal (2002)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-13238-1

Off - something is off with Jennifer Malin's Eternally Yours. It's not a bad book, but it just cannot hold my interest. The characters are as flat as pancakes run over by a steamroller. There's a ghost too, but the ghost is irritating.

Lara Peale, a teacher, is renovating her house. The house once belonged to a bad Don Juan wannabe called Geoffrey Vereker who writes rather silly prose. (Silly, of course, is my opinion. Lara thinks that prose like "Pray put me out of this wretched state of unfulfilled desire. Open your petals to embrace me, and our love will flourish fully, as Nature intended." is oh so romantic. If someone writes like that in a note to me, I'd suggest rehab to that fellow. But hey, that's just me.) She also is recovering from a bad divorce from a control freak dude, so she's wary of men like Mark Vereker.

Mark, a descendant of Geoffrey, is a historian who somehow also makes money out of his career. Oh, Mark, I see those historian professors in Yale are sharpening their stakes in pure envy. Mark meets Lara when he visits her to ask her to join him in some preservation of old houses movement.

Their meeting will forever be recorded for posterity in the Annals of Trite Love Meetings. She is dressed in skimpies and dishabille, how convenient, and she is ooh, so shocked that a man like Mark isn't a geriatric old coot. Yeah, I know - old coots cannot appreciate shapely thighs, because they have no libido, much less a packet of ever handy Viagra in their pockets.

Geoff is a ghost who can't decide whether to destroy Mark and Lara's budding relationship or give his ghostly blessings, however much those are worth. Of course, Geoff is stuck in limbo thanks to some curse that can only be broken when Mark's dingaling joins Lara's dungalong in some true love thing, so Mark and Lara better get those thingalings joining right away.

Thing is, Mark has issues too against divorcees, such as that woman who dumped him to return to her ex (say, is this woman one of those many heroines in another contemporary romance novel?). Oh, what to do?

Well, as premises go, this is not a bad one, even if the execution is nothing original or impressive. But Mark is flat, so is Lara (except her chest). Geoff is insubstantial a character as well as ghost. Their dialogues don't ring real - rather contrived and stilted too many times, really - and their actions seem to be done to accommodate the plot. There's no "natural flow" of characterization or plot.

As a result, Eternally Yours feels artificial and stiff. Reading it is like having tea with a mannequin - it gets boring real fast.

Rating: 52

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