Lover's Talisman
by Ashleigh Raine, paranormal (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-853-4

Lover's Talisman, I believe, was originally published by Ellora's Cave back in 2003. This current edition been expanded and revised although I have no idea whether it differs enough from the original version to be worth buying if you already have the previous edition.

Set in Talisman Bay (somewhere in Central California, I believe) and revolving around the bunch of spook squad folks called the Shadow Walkers, this one sees Stephan "Despite My Last Name, I'm Sure I'm Not A Gary Stu" Rashleigh the vampire slayer and exotic dancer Mariah DaSilva fighting evil, saving the world, et cetera, while locating her missing sister. Stephan is a Shadow Walker, which means he's the person that shows up when your house is being torched by a pyromaniac demon. These guys can communicate with each other telepathically, they have Peter Parker's spider sense, and they even have a HQ under an exotic goods store. He encounters Mariah when she dances at the club called Silver Twilight. Let's just say that she has his full attention the moment she walks onto the stage. Later when she is attacked by a horny demon, Stephan happens to be nearby to come to the rescue. What can I say? Must be fate.

The setting and mood of Lover's Talisman are comparable to the movie Men In Black, which is to say that this story is playful and tongue-in-cheek instead of being dark and angst-ridden. Speaking of Men In Black, the Shadow Walkers also come in contact with and can travel to other places to deal with spooky creatures up close and personal. Sure, the hero has some issues about being betrayed by someone he previously trusted as a comrade and he also believes that his job leaves him with no room in his life for relationships, but he's not going to flail around writhing in brooding angst like some Sherrilyn Kenyon hero here. Mariah has her own issues as well but like Stephan, she doesn't get too worked up over them here.

By the way, I have to warn readers that this book was initially written during the Ellora's Cave days of when love in a romance means you share the woman with your best friend or brother or pack mate or whatever, so there is a scene here involving Mariah, Stephan, and his brother. I have some mixed feelings about that scene because it doesn't really add anything to the story apart from titillation. I don't need that much titillation, thank you very much.

Still, this story is most entertaining. The story bounds along as our main characters encounter demons with some of the most comical names ever. Really, this is one story that is best appreciated when it is not taken seriously at all. Characterization isn't deep, but they are entertaining enough to carry the story. Besides, I have a good chuckle over some of the more playful scenes here that often poke fun at familiar and overused clichés in science-fiction action movies and TV shows.

While I can overlook the so-so characterization in this story and some of the more head-scratching plot developments here because I don't take this story too seriously, I do wish the author has developed the setting of Talisman Bay more. Oh, I know the Shadow Walkers are all gorgeous and hot, I am aware that they have telepathic powers and they deal with otherworldly folks from faraway places that ordinary people are not aware of, but these are just details inserted at various points in the story. If these details are pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and I try to piece the pieces together to figure out the big picture, I will realize that there are many pieces still missing.

Nonetheless, I find Lover's Talisman more than adequate as an entertaining read. Due to the superficial world-building and characterization, it is a fluffy kind of read, sort of like a silly action movie which I sit through with a big barrel of popcorns and a cup of soda to enjoy as long as I don't think so hard about the story or expect too much from it. This one is more campy and fun instead of sober and deep. Not that there is anything wrong with this, of course, as long as you don't go into this one expecting it to be Blade Runner instead of Men In Black or Ghostbusters.

Rating: 80

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