Key Of Light
by Nora Roberts, paranormal (2003)
Jove, $7.99, ISBN 0-515-13628-X

Listen up because I'm going to repeat this only once. Once upon a time, a god fell with a mortal. This mortal is kidnapped to the godly realm, where she fell with love with the horny god and live happily ever after, much to some of the other gods' disgust. They plot mayhem and betrayal, and the result is the three demigod daughters of these two falling in some sort of Sleeping Beauty slumber. Only three keys can wake these daughters up, and only three special women can find these keys. But they can only find the keys one at a time. The eldest woman will have 28 days to find the key. Then the next eldest will have her 28 days to find her key. And then, the last one. All three women must then come together with the keys to a special room and then the three demigodly princesses will be free from their curse. But should these women fail to find the key, they will lose one year of their life.

The clue to the whereabouts of this key? Of course, our Daddy and Mommy, in this case Pitte and Rowena, can't tell these women what to do. Rowena can only say, "You must seek beauty, and truth and courage. One alone can never stand. Two without the third is incomplete. Search within and know what you have yet to know. Find what the dark covets most, blah blah blah."

I tell you, Galandriel, Rowena ain't.

And seriously, what's with all this unnecessarily complicated nonsense? Don't these people ever learn? Just make one key to rule them all or something already! And shouldn't these gods at least try to make it simple if they want mortals to help them out?

But since Nora Roberts wants to sell me three books, never mind how silly the premise, so be it. Thus our first woman, Malory Price, begins her quest for the first key. She is invited one day to Pitte and Rowena's spooky big house at Warrior's Peak in Pleasant Valley, located in the mountainous region of Pennsylvania, where she learns the above story. She and two other women (Dana Steele and Zoe McCourt) learn of this story and they are offered a million dollars each of they succeed in finding the keys. Twenty five grand will be deposited in the bank account as a gesture of good faith if they agree to help Pitte and Rowena. Soon after, Malory loses her job as a manager of an art gallery. A little low on cash, she decides to look for the key. She has twenty eight days, and the clock is ticking.

Any veteran of silly romance novels filled with vague clues of "heart" and "truth" and "beauty" can testify that the only way to do things right is to have sex with a hot guy. Which, of course, is the only good reason to be a romance heroine in these sort of stories, if you ask me. Enter Dana's stepbrother, Michael Flynn Hennessey. He has two more friends that, the moment they are introduced, are obviously the destinies of the other two women. In this case, Flynn is attracted to Malory so he decides to help her in finding the key. He doesn't believe in the magic mumbo jumbo, but this matter concerns Dana and he intends to find out if the whole mumbo jumbo is a scam. He also wants to get near Malory for less altruistic reasons.

The problem with this book is that the romance between Malory and Flynn takes place in a tepid, chemistry-free zone. There is nothing about these two that stand out in any way. I don't even sense the attraction between them, I'm just told of this attraction by the author. So when these two kiss in an awkward scene that just comes out of the blue, I believe I can hear the sounds of a vacuum cleaner in my mind. It also doesn't help that despite the paranormal setting, nothing much outside of the ordinary happens in this book until the late third when bad gods and other beasties start making an appearance. By that time, Malory and Flynn will have to demonstrate their True Love. Since these two have no chemistry and their romance is a tepid by-the-book long distance call from a Nairobi phonebooth affair, the whole Yes My True Love Is Strong thingie is not convincing at all. This late third also feels as if it comes from a completely different book altogether. The transition from a slow-paced romance to a fantasy showdown is not smoothly executed.

Key Of Light has a far-fetched and ridiculous premise straight out of a kiddie role-playing adventure book. It could work, if Ms Roberts chooses to write a far-fetched fantasy story to go along with it. Unfortunately, she chooses instead to wrap an unnecessarily complicated fantasy plot around a typical, by-the-book template Nora Roberts romance and the result is a turkey of a book that flops miserably as a paranormal romance and only manages to be a so-so book when it comes to being a contemporary romance. Die-hard Nora Roberts fans should have no reason to complain, naturally, but let's hope all the same that the next book will be a more focused story with a more interesting romantic couple.

Rating: 71

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