Night Whispers
by Karen Sandler, paranormal (1999)
Jove, $5.99, ISBN 0-515-12584-9

Night Whispers is a ghost-spooky-quasi-X-Files-sort of story. A scientific research team has decided to set up some sort of isolated habitat called the BioCave in - what else? - a cave. They would have a bunch of folks living underground in the renovated cave for six months to determine if this sort of thing can be used for future human colonies in this planet or other planets (guess they're spooked by the Y2K thingie too). Unfortunately for some Neanderthal reason the boss decides that only married folks can join in the fun in BioCave. Poor Liz Madison. She's single. She watches bitterly as her arch-rival Ethan Winslow gets shackled to his fiancee in order to go down into BioCave. But hey, guess what? Miss Fiancee calls off marriage in a tearful moment, and Liz seizes the opportunity to propose a marriage of convenience to Ethan.

At this point - three or four chapters into the book - I scrunched up my face and gave a loud Hah? I even checked the first page of Chapter One - nope, this is not set in 1799, definitely somewhere in the present or not-too-distant future. So why this silly married-only nonsense? My hubby suggested maybe they wanted to have some perverted spouse-swapping games in there. I'm banning Austin Powers stuff from my house. Don't want Mr Giggles to get naughty ideas.

Back to Night Whispers, I groaned louder when Ethan suspected Liz for being a gold digging ho out to make mincemeat out of their middle-aged widower superior. After they got married, Ethan forbids her from continuing her gold digging activities on other man. I almost threw the book across the room. When these two profess to hate each other, I was prepared for the worst.

But no.

Things improved tremendously - I still can't explain how and why - and soon I was totally absorbed, hanging on to every word. Maybe it was because of the ghost of Noah Simmons, a prospector who was killed in the cave and still haunts it. Noah is in love with Liz.

When the merry folks step into the BioCave and shut themselves off the world outside (or above), strange things happen. Some dark forces is making accidents happen. Ethan finds his temper and control slipping day after day, and Liz gets involved in suspicious accidents. Noah warns her that there's a demon about.

Now, for a quasi-supernatural, averagely-paced suspense tale, this book is wonderful. I was intrigued, and I was totally caught up in the story. Pages after pages I kept turning non-stop long into the night - the mystery and suspense are surprisingly well-done.

But for a romance, well, that aspect is a bit shaky. Liz and Ethan start out totally flat. However, as the story progresses, Ethan becomes dark and dangerous, almost seductively so. He turns out to be a man with dark, turbulent emotions that he barely held in check. Now, his control in tethers thanks to whatever weird things happening in the cave, he is attracted to Liz yet afraid of what he might do to her when his control snaps. Oh, he is definitely stubborn, and one mule of a man. Yet when I read about his dogged determination to make the marriage between him and Liz last for all time, I can't help but to thaw towards this man. It doesn't help that the guy on the cover is so sigh-worthy.

Noah, too, is a memorable character, although I still feel his presence is insignificant to the story. Yet he watches over Liz's safety valiantly, and he is really a kind, gentle soul. It's because of him that I flung this book across the room after the last page. More on that later.

But Liz, while she improves a lot, and is a rather strong heroine, I can't warm up to her, probably because she seems so oblivious to Noah's devotion most of the time. She is intelligent, however, she is clear-headed, and her feeling of despair, when Ethan tells her that he isn't sure if he can feel love, is heart-wrenching to read. Put her next to Ethan's dark melancholy, however, she fades into the shadows.

Now, I threw the book across the room after the last page. That's because the author left the fate of Noah hanging. I have grown to care for Noah so much, and believe me, his fate is left hanging. Miss Sandler, what will happen to Noah? Will he find peace? Will he find love? I want answers, doggone it! It's not nice to leave me high and dry!

I'm now looking up Miss Sandler's email address on the web. Let's hope her next book has some conclusion to Noah's fate - or better still, about Noah. Or there's going to one very vexed Granny. People, be warned.

Rating: 85

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