The Stone Prince
by Gena Showalter, paranormal (2004)
HQN, $6.50, ISBN 0-373-77007-3

Gena Showalter's debut romance novel The Stone Prince reads like an unintentional parody of the whole space-barbarian cheese that the paranormal genre is brimming with. The heroine Katie James is a ridiculous caricature and the hero Prince Jorlan en Sarr speaks like a MadTV parody of Fabio. There is a lot happening in this story, so let me just say that the plot is like this: our desperate heroine Katie's latest project is renovating an old Victorian home for resale when she comes across a garden with a statue of this hot hunk and kisses it. Because she has overprotective brothers and an overbearing father who all but force her to wear a chastity belt, you see, and because she feels that the statue wants her to kiss it. Does this mean that I'm a bad person for thinking that Katie seriously needs a life?

Speaking of needing a life, the statue then begins to move. Er, not in that way, this isn't a Changeling Press novel... although, come to think of it, I suppose that may very well have happened too. Anyway, this statue turns out to be our alien prince hero who has been turned into a stone by his nefarious half-brother Perlen de Locke. Naturally he has to come from a place where women are subservient and all, although that place is not called Gor for obvious copyright reasons. That makes our alpha male hero an ideal boyfriend for Katie since she's looking for independence when we all know that independence is for sad women who can't find a man. Together Jorlan and Katie embark on a literally out-of-this-world adventure.

Katie is probably broken as a character from get go due to her overly-contrived Neurotic Romance Heroine personality. She is quite annoying at times since she tends to get flustered more than anything else and she doesn't really do anything in this story other than to become Jorlan's girlfriend. Then again, she's acting stupid over a statue so I'm not expecting much from her for the rest of the story.Jorlan, however, eventually turns out to be more amusing than I'd expect since he's actually more willing to give and take as well as listen to Katie than I'd expect in their adventures together. There are quite a number of amusing fish-out-of-water scenes in this story. However, there are also many subplots and even more many secondary characters that don't really contribute anything to the story other than clutter and noise. All the characters in this story are one-dimensional stereotypes. Perlen seems to be being built as a future romance hero but in this case, Ms Showalter is trying to "redeem" Perlen by making Perlen someone with an unhappy past and is therefore automatically qualified for the "He's just misunderstood, aww!" get-out-of-jail get-a-future-book card.

While there are a few amusing moments here and there and sometimes Katie and Jorlan can be quite charming together, the overall story is one that is more flash than substance. Characterization is minimal, there are too many clutter in the form of unnecessary secondary characters and subplots, and oh yes, Jorlan speaks like a cross between Fabio, Yoda, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. No, really, he can sound that terrifying at times.

Ms Showalter has many ideas for this story but she should have been more prudent in self-editing since the story ends up being too busy for its own good. Also, characterization is minimal and what little of it is pretty much passing off of sad and unhappy childhood as "depths" for that particular character. The Stone Prince is an uneven read as a result. Too much flash and fluff, not enough substance.

Rating: 53

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