by Adra Steia, contemporary (2007)
Aphrodite's Apples, $6.99, ISBN N/A

Muse pairs two people who were misfits of sorts when they were in high school. Miguel Dominguez was the poor kid shunned by the popular kids and facing all kinds of prejudice due to his race while Leah (no last name given here) was - still is - a psychic. No, really, she's a psychic, although this means Leah will be babbling about soulmates in this story when she's not crying or falling dramatically into a faint. No, I'm not joking. They meet again as adults when he's hired by Jack Former for the man's Internet business and she happens to be the maid working for Jack. Meanwhile, as our two soulmates try to reconnect, Miguel's brother Jose is convinced that Leah is bad news because when Miguel and Leah broke up the previous time, Miguel became depressed.

This story is like a Hindi melodrama on crack that I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Leah has so many issues, most of them self-imposed, that she's hilarious. I do feel vaguely guilty for laughing at her in the same way that someone would feel uncomfortable for laughing at the sight of a fat silly girl walking into a wall and falling down on her behind, but I can't help myself. Does author Adra Steia realize how hilariously ridiculous Leah is this story? Leah is such a martyr, forcing herself to be a maid because she knows that she will never get a job elsewhere if she quits. Don't tell Leah that we are living in the 21st century where an employee has rights because I believe she loves playing the role of the white princess sold to white slavery. Some people need to find their kicks in the weirdest ways. Leah is also worried that Miguel, who looks like Vin Diesel, will find her chubby self unattractive. She keeps rereading her favorite book (Beauty by Robin McKinley) which has love notes from Miguel back when they were going out scribbled at the bottom of some pages.

Meanwhile, souls are always singing when Miguel and Leah are together. Or something. When it's not singing souls, it's "millions of tiny brushstrokes arcing color past in the styles of Monet, Ganguin, Van Gogh" and Leah is "luminescent as a Degas dancer in her plain gray dress". I don't about anyone else, but whatever it is those two characters are high on, I want some too. I've always wondered what it feels like to be lit like a Christmas tree.

This story has everything. Teen pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage, plenty of misunderstandings, plenty of moments when Leah and Miguel try to play the martyr, cartoonish villains, and more. It's like a dizzying Bollywood drama minus the six-hour long singing. It gets to a point where I just have to stop taking this book seriously and start laughing at how over-the-top everything is in the story. From the overly flowery prose to the characters' overwrought behavior, nothing in Muse is in moderation. Everyone is a drama queen here.

Therefore, technically Muse isn't the best book around and some of its really numerous problems are classic romance novel flaws. However, the over-the-top histrionics of the characters drive this book from being bad to being an awesome trainwreck in a "brushstrokes of arcing color" manner. Think of those really bad Spanish telenovelas - this book is just like those terrible shows, so bad that it hurts so good and I can't stop reading even if I want to. This is pure campy melodrama in its finest.

Rating: 76

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