by Theresa Weir, contemporary (2010)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-977-9
Bad Karma was first released by Bantam back in 1999, but this edition, released 11 years later, had been tinkered with and re-edited by the author and the publisher, so it's not exactly a reissue. The author describes it as "a cut, updated, line-edited, polished version of the 1999 release", and perhaps we should all take her word for it. This is one of the few books by this author that I hadn't read the first time around, so I'm pleased to get my hands on this second release. I'm quite disappointed by the romance, though.
Welcome to Egypt, Missouri, a town that never forgets. Daniel Sinclair knows that feeling - ever since he returned to Egypt after a stint in LA, he feels more like an outsider than a local. A police officer, Daniel is charged with an assignment that he doesn't like very much at the start of this story: to meet the clairvoyant hired by his boss to locate the town master key. He doesn't believe in such things and he has this sinking feeling that the whole town is being taken for a ride, but alas, his boss is on a spiritualism kick and has the whole town on her side.
Cleo Tyler is a bit of psychic, although she doesn't fully understand and can't control her ability to detect scenes of other people's lives. She just wants the money offered by this gig when she and her dog Premonition comes to Egypt. The hot but suspicious police officer only makes the heat of the place more intense, and it won't be long before the two of them are knee-deep in a love-hate thing for each other.
The promotional material calls Daniel an "alpha male", but my personal preference would be to call him a rude jerk. He has already Cleo pegged as guilty even before he has seen her, and he treats her accordingly for the most part of the story. The romance is of the "Oh! I hate you! I hate you! Let's boink!" variety, which has failed to excite cynical old me since I was old enough to know that not all men behave like jerks because they are secretly attracted to you - some men are jerks because they're... well, jerks. Cleo could have walked away from Daniel, but the author gives her all kinds of neurotic insecurities and traumatic flashbacks from her past that the poor dear is chained to Daniel by her mentally unstable state. In a way, this makes sense, since I personally think a woman has to be crazy to deal with Daniel's constant rude and judgmental behavior without snapping and kneeing him in the gonads, and Chloe is quite crazy.
"You're beautiful," she whispered against his mouth. "I want you." She guided him to her.
"Wait," he said in a breathless voice. "We need a rubber. You got a rubber?"
"We don't need one."
"Yes, we do."
"Are you afraid of me?"
"I'm looking out for both of us."
"But if either of us were tainted, it would be me, wouldn't it?"
"I didn’t say that."
The heat lamp clicked, engulfing them in darkness. He reached behind him, searching for the wall switch.
"Leave the light off," she whispered.
"I want to see you."
"I want to pretend you’re somebody else."
"You're making me mad."
"I'm just being honest."
"Honest?" he said. "You don't know the meaning of the word."
Can you feel the love tonight? The peace the evening brings? The world, for once, in perfect harmony? Yeah, I thought so.
The above is a good representative of the typical conversation between Daniel and Chloe, by the way.
I am willing to be patient and give Daniel time and room to come to his senses, but the tenor of this dysfunctional romance is set for the rest of the story. The mystery is pretty mundane, so there is no solid subplot to distract me from the fact that Daniel is a jerk through and through.
On the bright side, the writing is solid. The author's powerful sense of description comes through vividly in her prose, and I often feel as if I was taken into the story. The sights, sounds, and even smells seem so real, only to have the illusion dispelled when I reach out to kick Daniel in his rear end only to remember that he's just a fictitious donkey.
Bad Karma has some really masterful wordsmith at display here, and this is the main reason why this book is enjoyable for me to read. The romance doesn't resonate with me at all, however. I guess I'm just that reader who have reached a stage where I no longer subscribe to the "all girls really want asshole boys" school of thought. Read this book if you wish, but do read the author's other and better books as well.
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