Berkley Sensation, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-20291-7
Fantasy Romance, 2005
Carved in Stone introduces gargoyles as romantic alternatives to werewolves and vampires. Not that they aren’t any different from those werewolves and vampires, if I am to judge by this book. Nathan Cross is the tall and brooding dude with the permanent scowl on his face and a tendency to whine about how different he is from even his own people so he is one sexy lone alpha male type that I must keel over for. There is still a brotherhood of heroes here for sequel purposes. The spooks are charged to protect humans, but one of them may have gone crazy and started killing people. In short, nothing changes except for the fact that the hero can shift into some more menacing form when the need arises.
Rachel Vandermere is an Interpol agent who is haunted by the murder of her parents when she was a child. She believes that she saw a monster kill them that night, and since then, she has secretly tracked down any information she encounters on her job that may lead her to this monster. Don’t laugh – in this story she encounters a veritable treasure trove of unsolved mysteries that suggest that there may be more to this world than meets the eye. When the story opens, a more down-to-earth assignment to protect a French diplomat and nab the potential assassin sees her stumbling onto Nathan Cross and the world of the Les Gargouillen. When she decides to seek out her monster, Nathan will have to protect his people from being exposed while at the same time deal with his feelings for her.
This story boasts some solid writing and satisfying pacing, so it is always readable. The fact that Carved in Stone is a very entertaining read is a big plus for it, because I actually find the plot and the romance to be a bit on the disappointing side. The romance is a typical “destiny/hormone/instant bond” thing passed off as everlasting love, with a little “special ovaries that will give rise to the baby of destiny” magic tossed in. As a result of this, I can never see why Rachel and Nathan would love in each other. When they are not in heat due to all those clichéd plot devices at work, they don’t really connect with each other. Rachel is too busy worrying about her investigation while Nathan is too busy posing dramatically and moping in tragic dour tones that he is not human and therefore he is not the man for Rachel.
As for the plot, my issue is this: Rachel is an Interpol agent. With all the information she has about Nathan, which isn’t a lot, he can be considered nothing more than a civilian. He may even be a suspect as he doesn’t really give a good answer as to what he was doing that night when a dead assassin fell over the rails and crashed onto the car in which Rachel and the French diplomat were seated in. But yikes, Rachel instead drags him along with her during her investigation and I can only wonder what she thinks she is doing. Nathan is hindering her investigation, deliberately so, therefore the poor dear Rachel does come off played like a fool here. Perhaps if Rachel is merely a PI, for example, and needs the resources Nathan may provide in her investigation, she won’t come off as badly as she does here. Rachel is a pretty tough heroine in her own right. It’s just that the plot necessitates her trusting Nathan and allowing him to tag along with her, and this particular contrivance doesn’t allow her to come off well in the story.
Carved in Stone is a solid read, an entertaining one even. All in all, it is a pretty good read, provided that I don’t think too hard about the romance or the plot.