Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 0-671-52307-4
Romantic Suspense, 1999 (Reissue)
After the lacklustre Flash, it is with utmost reluctance that I splurged $7.99 on this new one. But I was about to embark on a 16-hour train ride to Hatyai and from there a 10 hour van ride to the outskirts of Thailand for some field work, and what’s better way to spend the time than a comfort read, right? As it is, Eye of the Beholder, while still entrenched in the author’s formula, tweaks enough buttons to make it stand out from her recent half-baked books. Not much, but enough to make it a slightly above average read.
Twelve years ago, Alexa witnessed a confrontation with 23-year-old John Laird Trask and her stepfather. JL accused the man of conspiring in his father’s death and walked away after vowing payback. Twelve years later, JL returns to start a resort in Avalon. Alexa, still smarting from having her reputation as a reliable art expert torn to shreds in a scandal, is working behind the scene (so to speak) to handle Trask’s art decoration of his resort. They meet, they have mutual jollies in a pool, and people start dying around them. Seems many people aren’t too pleased to see JL back in Avalon, especially when JL is out for answers about his father’s death.
Well, I can’t complain about the characters. Alexa and JL are more fully fleshed characters compared to the cardboard figures of the last few books, and I’m pleased to read of quiet moments where these two actually talk and realize there are much in common between them than they’d initially thought. Both share memories of losing a father, and both believe in prenup agreements. Here, the author provides these two time to reflect and reminisce, hence it is easy to see why they should fall in love.
However, part of my problem with Eye of the Beholder is that the author is clearly taking on a romantic suspense instead of suspenseful romance route. And the author is not a very good suspense-spinner. Her plot tends to be simplistic, the red herrings transparent and contrived, and the bad guys still blurt out everything about their plans in the final confrontation. Her forte is always in her lead characters’ witty repartees. Her romance generally lacks sexual tension, relying more on verbal foreplay and mutual interests. Hence, when she sidelines the romance and witty repartees for her lamentably pedestrian mysteries, the final result is a below average thriller with little humor or Bogard-Hepburnian chemistry to elevate the blandness.
In this one, there is enough things to keep me reading, but the magic’s not there. It’s interesting to see for once a hero and heroine that don’t trust each other a hundred percent, but everything else is familiar: the heroine’s bland suitors, the father’s ex-fiancee, the wicked supposed-to-be-villain who dies and is found by our heroes, the seemingly nice but actually villainous… the usual suspects. Jayne Ann Krentz’s suspense just doesn’t deliver the thrills, and without her characters’ great romantic-verbal-intercourses in the forefront, there’s nothing much left to savor.