Avon, $6.50, ISBN 0-380-80805-6
Paranormal Romance, 2000
Once there was this nice young lad who came knocking at my door, bearing some pamphlets on some avant garde new age philosophy. He radiated genuine concern for my sorry state of spiritual welfare, and he tries his best at earnestness to make me see the light. I really had no heart to tell him that he was boring me to tears with his sermons, because he was so nice. It was only when I was contemplating feigning a heart attack to drive him out of the house did he finally gave up on me and went off to search for a less recalcitrant and more enlightened victim. I never had to fake an arrhythmia, although I wasted three hours staring at him in stupefaction.
Heaven on Earth reminds me of that earnest young fellow. Earnest and genuinely hoping to help me lead a better life – I don’t know, it’s like a new Scientology masquerading as a romance novel. And I think those “Twin Flames” mantra of the last book Once and Forever is bad enough. Here, I am subjected to an overdose of vague philosophies of destiny, control, fate, and everything in-between. Even the hero’s last name – d’Séraphin – reeks of some holy-poly mysticism. The author never did tell me the origins of these philosophical beliefs though. Are these philosophies Christian in origin? Buddhist or Hindu (time travel can be reinterpreted as some form of second chance in life thing, like reincarnation)?
And the plot seems to be something symbolic rather than a plot itself. Casey O’Reilly is at the crossroads of her life. A beautiful woman with no permanent ties with anyone in her life, she starts contemplating motherhood and yearns for something permanent in her life. While trying to fix her car one night en route to Santa Fe, she is struck by lightning (she sees the light – hallelujah!). She wakes up to find herself in 1878, with only Luke d’Séraphin as her guide.
Luke is a time traveler mystic who goes wherever and whenever he is needed to guide lost souls back to the True Path. Sorta like that fellow in Quantum Leap minus the body possession and with more control of the driver’s seat. And he soon teaches Casey to live right, eat right, and live a life of balanced discipline, good sex, and positive attitude.
Thing is, this is supposed to be a romance, not some sort of The Celestial Pathway. So why the heck is the romance entirely bloodless? Luke is so perfect, so Obi Wan Kenobi-like, he says everything right and does everything right. In short, dull. Casey soon listens to him, enraptured, Mary Magdalene-like, and soon convinces herself that Luke is right about the truth.
All this philosophical and quasi-theological ramblings can be fascinating if they are delivered subtly. But not this case. Luke is from the tell-and-tell school of thought. Who needs subtlety or finesse? When he needs to drive home a point, he stops and starts lecturing, regardless whether the time or place is right. Casey listens adoringly, of course, but me, I think things passed the ugly mark the moment Luke spends 20 pages rambling.
Heaven on Earth has the heart, but let’s face it. When the romance is as electrifying as a plush toy, when the two main characters are as colorful as faded white wallpaper, when the whole philosophy is delivered with the subtlety of a jackhammer swing – even $6.50 is too high a cost of this motivational seminar.