Dafina, $6.99, ISBN 0-7582-0868-5
Fantasy Romance, 2004
I have to give Monica Jackson her due. It takes a great risk to make her mainstream women’s fiction debut with a paranormal romance featuring demons trying to give our hero and heroine migraines. I can only imagine what Dafina readers, used to sistahs trying to find their groove back, will think when they read this book. Readers seeking for something new may find a pleasant read in this Exorcist-tinged romance, especially when it’s the closest thing to a horror romance nowadays.
Bless Anderson may enjoy watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV but this plus-sized registered nurse is an unlikely demon slayer. In fact, she doesn’t know any demons. Coming from a family of women with psychic powers, Bless is the “weird” and homely sister. The middle sister Maris is mentally handicapped, or so she seems to be. Ginger, the youngest sister, is beautiful and she fled Red Creek, Georgia the moment she had the opportunity. The Sanderson women are always unlucky in love but things may change for Bess when she keeps having a recurring dream featuring a handsome Mr Right.
This Mr Right is Rick Jensen, a cop whose brother Malik is Ginger’s latest squeeze. Malik is missing and with a bad guy recently out from jail wanting a piece of Malik (in a really bad way, of course), Rick is giving Ginger free boarding at his place while he looks for Malik. Ginger is getting on his last nerves however, so he is grateful when Bless shows up to take care of Ginger. Love may have to wait though when Ginger, pregnant with Malik’s daughter, turns out to be under the control of some demons. This has something to do with Ginger’s child being the key to saving the world come the Armageddon. Angels are currently doing their best to keep Ginger and the demons from destroying Glory the Special Brat but it is up to Bless to stop the nasties once and for all.
Bless is an unusual heroine in that she doesn’t look like the typical skinny-twig feisty kickass babe typical of the baddie-slayer types but she really kicks ass here. I like her. How can I not? She sees a lust demon waving his thingie at her and says “Give me a break!” before blasting him to particles! I also like the fact that where this story could have turned into some shrill anti-abortion Glory of God preachfest, Ms Jackson actually reins herself in and presents a story that entertains rather than hammers home any soapbox issues. Ginger is a little bit more than a one-dimensional slutty sister character. On the other hand, Rick is a less memorable character. He’s clueless most of the time due to a fatal combination of ignorance, arrogance, and a stereotypical cop hero background that isn’t developed well enough to make him stand out. He has his share of nicer, lucid moments but overall his characterization is inconsistent.
But the biggest stumbling block I encounter while reading In My Dreams is the lack of details in the paranormal aspects of the story. Many questions are unanswered. I’d like to know just what role Glory will be playing in the scheme of things, for example. Or why the climax of the story is so localized and even subdued for an assault of demonic proportions – have they experienced budget cuts in Hell or something? Important scenes take off-stage, like Bless’s training to be a demon slayer, scenes that need to be added to make the canon of the story more fully-realized to the reader. Also, for a story about the Armageddon in the making, there are not enough God and Bible in this story to give it a substantial punch. There are mentions of God, angels, and demons but that’s about it. Even the descriptions of the angels and demons are scanty. There are too many missing details in the canon, details that could have enriched this story so much more.
While it isn’t as fully-developed as a paranormal as I would have liked, I still enjoy reading In My Dreams because for a romantic tale, it has Ms Jackson taking a few paths that many authors don’t normally take. Readers looking for something unusual, something romantic and creepy (but not that scary), and something fun may find a few things to savor in this illegitimate offspring of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.