Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-690-7
Paranormal Romance, 2009 (Reissue)
Love’s Alchemy was previously published by Loose Id back in 2006.
In 1668, one Isaac Newton is delirious with joy when he believes that after long hours of alchemical experimentations he has finally created the Philosopher’s Stone. In SoHo at the present day, Siddartha “Sidra” Patmos is sighing to herself over her not-so-great love life even as she wonders whether she will find someone to help her get rid of an unusual ability of hers to see ghosts. She is at a bar hoping to meet someone called “SLIman” that she met online who may help her when the man fails to show up. Hey, don’t laugh, the poor woman is desperate. Instead, Sidra catches the eye of one of the three mysterious handsome men at another table.
Much to Sidra’s surprise, Van is SLIman. Van is more than that, though. He and his brothers Alexander and Wentworth aren’t exactly human. Van is the first Frankenstein monster of Isaac Newton when that man used the Philosopher’s Stone on a corpse to bring it back to life. Poor Sidra will be led into an adventure involving demons and a curse that only she can break.
I’ve deliberately left the synopsis as vague as possible because Ciar Cullen’s Love’s Alchemy is a very interesting story with much of the pleasure coming from discovering the twists and turns in this story. I will, however, say that the Sir Ian McKellan and Brendan Fraser movie God and Monsters has much in common with this story than I would expect at first.
The fact that Sidra may be a reincarnation of Isaac Newton, the Maker according to Van’s kind, makes me wonder whether Van really loves her or is just channeling his complicated feelings for his dear departed Maker onto her. No, I’m not being facetious here – Ms Cullen portrays Isaac as a gay man who was so inhibited by his religious faith that he never could bring himself to admit his desires until he saw Van’s corpse and decided to use the Stone. Their relationship was akin to that of the principle characters in the movie God and Monsters, with the gay man pretending so hard to be content with the friendship of an unattainable very beautiful straight boy.
I’m quite disappointed that this story has Sidra the heroine instead of, say, Cedric the hero matched to Van. The fact that Sidra is a woman raises some questions in my mind about whether Van is having the cake and eat it too, so to speak, when it comes to exorcising all those inner demons of his that are related to Isaac. Ms Cullen seems to be aware of the possibility of the reader having such thoughts while reading this story as several secondary characters make off-hand remarks about the matter, but the author doesn’t fully address this matter in a way that I find satisfactory. The story soon becomes more preoccupied with the hero saving the heroine from the predictable villain.
I enjoy reading this story because it’s a refreshing twist on a typical urban fantasy theme with that God and Monsters thing providing a poignant backstory where Van and Isaac were concerned. Unfortunately, the backstory soon becomes much more interesting than Van’s current relationship with Sidra. Sidra turns out to be a pretty disappointing heroine since she’s pretty much dragged from point A to point B and so forth for much of this story while Van’s brothers are annoyingly juvenile in their behavior too often. Therefore, I personally feel the Van and Isaac backstory valiantly carries this story to the finish line.
This one is a very interesting story with many intriguing concepts and ideas, although honestly I find the romance between Sidra and Van the least interesting and memorable of everything that is in this story. Then again, I also can’t help thinking that this story will be better off as a gay paranormal romance. Having the hero feeling guilty over some complicated feelings for another man only to have a chance at salvation because said man is now reincarnated as a woman feels like a complete cop-out rather than any kind of alchemy at work.