Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-8083-1
Fantasy Romance, 2008 (Reissue)
Jessica Inclán’s Reason to Believe was previously released in trade paperback format back in 2006. It has been given a sexier cover more in vogue with the current trend of romantic urban fantasy covers for this mass market paperback reissue. I hope you aren’t expecting something erotic though, because Ms Inclán’s prose is, dare I say it, a little on the intellectual and high-brow side to bring on the sexy.
In this one, we are introduced to the Les Croyants des Trois, humans with powerful telepathic and spiritual abilities such as mind reading, scrying, and healing. They are all French or aspire to be French, naturally. I think this series is Ms Inclán’s way of showing the world that those annoying Brits have better not think that they have a monopoly on magic woo-woo stuff just because that whiny brat Harry Potter is everywhere. The French can woo-woo you too, people, and they do it with italics! The Croyants live among the boring woo-woo free Moyennes. In the past, persecution had drove the Croyants to keep their woo-woo a secret, but some prominent Croyants are advocating that they find a way to come out and live in harmony with the Moyennes. Naturally, there are also those who feel that it is the Croyants‘ place to rule the Moyennes.
Fabia Fair is a Croyant in Edinburgh. She’s a do-gooder, helping those in need and generally being a lovely lady. She is also trying to locate Caderyn Macara using her predictably powerful mind-reading abilities. You see, Macara was one of the most prominent figures in the “Je t’aime, je t’aime – oh, oui je t’aime!” movement, and she wants to understand why and how Macara could suddenly decamp and side with the bad guys. But she is distracted at the moment by the appearance of a handsome gentleman who is clearly Croyant. His memories have been magically wiped out. As a do-gooder, Fabia naturally has to take this fellow in. Comme la vague irrésolu – je vais, je vais et je viens!
Of course, readers are clued in early that the man is Rufus Valasay, a powerful (of course) Croyants with two more brothers waiting to get their books in the future. His brother Sariel is under the thrall of an evil woman who is working with the bad guys, and she is the cause of Rufus’s current mental state of blank slate. As Fabia and Rufus do that “Tu es la vague, moi l’île nue – tu va, tu va et tu viens… oh, OH, OHHHH!” thing, their enemies will close in for the dramatic denouement.
I love a book that uses so many big words and makes me put my dictionary to good use. No, I’m not being facetious. Not only do I have French words to learn and show off in my next social event, I also come across words like “truculent”, “carnaptious”, “blootered”, “blate”, “peelie-wallie”, and “bawheid”. I really don’t want to face off against Ms Inclán in a Scrabble competition, let’s just say. On top of that, there are some passages of sheer poetry and beauty, which seem more appropriate for more literary type of books than a story of woo-woo hunks smashing evil in an urban fantasy setting. In a way, reading this book is a pleasant kind of excursion, where I find myself just enjoying the act of reading because of the author’s lovely prose.
However, the characters are pretty bland. They are noble, likable, and nice characters, but they don’t have much beyond their noble exterior. The rather shallow characterization isn’t such a bad thing, given that the story line is interesting enough to keep me reading, but I will have a hard time remembering these characters a few days after I’m done with this review. However, I love how Fabia is so normal when it comes to desire and sex. She had a love life before she meets the hero, she doesn’t run away screaming in terror at the sight of his erection, and she actually enjoys desiring and making love to a hot guy whom she likes. No weird hang-up, no “Eeeeek! I must be a slut!” wailing, no Mommy or Daddy complex. Imagine, a heroine of this sort in a romance novel! Still, the way she and her twin brother get into each other’s mind so often to the point that they sometimes feel each other’s sensations and emotions during sexual intimacy can get tad too creepy for my liking. Maybe it’s a French thing that I don’t get.
As for the plot, the pacing can be a bit slow, but the momentum only falters slightly late in the story when the sequel baits are trotted out like horses on parade. The story is pretty hard to put down, I find, because I find myself deeply intrigued by the story line, the main characters’ developing intimacy, and the way the author doesn’t play by romance novel conventions much.
All things considered, Reason to Believe may not be the most exciting story around, but it is one of the more interesting ones to cross my path. I can’t walk for five minutes in a bookstore without tripping over so many romantic urban fantasies full of vampires and werewolves, so I can appreciate the not-so-common elements of this story to find it a pretty refreshing read.