Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-210-X
Romantic Suspense, 2001
This book is weird. For a romance novel, this one starts with the hero Sam Walker and heroine Bailey already husband and wife. Am I missing something? Is Sacred Love a sequel of sorts?
On pages one to three, I am given a lesson in preparing a romantic dinner. Fresh salmon with butter, parmesan rice, green salad, and a nice drink of raspberry and mint. When I say a recipe lesson, I do mean one, as the author lovingly details Bailey’s cooking adventure right down to the time and temperature. The raspberry, mint, and water drink, by the way, is just delicious. I recommend it for hot nights when one needs a quick refreshing chill-out.
No, I don’t know why the author gets so over-excited over recipes that she details everything in this story, but when Shelby Lewis puts out a cookbook, let me know.
Then it’s an impromptu plug for R&B singer Brandi’s Never Say Never album and an estate called Dark Hill (is it real?) which is a melting pot Beverly-Hills-like community of sorts.
Finally, we get to the story: Bailey and Sam are invited to the home of their favorite uncle Fred. Fred gathers our investigator lovebirds plus an assortment of nasty, greedy relatives and then has the decency to be found dead in the bath. Sam is the prime suspect. Oh good. It’s Murder She Wrote time.
Thing is, as investigators, supposedly good ones, Bailey and Sam can be as dim as broken lightbulbs. They found a blow-dryer in the bath with Fred earlier. Duh… err… Sam fidgets and Bailey ponders… uh… ah… could it be… MURDER? Gasp! Well, duh, people.
Really awkward prose, barely balanced on stilts so high it gives me vertigo, and laborious characterization make Sacred Love akin to some freak show display. It’s not nice to stare, I know, but I can’t help it. The way the author flies off-tangent at times to describe irrelevant details, the way Bailey and Sam can be so amateur at times, and the assortment of nasty relatives are just so fascinating. The whole thing isn’t bad enough to be unreadable, but it’s not good enough to be eccentrically brilliant. It’s just a strange freakshow thing.
Only towards the end, the story shows some neat ideas, like The Silence of the Lambs thing and all, but by then, it’s all for naught. Except to show that maybe Shelby Lewis has great ideas – this story makes a fascinating mystery to make up for the complete lack of conventional romance – but she just cannot deliver, poor lady. Not with the prose this close to detonating into a gruesome mess and the story running off at wild tangents here and there at the most unexpected moments.
Still… hey, wonder if I can get a recipe for good mashed potato.