Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-14581-6
Paranormal Romantic Suspense, 2009 (Reissue)
Look, before any of you go, “Oh, she’s cheating again!” let me explain. I know the theme for this month’s TBR Challenge is “Contemporary Romance”. And since I have a bunch of books by this author in my pile of unread books, what can go wrong, right? I randomly picked one book from the pile – this one – and started reading. After a few pages, I realized that I had picked the wrong book. Sizzle and Burn is a contemporary romance, but it is soaked in Arcane Society mumbo-jumbo. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t put down the book even if I wanted to. By the time I finished reading this one, it was too late for me to start another book in order to put up a review in time.
So, it’s not my fault that this book is not entirely in line with the theme. It’s the author’s fault. Let that be known.
Raine Tallentyre can hear voices in her head. No, she doesn’t need those drugs from the psychiatric ward – she has the ability to hear echoes from the past. This ability can be annoying, especially when she visits her late aunt’s creepy big house and starts hearing the lunatic whispering of a deranged individual while she is checking out the basement. Her aunt has the same gift, and it’s one that sees her being considered crazy by the people around her. Her aunt spent her final years in a sanatorium, and all this while Raine had been winning lots of money at casinos to finance the cost of placing her aunt there. Now that her aunt is dead, she is looking into selling the house.
Unfortunately, that may take a while, especially when she senses that there is something… wrong… in the basement. She calls the cop, lying that there is a dead body behind a padlocked storage locker. She expects to find a dead body – she has experiences in using her gift to solve some cold cases in the past, after all – but to everyone’s shock and horror, there is a bound woman inside the locker, very much alive. In the past, she has used another cop as a shield, solving crimes while he got all the credit. Now, like it or not, she is on her own, and she has unwittingly thwarted the efforts of what seems to be a serial killer in claiming his newest victim.
Rumbles of this case reach the Arcane Society, and naturally the PI and muscle branch of the society, the Jones & Jones Agency, sends an agent to investigate. Mind you, the Tallentyre family name has a connection to the Society, although it’s not one to be proud of, since they exiled Raine’s father for messing around with a top secret formula behind their backs, sent an agent who ended up seducing Raine’s aunt (the one that died) to get close to Raine’s father, and after openly betraying both Raine and the aunt, somehow ended up causing Raine’s father to blow up in flames – with Raine’s father still inside. Raine, as you can imagine, isn’t too thrilled when Zack Jones shows up to sniff around the place.
Zack can see visions, and Raine can hear voices. Just like the previous books that had been spray painted with the Arcane Society goo, this one sees another couple whose powers come together and create more electricity than Voltron and Captain Planet combined, and naturally this electricity causes them to lose all their clothes and start boinking in order to jump start the “romance”. With Zack being the same dark-haired steely muscular dude with a shield around the heart and Raine being that same spunky young lady with a heart of a gold and an inability to experience an orgasm until Zack sends a firecracker to light up her dark places. Same song, and even the verses are the same – boring.
I find the plot pretty interesting, though. For one, there is a creepy atmosphere here that works, especially when the author has kept her mumbo-jumbo jargon to a minimal. I don’t see any “psychical” here, thank goodness, because that one is awkward on the eyes. The villainy is sinister in nature, and the twists and turns are actually unexpected in a good way. The author also tones down the more obvious aspects of her formula here – just some examples: no eye-rolling scenes of the hero and the heroine dashing to confront a suspect only to find the suspect has just been killed by the villain; no long-drawn scenes of the villain cackling as he reveals all his plans while holding the heroine captive – so Sizzle and Burn turns out to be an enjoyable tale of our hero and heroine versus the creepy people. I also enjoy the humor, which can be self-satirical at times, as the author seems to poke fun at her own hokey plot twists and turns by having her characters remark wryly on the absurdity of these elements.
Anyway, if this book came out in, say, 1999, around the time when the author was arguably churning out her best books, Sizzle and Burn would be a mediocre book. Times have changed, though, and these days the author seems to be going through the motions most of the time. Therefore, even if the romance in Sizzle and Burn is lackluster, the story is readable, gripping at places, and funny at other places – in other words, I’ll take what I can get from the author, so hey, four oogies for this baby. Just keep in mind that this score comes from a dark and jaded place before you run out and grab this book for yourself.