LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52545-3
Paranormal Romance, 2003
Helen A Rosburg has an interesting premise, but the execution is so cracked that I suggest we rename The Circle of a Promise to The Circle of Pain! Horror! Agony!. The story deals with past-life regressions.
In the past, there’s a walking braindead named Amarantha of Ullwater who by all means can ride a horse when she was ten and tame a falcon when she was eleven. She can read Greek and Latin, she knows all about current affairs, she can draw the map of England out of memory, and she is the typical idiot who just, you know, really have to go running around at night to swim when she knows that the neighboring evil villain Baldwin is out to get her and her parents. And she does this by sneaking out through the secret entrance to her castle. So it is to no one’s surprise that Baldwin rushes in and kills everybody – unfortunately, not Mara here – and captures Mara while threatening mayhem and rape. How lucky that Mara has a betrothed, Stephen of Bellingham, who rushes in to save her.
The present day Stephen has recurring nightmares of Mara and Stephen dying – hmm, sounds more like a jolly fun dream to me – and as a result, he can’t hold a job and mooches off his sister for years. He doesn’t bathe either. All he does is to go visit a regressionist and spends his days in some trance to relive the lives Stephen and Moron. Frankly, the whole ordeal sounds more like the crackpot hallucinations of a hippie who can’t get over Lennon and Woodstock. Yes, Imagine is a touching song, but come on, flower power is really dead when Ruben Studdard sings that song like it’s the new theme to McDonald’s. I always thought the whole free-love thing is just an excuse to have sex and pot under the guise of Love, Truth, and Justice. Or, as I always say, Love, Chlamydia, and Kids That Hate You, but I digress.
The biggest problem of this book is that none of its characters are likable. Mara is really too horrendously stupid for words. Stephen Present is just an unhygienic, dysfunctional freeloader. Stephen Past is okay, I guess, but he must be the exception. The villain Baldwin is ridiculously over-the-top, cackling and ranting and foaming at his mouth, and the author piles on the gore as if she sincerely believes that I will mistake Baldwin as the good guy unless she has Baldwin acting like a total nutcase. And for all the ambitious plotting, the story drags and the pace is excruciatingly slow. The author wastes pages detailing secondary characters and trivial events that have nothing to do with the plot, and often, the prose is laborious to read.
Maddeningly stupid characters, meandering pacing, and clumsy writing all contribute to The Circle of a Promise going around in a circle of excruciating pain that seems to go on for way too long. The author will really have to step up the game if she wants to do better in her next book.