Jove, $7.99, ISBN 0-515-13830-4
Romantic Suspense, 2004
Jayne Ann Krentz’s Truth or Dare is an actual continuation from Light in Shadow, similar to the author’s two-parters in the past like her related books Gift of Gold and Gift of Fire in the past. Zoe Luce, psychic interior decorator, and our PI Ethan Truax were married by the end of Light in Shadow but their story continues in this unnecessary sequel where the author pads the story with many subplots involving our main characters running around solving the problems of the secondary character. The problem is, this book has very little romance and the focus is on suspense, and Jayne Ann Krentz isn’t exactly the author to read when one is in the mood for some well-written suspense, let’s just say.
I don’t want to spoil the previous book so I will try to keep the synopsis of this book very brief. Then again, if you haven’t read that book and you intend to, you probably should stop reading any reviews of this book until you’ve finished Light in Shadow! Anyway, events in the previous book see Zoe escaping some villains and learning the identity of the person who murdered her previous husband. She also gains a new friend in the process, a woman who calls herself Arcadia. In this book, Arcadia is afraid that her abusive husband is back in her life and is again trying to kill her like he attempted to in the past. Meanwhile, Zoe is feeling all those “dark webs” of negative energy that confuse and scare her again, and these energies have as much to do with potential threats on everyone’s lives as much as the fact that she feels that her marriage to Ethan is done for if he can’t accept her for what she is: a psychic Feng-shui interior decorator. Ethan on the other hand feels that Zoe is withdrawing from him and he too fears that their marriage is done for.
But the conflict between Zoe and Ethan in this story is minimal at best. Everything will be solved at the end of the day when the heroine finally blurts that she loves the man and the man will mull things over until towards the end he conveniently finds the balls to tell her that he loves her. In the meantime, he will attempt to use sex to get more intimate with her even as our classic Jayne Ann Krentz heroine will start to assume that all he wants from her is sex. In short, this is a very typical couple facing very typical issues in this very typical story from the author, only this time their issue is stretched over 368 pages of very pedestrian suspense.
The characters in this book are darker than usual but that doesn’t mean that these characters deviate in any way from the template archetypes, here, it just means that Ethan and the other men behave more high-handedly and arrogant than usual while Zoe and the women become annoying stereotypes of hysterical visceral behavior that the author usually uses to depict female intuition.
Jayne Ann Krentz is a below average suspense author because her usual and unvarying bag of tricks (ooh, the suspect dies just after making a mysterious call to our main characters!) just don’t cut it with their rudimentary lack of sophistication. Since Truth or Dare is more about suspense rather than romance, that means the weaker aspects of the author’s writing are showcased at the expense of the one thing she’s good at, romance. It’s probably a very good thing that Ms Krentz spent decades building a fanbase among romance readers, because if she is only starting out today as a romantic suspense author with efforts like this one, she will have to be very lucky to get the fanbase of the same size as the one she has today.