It had to happen sooner or later. I've got a book that isn't going to get a good review. In fact, I have two, and both were big disappointments. It's going to be hard to say I didn't like one of them, because I generally do like this author and have liked the other books in the series. But, you can't win 'em all, right?
First up is "Divine Fire" by Melanie Jackson. I wanted to read this because we have what is a follow-up of sorts here in the system, and I hate reading a book when I know there's one that comes before it; I'm always worried I'll miss something. Silly me! This sounded promising and had some good ideas, but in the end the execution was just so-so.
Lord Byron did not die. (This is not a new idea, either - check out two books by Tom Holland where Byron is a vampire - very good) After living with adult-onset epilepsy for a few years, and with his seizures increasing in frequency and strength, Byron seeks out Dr. Johann Conrad Dippel, a physician doing some strange and wonderous things with electricity. Dippel claims he can "cure" Byron's epilepsy by using the power of lightening, and yes, this is basically the infamous "Dr. Frankenstein" that Mary Shelley wrote about. According to this version of events, Mary did not dream of her monster and the good doctor - she witnessed Byron's "cure" at the hands of Dippel and put the thinly disguised version on paper. And yes, the "cure" worked, sort of. Byron no longer suffers from the affliction, but he is also no longer mortal, possibly not even human.
Enter the modern-day action. Byron, now going by the name Damien Ruthven, no longer writes poetry, fearing detection. He does, however, write, as a literary critic. Enter the manuscript about Bryon penned by Brice Ashton, a biographer obsessed with all thing Byronic after the death of her husband a few years earlier. She receives a letter inviting her to Ruthven's New York compound, an offer she can't refuse, as he hints that she has gotten three facts wrong and he has the "proof" to back up his claim. She imagines that Ruthven is in possession of Byron's journal, which was supposedly destroyed by his publishers upon his death. Without a second thought, she's on a plane and off to the Big Apple to match wits with the great critic.
You can see where this is heading, right? You guessed it - a romance between Ruthven and Brice, who of course finds out that he's really Byron. The novel might have been OK if it had stuck to that point. Instead, there is a subplot that makes up the second half of the book, a plot by Dippel to destroy his creation. Yes, the good doctor is still "alive" and is out to destroy his "mistakes" - two of the other "creations" have already died in mysterious fires in the last year. Ruthven knows that Dippel will be after him, and that's where the book totally falls apart.
I love a good zombie story. I love a good romance. I like the idea of Byron not being dead. I sort of like the character of Brice Ashton. BUT.................... putting them all together is NOT a good idea. "Divine Fire" reads like two books pasted together, the first half being a fairly decent romance and the second half being an action-thriller starring the zombies. I realize that most paranormal romances put their characters in danger at some point, but this was just weird, not to mention over the top. The zombies are really gross - not nasty or evil really, but something that would definitely turn your stomach (they are dead body parts and therefore rotting). What bothered me most is that there's never a reason for Dippel destroying Ruthven; it's obvious the mad scientist thinks that Ruthven is flawed, but why? Compared to the other creations wreaking havoc on the compound, Ruthven is perfect - he's still gorgeous, he's capable of thought and emotions, and he's not decaying, rotting, or smelly. Why not take him and study him? It made no sense to me. Of course, it's also obvious that the doc's been experimenting on himself and has lost his marbles, so maybe that's supposed to explain the discrepancy. Don't know, and in the end, don't care.
I'd save your time and skip "Divine Fire". I'm still on the fence about the follow-up, "Divine Madness". Might pick it up, might not. Only time will tell, and trust me, I will not be reading the entire thing if it follows this pattern of drech.
The other disappointment is "Light My Fire", the third installment in the Aisling Grey series by Katie MacAlister. I loved the other two books starring Aisling; I highly recommend other titles by Katie all the time, especially "The Corset Diaries" (a strict romance, no paranormal anything, and wonderful!) I finished up LMF last night and was just dumbfounded. I'm not even going to try to sum up the plot - I'm not entirely sure there was one, to be honest.
If you're not familiar with this series, trust me, this is NOT the book to start with. Go back and read the first two, "Fire Me Up" and "You Slay Me". Those two will explain how Aisling comes to realize she's a Guardian (one who works on keeping the demon world out of ours, small things usually like imps), that she's supposed to be the mate of a dragon (that would be Drake, leader of the green dragons - yes, there are at least 4 groups of dragons and they all have a color), and how she acquires Jim, a Newfoundland who happens to be much more than a dog. They're funny, they have a good love-hate romance thing (isn't that always the case?), and they give a lot of info you need to try to read LMF.
That said, good luck with this third book. I, for the life of me, could not follow the plot in this to save my life. I have a sneaky suspicion that the reason it's so hard to follow is very simple - there is WAY too much going on in this book! Usually, that's OK, but here it's just annoying. Aisling is jumped from one madcap situation to the next, to the point that it felt like a paranormal version of Keystone Kops. The usually lovable Ash is gone - this one runs around like a chicken with its head cut off, and she keeps saying that she's "a professional". I thought I was going to hurl the book across the room if I read her bark that phrase one more time. No honey, you are NOT a professional. "Professional" indicates some level of competence at one's job, which she does not have. It also indicates that if one doesn't know what one is doing, one either bows out of the situation or studies up to learn what is needed. Ash has the resources at hand to do just that - several texts given to her by her Guardian mentor, Nora. But does she read them? No. She just blames everyone else for her incompetence, claiming that they should have told her this or informed her of that. Um, ever hear of asking a question? She could have done that rather than lay on the blame thicker than buttercream frosting.
The only saving graces to this book are Jim and Rene. Jim is wonderful, as usual, and has the best lines. You also get to find out just what kind of "demon" he truly is. Rene is wonderful and always in the right place at the right time; the bonus is that you find out what Rene is, too. (If you read the other books, it's pretty obvious that he's not just a taxi driver) Drake is here, but seems like a pale version of himself. There are some would-be hot sex scenes, which are invariably interrupted by Drake's mother (yes, she's still alive after a few hundred years) The overall feel I got of this was nicely summed up by Jim himself, who says Aisling's antics are like a demonic "I Love Lucy" episode. I couldn't agree more!
There are dragon politics that I couldn't follow, the above-mentioned mother who, of course, loathes Ash, another title for Ash to take on (or have thrust upon her, at least from her point of view), and, oh yeah, just to top it all off? Aisling may be carrying a little Drake dragon. That plot point was the highlight of annoyance - these two have barely gotten together and now she's going to be pregnant? STOP. Just stop, regroup, and see if there's any way to get this trainwreck back on the tracks, please. That's my wish for Aisling and Katie both - stop, take a deep breath, and let's slow down.
Read it if you like, but be prepared for the let-down.