Blue Rain, from Jove’s “Magical Love” series, actually seems like two books, swirled together like a Dairy Queen Twistee. One of the books is pretty good. The other one is stupid.
Kasey Wildmoon is an L.A. reporter sent to Nevada to investigate the shootings of more than one hundred mustangs. The horses’ deaths have been pinned on Gabriel “Bronc” McDermitt, who works for the Bureau of Wildlife’s mustang program. Kasey just happens to know Bronc – when she was sixteen she ran away from home, and the drunk but gallant teenaged Bronc rescued her from a nasty situation. Now, ten years later, Bronc has stood trial for the mustang killings, but the case was thrown out due to lack of evidence. Bronc’s boss orders him to show Kasey the range and let her interview him, in hopes that she will clear his name. Bronc’s feelings are mixed.
In spite of the immediate attraction between Bronc and Kasey, their relationship develops slowly and heightens to a fever pitch by the end of the book. Kasey genuinely suspects that Bronc is guilty of killing the horses. Bronc suspects that his own father did it, or maybe his brother, so he’s trying to throw her off the track without drawing fire to himself. And of course there are the numerous cultural differences between the city girl and the buckaroo. All of these things add up to a good book.
Then there’s the stupid book. Let’s see, how do I summarize this? Kasey and Bronc both seem to be modern-day incarnations of some sort of non-tribe-specific Indian archetypes. Kasey gets frequent visits from Blue Rain, an archetypal maiden who (perhaps) represents wounded femininity and who is protected, generation after generation, by Horse. Kasey talks to Blue Rain, but she also is the embodiment of Blue Rain. Just as Kasey is the latest Blue Rain, Bronc is the latest Horse (sometimes Horse is actually a horse, but fortunately for Kasey this time he’s the human variety of stud).
Kasey is only the latest Blue Rain to be involved in an epic struggle against a malevolent trickster type called Fox. Kasey wears a shell necklace, handed down from generation to generation, that zaps her with electric shocks when Fox or his minions come close. Does any of this make sense to anyone? No?
I respect author Tess Farraday for trying to combine these disparate elements, but they just do not work together. If she had stuck with Kasey, Bronc, the shared past, and the mystery of the dead horses, this book would have been a winner. But just when I was enjoying they way things were developing, I’d get a shot of this other weird mystical nonsense.
Bronc McDermitt is one of the yummiest heroes I’ve read about all year, in spite of his dippy nickname. (Kasey tries to avoid saying it by asking him what his mom calls him; he replies that she calls him “Bronc honey.”) He’s the Western variety of alpha hero, soft-spoken and wry. But he blushes when he’s complimented and he is delightfully pole-axed by the mutual attraction he and Kasey feel. There’s a scene in which Kasey spies on him while he’s taking a shower and, well, let’s just say I wish I’d been there. The tension between him and Kasey is delicious. They take a long slow time coming together, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Every moment, that is, that didn’t segue into Blue Rain and Fox and Horse.
I have to mention Farraday’s unusual writing style, which helped win one of her books an F review from AAR. There is something dreamlike and sideways about her prose that I, unlike others, find evocative and poetic. Sometimes it’s awkward, especially the way she skips over details that you’d like to know about, but overall I thought it was highly effective. But if you’re the type of reader who wants clear description and straightforward narrative, Farraday’s tactic of alluding and then slipping away is going to drive you nuts.
I really wanted to grade this book higher than I did. I appreciated Farraday’s ambition and her courage to write a little differently. Blue Rain would have earned a solid recommendation from me if every mention of mystical necklaces, demonlike enemies, and immortal conflicts between good and evil had been ruthlessly excised from it. I like fantasy fiction and paranormal romances, but in this case, the paranormal elements clashed sharply with the rest of the story, interrupting my enjoyment of the romance.
Paranormal romance is popular, and for the most part I applaud the trend. But I’d like to see Tess Farraday simplify things. She’s a talented writer and she knows how to evoke a great love story. Someone needs to tell her that we don’t need all this other stuff.