Calder’s Rose gets an A for its main idea, in which two authors collaborate on a book featuring their popular series’ characters. If only the execution had been as good as the idea, this would have been a keeper, but the book has too many problems to be more than just average.
Shane McNamara writes a popular western series, Texas West, featuring a character named Dare Calder, a love-em and leave-em gunslinger. Devin James writes a western romance series, Scarlet Garter, featuring Rose Coltraine, the prim and proper owner of a saloon. Shane and Devin share a publicist who works up a lucrative deal where they will bring both characters together in a crossover collaboration. Sort of Miss Kitty meets Longarm. Shane and Devin have six weeks to complete the book, so they rent a house together and begin to write – or at least they try.
Shane and Devin clash about everything. She is a meticulous plotter, he goes where his muse leads him. She is a morning person, he is not. She is prim, proper, and well-dressed. He is scruffy, sex-obsessed, and has a wardrobe of shorts and T-shirts from bars all over the world. They spend a lot of time arguing, and not much time writing.
Shane and Devin’s strong emotions have brought Dare Calder and Rose Coltraine to life. The characters argue almost as much as their creators but they want a good story – after all, it’s about them. So Dare and Rose begin writing the book, which they call Calder’s Rose.
In the meantime, Shane and Devin are moving from bickering to bantering. Devin is really quite pretty under her starchy facade, and since they are sharing a house, it’s only a matter of time before they turn their professional collaboration into a personal one.
Calder’s Rose had a lot of potential, and it had its moments. But they were only moments. There were simply too many problems with the book, including this major hurdle to jump: Devin and Shane aren’t all that interesting as three-dimensional characters. They have flashes of charm, but in Shane’s case, his T-shirts are more interesting than he is, and Devin is simply a Miss Priss until close to the end of the book. Shane is presented as a total hound when it comes to women (at one point, he even howls at the moon). While I’ve read any number of books where a rake falls deeply in love, and I believe it, when it comes to Shane, I have my doubts.
The paranormal plot was not well integrated. Supposedly Dare and Rose are brought to life because of Shane and Devin’s animosity. Toward the end of the book – when Shane and Devin are in the throes of a hot sexual relationship – Dare and Rose begin to fade away, but when the book ends, and Shane and Devin are planning on marriage, Dare and Rose show themselves to their creators, livelier than ever. If animosity animated them, shouldn’t they have been gone for good? And while we’re talking about characters coming to life, the idea of them writing their own book is a good one, but since it takes Devin and Shane such a long time to realize what is happening, they come across looking stupid.
There’s a sub-plot involving Shane’s prior relationship with Jamie, a popular country-music superstar, which is totally uninteresting. Devin is in a tepid relationship too, but we never meet him and they break up by means of a phone call. Both relationships exist only to make the other person jealous, but both relationships are too sketchy to serve that purpose.
The writing style teeters between adequate and unpolished. I found myself mentally re-writing some of the sentences to make them flow more smoothly. When it comes to the characters’ names, I had a big problem with Devin James for the heroine. That is a very androgynous name, and for several chapters, I had to keep reminding myself that Devin is a woman, not a gunfighter.
Calder’s Rose isn’t all bad – it’s pretty funny in places, and the love scenes sizzled. Kate Angell has the potential to be a truly funny writer. She has some good ideas, and if she can just polish up her writing and get a bit more personality into the characters, she could be a winner.