If you’re reading a book in the presence of a family member and in the course of an hour they ask “what are you laughing at?” and then “why are you crying?” it’s pretty evident that you’re reading Lisa Kleypas. Not to mention the love scenes that have you secretly shifting in your chair. Her latest, Crystal Cove is a fun, scary, juicy and above all, heart wrenching read.
The heroine, Justine, is a witch. She rarely practices magic and instead runs a bed and breakfast on San Juan island. She enjoys her work and her surroundings, and finds fulfillment taking care of her guests and the people in her life, but she yearns for true romantic love. When she discovers that a geas has been placed upon her which keeps her from falling in love, she becomes enraged and breaks the geas with no research as to the consequences of her actions. Since all high magic demands some sort of sacrifice the repercussions are huge. Enter the hero, Jason Black, a man born with no soul.
Jason checks in to Justine’s bed and breakfast, ostensibly to have meetings regarding a building project, but with a secret agenda of his own. He knows that he doesn’t have a soul and has been advised that the condition, while rare, is not unusual. Those born soul-less tend to live huge, bright lives but flame out early. Since he has no intention of dying young, he has to steal Justine’s centuries-old grimoire and try to find a solution to his problem. His plans change quickly when he meets Justine and feels an instant and unbreakable connection to her.
This book made me smile so many times. Justine and Jason are a well meaning couple, but their magic meddling provided real amusement. In an attempt to circumvent the results of breaking the geas, Justine slips Jason a potion that is supposed to give him an aversion to her. Instead it, as she tells a relative later, makes him “horny as a three-balled tomcat”. The Arkansas witches that Jason consults use a redneck Budweiser chalice and an Elvis altar cloth. I don’t want to give away all the good parts, but in many instances interactions and conversations between the main and secondary characters were inspired.
Jason’s character really got to me. He’s a wonderful guy who wants to leave a positive mark on the world, in spite of the fact that he was a battered child. He’s very centered and fatalistic, largely due to a couple of years spent in a Buddhist monastery. That doesn’t mean he intends to die without a fight. Because, when Jason dies – he’s dead. No afterlife, no reincarnation, nothing awaits him but dirt, and that probably very soon. His predicament gives the book an underlying tone of urgency that remains until the very end.
Unlike the previous books in the series that I’ve read, the protagonists here experience real peril, both the physical and metaphysical kind. Justine has an adventure during which she almost loses her life and is saved only by Jason’s wits and intuition that she’s in trouble. The backlash from the geas (pronounced gesh…did you know that?) draws nearer every hour and seems to worsen every time an attempt is made to avert disaster. The denouement is well worth the increase in blood pressure, though, and you’ll likely cry too.
You can rely on Kleypas for well-written love scenes, but here they are superlative. Some readers may not find them to their taste, as Justine and Jason explore Japanese variations in dominance and submission and light bondage. I found these scenes hot because there was tenderness and joy, not just titillation. And because, well, they’re Hot!
Crystal Cove is part of a series, but does not rely on characters from previous books to carry the story, and this one could be easily read as a stand-alone. You’ll find yourself rooting for Jason and Justine as they suffer greatly in their quest for their happy ending. This is simply a lovely, lovely story.