Do You Believe?
Do You Believe? has an interesting premise and began with a lot of potential. It’s a paranormal romance, one of my favorite subgenres, and features two story elements that I find appealing: a horror novelist hero and an English setting. But its early promise soon faded as it got bogged down in a slow-moving plot and a romance that left me cold.
Do You Believe in Evil? is the title of a horror novel by V.F. Drummond, Britain’s answer to Stephen King. It’s also the only clue Rose Early has to her sister Joan’s mysterious disappearance. Joan was a photographer working in England on a project taking pictures of artwork in local churches. She and Rose exchanged emails every day, and recently her emails turned strange – more and more obsessed with the subject of evil. She finally begged Rose to join her in England, something Rose couldn’t do. Then Joan disappeared, and Rose finally traveled to the small village of Marleton in the Cotswolds to search for answers.
In the cottage where Joan stayed, Rose discovers a box with some of her sister’s belongings hidden in a cupboard. Among the items is a copy of Drummond’s book, filled with notes Joan wrote in the margins. On the last page, seemingly in answer to the titular question, Joan wrote, “I believe.” The author is staying in Marleton in the home owned by his late aunt, and Rose goes to meet him. Vic Drummond knew Joan quite well – they were actually lovers. Though he initially resists, he agrees to help Rose uncover what happened to Joan, which involves discovering the secrets of a local church where some decidedly un-Christian things are taking place.
As a romance, Vic and Rose are not romantic at all. They receive a sprinkling of character development, but they’re wooden and lifeless. I never cared about them at any point in this story. Actually, it would have felt like a blessing if they had been killed off; at least maybe then some interesting characters might have shown up and taken their places. This is one of those books where the characters have a lot of sex, and that’s what passes for a love story. Vic and Rose have no apparent chemistry, sexual or otherwise, but they go at it like rabbits. After a while they start referring to what they’re doing as “making love,” and I could only snicker and wonder what love had to do with it. Their relationship is highly sexual, but not sexy in the least. The author dutifully reports what they’re doing in flat, terse lines that make the sex about as exciting as reading the phone book. My favorite is when she drops this gem in the middle of some dialogue: “They dueled tongues for a few minutes.” Oooh, sexy.
I should note that the dark undertones to some of the sexual encounters may make some readers uncomfortable. Some of the sex involves the characters not being in their right minds, lending the encounters a creepy vibe. There’s also a subplot involving a sex club where sexual fetishes are indulged and kinky sex takes place. These scenes didn’t bother me, mostly because I couldn’t muster up enough interest in them to care much either way. I’ve given this book a hot rating because it is fairly explicit, but for me this story was barely tepid, if that.
As a paranormal story, the supernatural elements remain too vague for too long to be satisfying. The author offers tantalizing glimpses of the paranormal elements, but that’s all they amount to: glimpses. The story improves when the supernatural aspects move to the forefront, because they’re more interesting than anything else in the story, but the plot moves very slowly and is often choppy. The author drops enough clues early on that it’s fairly easy to see where the story’s heading, but it sure takes its sweet time getting there. This book really is needlessly drawn out and overly long, especially since it’s so predictable. I don’t think there are any real surprises. When the supernatural climax finally arrives, it’s okay, but not worth the time it took to get there. The ending isn’t all that satisfying either, because the story never quite gels and some aspects are ultimately left too vague.
Do You Believe? has a fascinating idea at its core, about the kind of everyday evil that can be right under people’s noses, permeating their lives without them even knowing. It could have been developed into a compelling story. But this book is just boring. Paranormal romance is one of my favorite subgenres and I do believe combining a love story with the supernatural can make for a great book. This isn’t one.