Paula Graves’ Forbidden Territory was one of the more promising debuts I read last year. In it she took the usual psychic heroine romantic suspense premise and did some interesting things with it, avoiding the typical serial killer element and giving her cop hero perfectly valid reasons to be skeptical of the heroine’s abilities beyond “A hero in a psychic heroine romantic suspense novel always must be skeptical.” My grade was a C+, mostly due to some blandness in the characters and the writing, but I had high hopes for what she would come up with next.
Unfortunately, in Forbidden Temptation, she gives in to the cliches she avoided the first time, as a heroine who can predict people’s deaths must suddenly contend with a serial killer (sigh) and a former FBI profiler who’s too logical to believe in the paranormal (yawn). Unlike the earlier book, this one pretty much is the story we’ve all read before. Though competently executed, without any fresh twists all that’s left is the blandness and familiarity.
Wedding planner Rose Browning once had the ability to see when two people were meant for each other. She would see what she called “true-love veils,” the image of the person’s destined love superimposed over his or her face, when she looked at them. Her talent went horribly wrong when one couple she helped get together met a violent end, with the husband killing his wife and then himself. In the aftermath, Rose left her small hometown and moved to Birmingham. More dramatically, she seemed to lose her ability and gained a different one. Now she sees death veils, which tell her when someone is going to die.
After a serial killer begins to target women in the city, Rose encounters one victim before her imminent demise. When the woman fails to heed Rose’s warning and meets her expected doom, Rose decides she should do more to stop the killer. Her efforts lead her to cross paths with Daniel Hartman, a former FBI profiler with a personal interest in the case. He believes this is the work of Orion, a serial killer who murdered Daniel’s fiancee years earlier in a similar fashion and has been killing women ever since. Rose sparks his attention, and he suspects she knows more about the case than she’s saying. To get to the truth, he’s willing to stick as close to her as possible.
There’s really not much to say about the book. It’s neither good nor bad, it just sort of…is. Graves’s writing is smooth, there are a few interesting scenes, and the story passes easily enough. But the characters are bland, despite back stories that had the potential to be more emotionally stirring than they came across, so the romance is merely okay. The plot feels predictable from start to finish. There simply aren’t enough characters to make the mystery any kind of challenge, so it’s easy to deduce which characters are red herrings and who the killer must be as a result. Graves tries to throw a small twist in at the end, but the ending remains overly familiar, right down to the villain’s motive.
Diehard fans of this plot may enjoy Graves’s take on it. There are certainly worse versions out there. Otherwise, this is simply an average take on a story that’s been done before, and done better. The best thing about it is that, with this story out of the way, the third Browning sister with paranormal abilities will likely be spared having to contend with this plot when her story rolls around next. I’m not giving up on this author. I still think she has potential. Hopefully it’s fulfilled better in her next book.