Goddess of Spring
In Goddess of Spring the author posits an interesting “what would you do” dilemma. Given the chance to become a goddess for six months, would you? Could you abandon your life and take the chance? What happens to the life you’ve left behind and to the life you’re about to inhabit? Great questions. Questions that could make for an entirely fascinating novel if the author gave them the attention they merit. Trouble is, they get pretty short shrift in Ms. Cast’s uneven and slowly-paced third novel.
Lina Santoro has a problem – a big one. Her accountant, an idiot if there ever was one, neglected to pay the IRS and now they want their money. If Lina can’t find a way to make a lot of money fast, her Italian bakery, Pani Del Goddess, is going to go under. What’s a girl to do but hit the books? Cookbooks that is. In hopes of finding a fabulous recipe to jumpstart a catering arm of the baking business, Lina hits the used bookstores. When she delves into The Italian Goddess Cookbook she gets more than she bargained for.
Lina’s not the only one with problems. In another realm Demeter is concerned about her beautiful daughter Persephone. The girl has been promised to the Underworld for six months of each year and the denizens of the Underworld are calling on her with increasing frequency to make her first visit. Demeter is afraid that Persephone doesn’t have the needed maturity for the job and wants her to get some life experience before taking on the task of being the Goddess of the Underworld. By following a recipe from the Goddess cookbook faithfully, Lina inadvertently calls on Demeter, who sees in the baker her chance to shape events to suit both women. Here’s the deal: Persephone will take over Lina’s body in present day Tulsa and make the bakery a wild success and Lina (as Persephone) will join Hades in the Underworld.
The first thing I learned in reading Ms. Cast’s Goddess books is not to think about the mechanics too much. How the women switch bodies is explained with a spell and a wave of Demeter’s hand. The later technicalities of how this will work in terms of the romance are given short shrift. And I’m okay with that. As long as the story engages me enough (as it did in Goddess by Mistake), the niggling details remain just that. I notice them a lot more when the pacing falls off, as it does here.
Hades and his Underworld are richly imagined – trouble is they have no story with which to truly show this. Hades has been hurt in the past and is brooding enough to be interesting. But he’s far more than this one note. Meeting Lina (as Persephone) changes Hades’ outlook tremendously, and I give the author points for moving him beyond wounded hero status in a timely and realistic fashion. But then there’s nothing. Lina flits around the Underworld, befriends and attracts Hades, makes some friends, and, well I guess there isn’t anything else.
I loved the idea of the book far more than the execution. Lina and Hades make admirable and interesting protagonists, the setting is fully imagined and drawn, but nothing really happens. Ms. Cast had so much to work with here and yet it falls a little flat. Goddess by Mistake was brimming with energy – but somehow in finding a mainstream publisher Ms. Cast has lost that energy. Let’s hope for better next time around.