This was a very, very difficult book to grade. But here goes.
Elle Drake has a legacy. As the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter ad infinitum, she is destined to mother the next generation of witches. Obviously, her future partner is of paramount importance. Elle made her choice long ago: Jackson Deveau, taciturn bad boy deputy sheriff of Sea Haven, and a man with whom she has long shared a telepathic connection. Though he returns her feelings in full, his personal issues made him reject her and ever since Elle, as part of her rather hazily-described spy profession, has chosen her undercover assignments in locations as far away as possible. Though now she knows it is time to go home, before she does she will complete one last assignment. While posing as a socialite in order to get close to human traffic suspect Stavros Gratsos, he succeeds in kidnapping her. One month later Jackson finally locates Elle and he gathers together the Drake sisters and their collective powers to rescue her from Gratsos’ obsessive clutches.
When the AAR Annual Poll rolls around in January, I will nominate Jackson as Favorite Hero. He first heard Elle in his mind when he was a POW being tortured, and her voice was the only thing that kept him alive. Years later, it is his turn to care for Elle after her ordeal at Gratsos’ hands. He is my favorite kind of hero – one who has survived childhood dysfunction by encasing himself in a hard-as-coconuts shell, but who can’t suppress his marshmallow heart. His absolute adoration for Elle, encompassing all her strengths and sufferings, was heart-wrenching and beautiful.
But as much as I loved Jackson, Hidden Currents is primarily the story of a survivor. Gratsos does everything humanly possible to subjugate Elle – physically, sexually, emotionally and psychologically – and my heart bled for her even as my skin crawled. Elle has always considered herself a strong woman who must not only carry on the full range of Drake magic, but also one who walked away from her soul mate when she thought he rejected her legacy. But Gratsos annihilates this confidence to the point where she no longer feels like Elle Drake. This makes her recovery, thanks in no small part to Jackson, even more empowering. Elle is without doubt one of the strongest heroines I’ve come across.
But no matter how much I admired Jackson and Elle, there was one big issue that bothered me: From the time Elle is rescued to her wedding at the end of the book, less than one week elapses (five or six days, if I’m counting correctly). And since Elle is basically at 90% (emotionally, psychologically, and thanks to her sister’s magical healing, physically) on her wedding day, it takes her less than one week to get over trauma of appalling proportions. And that I find unbelievable. I have no personal or even second-hand knowledge of trauma recovery, but it seems as though Ms. Feehan condensed several weeks (or even months or years) of recuperation into the space of one week. I make some allowances for the fact that this is a work of fiction in a genre notorious even amongst its strongest advocates for taking liberties with reality, and also that Elle is a woman of incredible personal and magical strength. Still, to have a woman regain her physical strength, personal identity, sexual confidence, and get married within seven days of suffering truly horrific abuse is far-fetched in the extreme, and maybe even demeaning to thousands of women for whom a lifetime will never be enough to heal the wounds.
There were other issues I had with the book. For one, this volume emphatically does not stand on its own. The previous couples play a large and necessary role, but to those unfamiliar with the series these characters probably would seem interchangeable and thus confusing. More problematic though, I never felt the series had a larger story trajectory, so the earlier books worked well individually but, unfortunately, left loose ends for this one – specifically a a previous villain who pops up and meets his maker and serves no purpose to Elle and Jackson’s story. And finally, I can’t decide whether Gratsos came to a sophisticated extinction or subdued finish, but I’m inclined towards the latter. His end was remarkably civilized, all things considered.
Hidden Currents was not perfect, but (to end positively) the majority of the Drake series – and especially this book – show Ms. Feehan at a level I have never seen before. Despite some tonal imbalance, questionable timing, and structural unevenness, her prose is strong, her characterization almost impeccable, and she made me feel. And you can’t say that about many authors these days.