I want you to know that I don’t enjoy doing this. I wish I could give every first novel by every new author at least a B. But in the case of Lauren’s Eyes, the debut by Norah Wilson, that would be just a little too complimentary.
Lauren Townsend is a veterinarian who is also a psychic. Lately she’s been plagued by visions of a beautiful blond woman being viciously strangled. She figures out that the crime will take place in Alberta on the Foothills Guest Ranch. Lauren goes on vacation to the dude ranch, hoping to prevent the crime. Her noble mission doesn’t keep her from noticing that Cal Taggart, the owner of the ranch, is one sexy cowboy.
Cal notices Lauren, too, but he’s a worried man. He’s turned his working ranch into a guest ranch in order to stave off the creditors, but his financials don’t look too good even so. His ex-wife, Marlene, has come to the ranch fleeing the loan shark she borrowed money from; she’s sexually predatory and on drugs – and she’s stirring up his men. When things start to heat up between Cal and Lauren, he insists that he’s only interested in sex.
The author makes a mistake that, it seems, a lot of inexperienced writers fall into. She tries to make her hero a sexy bad boy with a tormented past, but she succeeds only in creating an unforgivable jackass. Cal is deeply, deeply insecure, which makes him suspicious, snarly, and rude. For instance, when Lauren doesn’t accede to his demands when and where he wants her to, he starts flinging baseless accusations at her: so, she’s not really interested in him, right? Or maybe she’s ashamed of him and wants to keep him a secret, right? This third-degree routine is only the beginning. When Lauren starts to get too close to him, he attempts to drive her away with accusations and innuendos, at one point calling her a lesbian. Lauren has to swallow her pride and her anger in order to soothe him again and again in this novel, and I honestly couldn’t see why she’d bother.
Lauren finds this behavior forgivable and even noble, because of Cal’s hard, unloving childhood. Poor Cal. Sad Cal. “You’re a very honorable man, Callum Taggart,” breathes Lauren, after Cal displays his wounded heart by being a huge jerk to her once again. I rolled my eyes.
Cal is the chief problem with this book, but it’s not the only one. Miscommunication abounds. Lauren can’t tell Cal about the visions, because he’ll think she’s crazy. And she can’t tell him she loves him, because he’s made it clear he only wants sex. And he can’t tell her he loves her, because he’s basically not worthy of love.
The heroine who has psychic visions of crimes has turned into a major cliché; sometimes it seems that it’s been used by every romance author who likes Dream Man, which is almost all of them. Then there’s the ridiculous miscommunication between Cal and Lauren about what she does for a living. When she starts asking questions about the ranch, he (being, you know, a jackass) accuses her of picking his brains because she wants to start her own operation. She reassures him by claiming to be doing research for a book; and when he asks if he’s read her, she covers the lie by telling another one: no, she says, she’s a writer of erotica. That idiotic claim soon sets up an even-more-idiotic conflict, in which Lauren thinks that Cal is only interested in her because he thinks that, as a writer of erotica, she’s more sexually experienced and adventurous than other women.
The whole thing really irritated me, especially when it becomes clear that Lauren is actually extremely inexperienced in bed. The implication seems to be that, so long as she’s not really a highly-sexual erotica-author, it’s okay for him to love her. Sexual double standards in romance novels are common, but this one was so overt, I had to shake my head over it.
On the plus side: well, this thing isn’t horribly written. I thought the veterinary details were quite interesting. The solution to the mystery is no mystery, but the climax is action-packed and exciting. There are lots of hot love scenes. But none of that mitigates Cal’s exessively high irritation factor and variety of cliches that abound in Lauren’s Eyes. I think that Norah Wilson has talent, and probably has some good books in her future; but this is not one of them.