I don’t know how or why it happens but it always does. Christine Feehan’s female characters, no matter how they’re described, no matter how they’re drawn, generally end up acting the woman in jeopardy role. Ms. Feehan may say that they’re tough, that they’re super-intelligent, and in this case that they have powerful psychic abilities, yet none of that matters. What matters is being a delicate, fragile doll for the hero to protect and compulsively love. Sometimes this author makes it work, and sometimes she doesn’t. Love them or hate them, her books are generally interesting. Mind Game falls somewhere in the middle of the works/doesn’t work spectrum. The characters are initially intriguing but eventually begin to repeat themselves. Additionally, the pacing bogs down about mid-book and never gets its momentum back.
Dahlia Le Blanc is woman without a country. As a very small child she was given to Dr. Whitney, who conducted illegal and dangerous experiments on the girls in his care. Dahlia was just one of a number of child guinea pigs for Whitney. His goal was to change the way their brains worked to increase their psychic abilities. Most of his experiments failed to work out as expected, and the result is adults like Dahlia. Her talents allow her to manipulate energy of all kinds but she is unable to control her intake. She lives a lonely, controlled existence so that she doesn’t unleash a force she can’t control. Her only contact with the outside world is through her work as a lone-wolf operative for the NCIS, but her isolation is about to come to an end as two opposing forces compete to find Dahlia.
Lily (Shadow Game) Whitney-Ryland was raised by Dr. Whitney as a daughter. Though she too was the object of his experiments, she knew him only as a loving parent. Since his death she’s discovered the extent of his work and she is determined to find and help as many of the others as she can. A recent discovery has led her and her team of Ghostwalkers – men who also participated in Whitney’s experiments – to Dahlia. The decision has been made: Nicolas Trevane, the most dangerous of the Ghostwalker team, will find Dahlia, and if possible, bring her back to Lily. His arrival on Dahlia’s isolated island in the Louisiana bayou interrupts an attack. Someone is determined to kill Dahlia, who soon finds herself on the run with the mysterious Nicolas.
I had high hopes for Dahlia and Nicolas. Dahlia’s pyrokinesis (think Firestarter), as demonstrated in the video shown to the Ghostwalkers by Lily, was an intriguing hook for the story. Nicolas’ reaction to the video was equally interesting. He’s not sure that Dahlia is controllable – and if she’s not, he’s not bringing her back to Lily and his surrogate family. If he has to eliminate her to protect them, he will. That element alone was enough to keep me reading. But it’s dropped all too quickly because of Ms. Feehan’s penchant for insta-love storytelling.
During their very first interaction Nicolas is stunned at his powerful feelings.
She stared up at him with her dark, enormous eyes and her exotic, Asian beauty and somehow slipped past his guard and got under his skin. There was something about her he couldn’t quite grasp, something important, elusive, something that floated in his mind but refused to be caught. He let his breath out, determined not to let her get to him.
And two pages later it’s “He had an insane desire to pull her close and wrap her safely in his arms.” Soon her “enormous” eyes and delicate, tiny frame and the protective feelings engendered in Nicolas by them are being mentioned on every other page. Guess he won’t have to kill her after all.
Much of my problem with this kind of instant obsession as written is that the female characters become such weak, vulnerable flowers of womenhood. Prior to meeting Nicolas, Dahlia had been acting as a hired agent of the NCIS. She’d handled numerous dangerous missions and survived them all, even though it’s always been a battle to control her psychic powers. But enter Nicolas and suddenly she’s incapable of controlling her powers without his help. And even when she does go out on a mission, Nicolas has to be there protecting her. While it’s a pleasant little fantasy, it doesn’t exactly fit with the promise of who Dahlia was. It certainly made the story a whole lot less interesting.
The idea of this Ghostwalker group is interesting and the action stuff kept me reading, long after my interest in Dahlia and Nicolas’ romance waned. Will I pick up the next in the series? Probably. Because every once in a while Ms. Feehan makes the fantasy truly work. However, this particular installment is a mixed bag.