It’s hard to carry off a plot as weird as the ones required by Jove for their Haunting Hearts line. The romance must be the main focus of the story, but the paranormal aspects must also be written in a believable, natural way that enhances the plot. Some books succeed, but most fall flat. This one falls in the latter category.
Noah Simmons had high hopes of amassing his own fortune. When Indians alert him to a fortune hidden deep within the Hoyo del Diablo cavern, he ignores their warnings to beware of a “monster,” sure that it’s nothing but a tall tale. His ignorance and greed lead to his demise and now he’s a lonely ghost trapped within the cave. Liz is the first female he’s seen in over a hundred years and he falls instantly in love with her and spends the remainder of the book looking out for her.
Botanist Liz Madison has spent a good part of her career preparing for the BioCave experiment but is crushed to learn that she will not be able to participate. The millionaire financing the project insists that all participants have spouses because they are going to be cooped up below ground for at least six months (and he thinks this is a good idea?!). Unfortunately Liz isn’t married. She proposes to head geologist Ethan Winslow out of desperation, even though she despises him, after his fiancee backs out at the last moment. Ethan is cold and arrogant, and has made her life a living hell in the past. Liz instantly regrets her rash proposal once he agrees because she’s just realized that – gasp – she’s going to have to share a bed with him.
So there’s the farfetched setup. I enjoy fantasy, ghosts, vampires and all kinds of ghouls. I’m not a person who finds it difficult to suspend disbelief but I do require sound reasoning in a story and this opening immediately had me questioning the logic of the book. Why would this millionaire who is so insistent on the “marrieds only” clause allow a couple who have had a very unpleasant past working relationship, and who obviously married only for the sake of the project, to become a part of BioCave? It just doesn’t make sense, and when a big secret (that is pretty obvious from the beginning) is revealed towards the end of the novel it makes even less sense.
If the rest of the story had been enjoyable, this blatant plot device would have been easy to overlook. Unfortunately it wasn’t, and the frustrating plot devices continued. The threatening monster – which could have made for a very claustrophobic and scary read – didn’t induce a single goosebump. Trust me, an episode of Barney is more frightening. Because of the monster, and Noah the friendly but jealous ghost, the scientists experienced numerous equipment failures and suffered life-threatening injuries but stubbornly refused to abandon the project until the situation nearly got out of control.
As bad as the aforementioned problems were, the most disappointing aspect of the book was the romance. The biggest impediment to the relationship was the couple’s fear of love. They were both products of broken homes and had been raised by cold/too busy parents, and as a result these two adults found themselves incapable of opening up. But that wasn’t all – there was a “big misunderstanding” keeping them at a distance too. The oh-so-charming hero believed that Liz was a gold-digger who is sleeping with the old fart whose money is financing the project and she let him believe it – until the very end of the book! Which led to another implausibility. The apparently not-so-bright hero turned out to be the son of a very rich man, yet he never asked the heroine, for whom he had no respect and thought to be a money grubber, to sign a prenuptial agreement, because, as he latered pondered, he must have trusted her all along!?! And, although the couple had quite a bit of sexual tension between them, there was little actual relationship development. They spent their time arguing, avoiding each other, or having hot sex. If they had bothered to have one short, honest conversation with one another, their major conflict, which dragged on for an eternity, could have been avoided.
This was a frustrating and slow moving read because the couple got caught in a relationship rut and the occasional bouts of action and adventure weren’t all that thrilling. If you like cabin romances, heavy-handed doses of sensual tension, and ghostly goings-on – and you aren’t bothered by easy-to-resolve relationship and plot conflicts, you may want to give this one a look-see. Me, I think I got cabin fever after 200 pages. If you are interested in trying something by Karen Sandler, I recommend her earlier romance, Unforgettable, which I graded B- earlier this year.
|Review Date:||August 19, 1999|