Not a Moment Too Soon
Not a Moment Too Soon has an intriguing premise, with a different twist on the usual psychic heroine plot. In the end though, the story really isn’t that interesting.
Shauna O’Leary owns a children’s theme restaurant where she reads stories she’s written for the kids who come in. But sometimes when she sits in front of her computer, she winds up writing a different story than she intended, losing control of her conscious mind and automatically writing something without knowing that she’s doing it. The worst part is that the stories that result, usually involving someone in danger, always come true. She can try to go back and try to edit it, but when she saves and reopens the file, the story is always the same as she originally wrote it, destined to become reality. This gift/curse has been handed down by the women in her family for generations.
To help the people whose dire fates she writes about, Shauna got a degree in psychology. That’s right, she runs a children’s theme restaurant and is a psychologist. That seemed a little far-fetched to me, but I figured it I was going to buy into the concept of automatic writing, a psychologist/restauranteur shouldn’t be that hard to believe. When her most recent story hits a little too close to home – it describes the kidnapping of a young girl who happens to be the daughter of Shauna’s ex-lover, Hunter Strahm – she contacts him and learns that her story did come true. His daughter was kidnapped.
A former police officer in their Arizona hometown, Hunter never believed in Shauna’s stories, which ultimately led to the end of the relationship. Shauna used to work with police whenever she wrote one of her stories, something Hunter resented. Fearing his reaction, Shauna hesitated before revealing something she wrote, and several people were killed in a bank robbery as a result. Hunter was criticized for not taking advantage of a proven source. He quit the force in a huff, dumped Shauna, and moved to Los Angeles. This big blowup between them never made any sense to me, and I couldn’t figure out what reason he had to be mad at her. Because she hesitated before telling him something she knew he wouldn’t believe and would make fun of her for? What a guy.
In any case, when he learns about Shauna’s most recent story, he drags her to Los Angeles with him to help him with the search for his daughter. He still doesn’t believe in her automatic writing, and he especially doesn’t want to believe this story. Because this one ends with his daughter’s death.
The author’s writing is sharp and engaging. In terms of her use of language and her voice, this is one of the better written series books I’ve read lately. It gets off to a promising start, but while it certainly is readable, it soon loses steam thanks to two big problems: the suspense plot and the hero.
The mystery is uninteresting and the plot moves very slowly. There’s page after page of the characters getting nowhere in their investigation, plowing the minutiae of the case. This would be annoying enough, except the mystery really isn’t all that complicated and most readers will be able to figure out who the guilty party is easily. The characters take way too long to solve such a thin mystery. It’s as if they’re taking a five-mile route to get to a destination that’s two blocks away.
As for the “hero,” for most of the book he’s completely unsympathetic. Shauna is a far-too understanding heroine who is doing her best to help him and he treats her like dirt. Neither character is very well-developed, so all that comes across about Hunter is that he’s a big jerk. And that’s before he has a hissy fit that’s practically insane regarding something Shauna wrote. His behavior demands a big groveling scene to make up for the way he treats her. It never comes. In fact, in the final scene, I thought he was still being rude and Shauna was a doormat for not telling him to take a hike. Some happy ending.
The book was well-written enough that it took me longer than it should have to realize how obnoxious the “hero” was. By the end, I certainly wasn’t having that problem any longer. Though it has an interesting premise and is capably told, this story has too many problems to work. It’s too bad Shauna couldn’t have written herself into a better story, and happier ending, than this one.