Julie Garwood is one of romance’s superstars and has legions of devoted fans. While I have read romances for years, she is one of the genre’s writers who has pretty much sailed underneath my radar. I haven’t read any of her historical romances, but I have read a couple of her contemporary novels. Neither one of them impressed me – actually I can’t remember their titles. I gather from the publisher’s promotional material that came with Shadow Dance that Noah Claybourne and Jordan Buchanan are beloved characters and that finally, in this book they get their own story. All I can say is that beloved characters deserve better than this.
Jordan Buchanan is miffed at Noah Claybourne. Not only was he late for her brother’s wedding to Kate MacKenna while he finished a tryst with a woman, (he also had a foursome with three of the bridesmaids after the rehearsal dinner – the slut), but now while they are dancing at the reception, he’s accusing her of not wanting to be outside her comfort zone.
So Jordan likes her life calm – what’s wrong with that? But Noah’s remarks make Jordan think that maybe she is in a rut and, serindipitously, something has just happened to shake her up. An eccentric Texas professor, Horace MacKenna, who corresponds with Kate’s sister Isabel (a budding historian), comes to the reception to tell her about the vast amount of historical evidence he’s discovered concerning a centuries long feud between the MacKennas and the Buchanans and a lost treasure to boot. For his own eccentric reasons, Professor MacKenna didn’t bring the material with him and he won’t ship photocopies, so Jordan tells Isabel and MacKenna that she’ll go to Texas and photocopy the materials.
That has got to be the most far fetched way to get our heroine into harm’s way I have ever seen.
Well, Jordan drives to Serenity, Texas where the professor lives and just as she gets there, her car breaks down (somehow, I knew it would). The people in Serenity are either very friendly or very surly, but Jordan arranges to meet the professor, get the documents, finds a surly repairman, arranges for the use of a photocopier, chats with the locals, photocopies the documents, gets her car back from the surly repairman, then when she goes to put the documents in the trunk, there is the professor’s body – in a plastic baggie, no less.
Serenity is on the border of two counties and here comes Randy Dickey, the sheriff of the adjoining county, and Maggie Haden, Serenity’s police chief. They proceed to squabble just like a couple of kids fighting on the playground over who has jurisdiction in this case. Then BAM! – Randy Dickey’s no-good brother J.D. shows up and punches Jordan in the jaw. Haden wins the argument and takes Jordan to the Serenity jail where she treats her in a way that is guaranteed to have any case against her dismissed. Surely even small-town police know of a little something called the Miranda ruling? Somehow, Jordan’s FBI agent brother Nick and Noah Claybourne show up and before you can say “what’s the FBI doing here in a case of simple murder?”, Jordan is free.
But instead of taking the papers and getting the heck out of Dodge, Jordan and Noah wait around and bing – the surly mechanic who fixed her car ends up dead. Then bang – Professor MacKenna’s house burns down and J.D.’s body shows up the ashes.
Okay, something is going on here, and it turns out that for a small town, Serenity has a lot of simmering secrets and shady characters. Noah and Jordan stick around, get into danger, and finally solve the murders.
Oh yes, and they fall in love.
Frankly, this book didn’t make me want to run out and find the other ones in the Claybourne/Buchanan series. (Small rant: I do not like androgynous names for women. I kept having to remind myself that Jordan was a female). The love scenes in Shadow Dance were so perfunctory that they could have been left out entirely. There was no sense of connection between Jordan and Noah at all. As characters, they were flat, lifeless, and reminded me of those cardboard props that some publishers send out as promo material. (I have a cardboard prop of Vigo Mortensson as Aragorn in my office and it has more character than Jordan or Noah). The supporting characters were clownish, acted like no real persons ever would and the dialogue was childish.
AAR once did an experiment. LLB, who had read many Amanda Quick novels, reviewed I Thee Wed…and assigned fellow AAR reviewer Anthony Langford, a Quick newbie, to review it as well. LLB did not like the book while Anthony did. Often, people who come to an author’s books fresh tend to like them better than long-times readers. Well, I’m pretty well a newbie to Garwood’s books, but I thought Shadow Dance was terrible. I know that Julie Garwood is an icon, and I fully intend to read one of her DIK historicals this year, but I couldn’t find a thing to like in this one.