Ever since paranormal romances began to pop up again in the Harlequin/Silhouette lines, I’ve been grabbing every one I could find. The psychic heroine seems to be a particularly popular device, and Sight Unseen is another take on the storyline. It’s an intriguing thriller built on some fascinating ideas, though it also falls short of a recommendation for a number of reasons.
Ethan Snow is a Phoenix operative working to uncover the truth about a secret terrorist organization working within the United States. In an interesting twist, these terrorists are Americans, determined to attack targets in the U.S. and blame them on the Middle East to start a holy war against Muslims. After six months without any new leads, Ethan visits a former CIA director who gives him the name of a woman who may be able to help him.
Ethan believes Raine McAllister must have information about the group known as the Covenant. He doesn’t realize that she is actually a psychic. Twenty-five years ago when she was just a child, she was part of a top-secret CIA program investigating clairvoyant capabilities. Now she lives a quiet life in Alabama, offering occasional help to the police. When Ethan mentions the name of the man who sent him, the same man who saved her from the CIA program all those years ago, she agrees to help him. They travel back to Washington D.C., where it soon becomes clear that someone wants Raine dead.
This is the third book in a series which was spun off from another series, and this storyline with the Covenant apparently began in a previous book. There are times where the story seems to operate under the assumption that the reader has read those books. Characters that don’t appear here and events that happened before this book began are mentioned in offhand ways that reference them without really explaining who and what they are. For the most part, though, the story is easy to understand on its own terms and mostly stands alone.
On the plus side, the author strikes the right type of mysterious tone to draw the reader into this story. There’s a nice sense of mood and some really effective suspenseful moments that pack a punch. This is obviously a very topical storyline, and in spite of the paranormal element it feels plausibly grounded in the real world. The concept of a secret CIA program to exploit the paranormal abilities of certain individuals during the Cold War is an interesting concept that comes across as all-too believable in the author’s hands.
I liked Raine as a heroine a great deal. Unlike so many psychic heroines, she’s not fragile or emotionally battered. She does have a somewhat tortured past, but she still comes across as stronger and more determined than these characters often do. She’s a good blend of strength and mystery, and has a well developed history. On the other hand, Ethan isn’t really developed as a character. Neither the reader nor the heroine learns very much about him, he doesn’t display much of a personality, and he remains enigmatic throughout the book. He’s not exactly a boring hero, but he’s not all that compelling either.
Even less developed is the romance, which is virtually nonexistent. During the first half of the book, Wilson offers the occasional, sporadic mention of an attraction between them. Then out of nowhere, there’s a lengthy sex scene, which seems to take place because this is the point in a romance novel where the characters are supposed to have sex rather than because of any deep desire. After that, the romance isn’t mentioned at all until the very end of the book, where the characters are evidently deeply in love. Why? I couldn’t tell you. This falls far short of being a satisfying love story.
The storyline is very complex, but the execution is uneven. The author knows how to deliver a tense scene and some gripping moments. There are some emotional turning points and suspenseful face-offs, like Raine and Ethan’s first encounter with a mysterious old woman, that crackle with tension. But sometimes the story drags in long narrative sections that really slow the pace. For instance, Chapter Seven is a complete waste, nine pages where almost nothing happens. The one minor event that does happen (Raine gets a meaningful pair of earrings) and the relevant exposition could have been accomplished in much less time and included at the beginning of the next chapter. Tightening up sections like this could have left more room for developing the hero and the love story. Some of the plotting is also a little muddled and there are some confusing parts, such as the climax and the final explanations for everything that happened, which I had to read more than once to really make sense of the storyline.
Sight Unseen is a decent read. The material is fascinating and the story is engaging enough that it’s certainly above average, but it’s also somewhat of a mixed bag. It has some great moments, but on the whole it’s not entirely satisfying. Readers who can’t get enough of the psychic heroine angle may find it worth a look. For anyone else, there are better versions out there.