Based on the rather generic cartoon cover and title, you’d expect Kristine Grayson’s most recent novel to be a perfectly ordinary contemporary romance. It doesn’t take more than a page or two, however, to realize this isn’t the case. Simply Irresistible features a psychic heroine, along with a hundred-year-old hero who can perform complex magic and open rips in time with a snap of his fingers. Think Miss Cleo meets Superman.
Our heroine, Vivian Kineally, is aware that she is psychic, but unaware that she is a mage, an extremely long-lived person whose magical powers will be fully realized after menopause. (Male mages get their powers at twenty-one.) Vivian has just left everything behind and moved to Portland, Oregon, to figure out who murdered her beloved Aunt Eugenia. The morning after she arrives, the Fates – Lachesis, Atropos, and Clothos – knock on her door. The Fates have a problem. They’ve been fired by The Powers That Be and replaced with three apparently teenaged, air-headed Fates named Brittany, Tiffany, and Crystal. (Doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?) Apparently, there is an evil scheme afoot to take over the world, and once our heroine accepts the nutty story the Fates have told her (which she does surprisingly easily) she’s willing to go find help. Help is in the form of a man named Henri Barou, now called Dexter Grant.
Dexter is a sexy hunk of a man. He’s also a rather nice, unprepossessing guy. There is, naturally, an instantaneous attraction between Vivian and Dexter, especially when Vivian notices his startling resemblance to the original 1938 Superman cover conveniently hanging on her wall. It turns out that Dexter, with his astounding powers and rugged good looks, inspired the original creators of the Superman comics. In a sense, he is Superman, although his personality leans more toward Clark Kent.
Up until this point the book flows along very smoothly and humorously. Unfortunately, Dexter seeks help from a number of other characters: Alex Blackstone (aka Aethelstan) and his wife Nora, and Andrew Vari (aka Darius and Sancho) and his wife Ariel (from Completely Smitten). All these characters have a history with the Fates and none of them are happy to be protecting the three women who have made all their lives difficult in various ways. The Fates serve as the judicial branch of the mage government, and they mete out rather severe and unpleasant punishments. (In Vari’s case he was made to look like a garden gnome for three thousand years, which makes his resentment of the Fates entirely understandable.) After some deliberation, however, these characters agree to help.
At this point it became a little too obvious that I was reading a sequel. The addition of so many characters made the middle part of the book unnecessarily confusing (the proliferation of names alone was enough to force me to resort to taking notes). These other characters were not fully realized; I kept getting them mixed up in my head, particularly Ariel and Nora, who don’t seem to have a lot of personality here. I needed a bit more back story than was provided. And worse yet, a lot of the middle of the book was taken up by these characters, yet they had absolutely no part to play in the resolution of the plot. It was as if they just dropped in to visit for a few chapters, then disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Simply Irresistible doesn’t stand alone quite as much as I’d like. Worse, it lacks a real feeling of romance. Much more of the book seemed dedicated to the mystery surrounding Aunt Eugenia’s murder and the Fates’ predicament than was spent exploring the feelings Vivian and Dex had for each other. A whole lot of time is spent inside the head of the villainess as she muses about her evil plot, but in the end her evil plot frankly doesn’t really amount to much. Also not resolved to my satisfaction is the Fates’… well, fate.
Another difficulty is that the most of the story occurs in a 2-day period and Vivian and Dex fall in love on the first day they meet. Perhaps I’m cynical, but that time frame is too short for me to be utterly convinced they’re in love. It doesn’t help that there isn’t a whole lot of sensuality sparking between the hero and heroine. Also undermining the romance is the author’s choice to omit any love scene: the characters do make love, but we’re not invited into the bedroom with them. Given the short time frame, this further undercut my certainty that they were really in love. A little sex could have, if you’ll pardon the expression, fleshed out the romance a bit. I usually loathe epilogues, but this is one instance where an epilogue, showing the happy couple a year or two later, might have helped me believe in the romance a little more. Alas, no epilogue was provided.
On the up side, Grayson’s paranormal world was intriguing and full of people with fascinating powers and abilities. I found Dexter to be an admirable hero, doing his best to improve the world with his magic – within the limits permitted by the mage government. (He’s also a hunk. Or did I mention that already?) And considering that Vivian hasn’t come into her full powers yet, she is one kick-butt heroine. Dex and Vivian have a psychic connection that could have been very interesting to explore in more depth.
If only a bit more emphasis had been placed on the hero and heroine, and less emphasis on the evil plot to take over the world, this could have been one terrific book. Simply Irresistible is humorous and imaginative. Unfortunately, it just didn’t reach out and grab my emotions enough to make it much more than an average read.