While I don’t read many time travel romances as a rule, I was intrigued by the Native American setting of Misty Evans’ Soul Survivor. I discovered that I can enjoy a time travel story if the plotting is handled with sensitivity, as it is here, even if the novel was a bit uneven in other areas.
Rife St. Cloud is an FBI profiler whom his superiors sent on home leave because he hovered near burnout. Visiting his grandfather in Wolf River, Oregon, Rife chafes at his enforced inactivity and jumps on the chance to investigate a horrific crime scene that his grandfather, the police chief, gets called to. Six Native American women have been ritually killed in an old church, now converted into living quarters. While Rife and his grandfather are still speculating about reasons for the murder, they discover that one of the women, the owner of the church, is still alive, and they rush her to the hospital.
Keva Moon Water is still alive because she can’t die. A thousand years ago, she abused her powers as priestess and leader of the Moon Water tribe to ensure her personal happiness, and as a result saw the horrible deaths of her lover and most of her tribe. Having angered a powerful spirit lodged in a artifact she misused, she finds herself cursed with eternal life. The five women who lived with her were the last descendants of her tribe, and when an ancient enemy caught up with her, they died for her sake.
If this appears way dark, that’s because it is. The novel raises questions about which is more important, personal happiness or the public good, and whether it is possible to atone for mistakes made in the past, and refuses to give easy answers to either of these questions.
As soon as Keva regains consciousness, she is in for another shock, as she sees the face of her dead love, Kai – reincarnated in the body of Rife St. Cloud. But as there’s no sign that he’s recognized her, is she hallucinating? Can she confront a matter-of-fact FBI agent with concepts as alien as reincarnation? And what does the advent of her old enemy mean for both herself and Rife?
I liked Keva – she is tough and determined, and while she deeply rues what she has done in the past, she doesn’t permit her memories from interfering with what needs to be done now. Part of her story is told in flashbacks, but not necessarily in the right order, so that part of the novel’s tension is created through finding out what really happened a thousand years ago.
Rife is less fleshed out – he is given rather a complex background in the first third of the book, but this is left mostly unexplored later. And I must admit I disliked his first name so much that it pulled me out of my reading again and again. Why not call him Prevalent or Abundant, if you need to be original?
Through the flashbacks and the intense attraction that instantly flares between Keva and Rife, there’s quite a bit of heat in this romance. It’s also cleverly done: With these two levels, you get both lushly described fully-blown sex scenes and that delicious phase of one dancing around the other while fighting or postponing fulfillment.
As for the time travel element, I liked how both the logistics and logical implications were done. Nothing too hair-raising! The villain, on the other hand, is very much an uber-villain for most of the novel and then defeated too easily.
All in all, Soul Survivor was a enjoyable read, and I plan to look out for the further novels in this series that the author announced in her foreword.