When Lightning Strikes
It’s not often that authors try the old bait and switch in their books, but when they do, I get livid. First of all, I absolutely hate it when the blurb and the genre tell me one thing, but the book itself is not what is promised. It’s like finding Jane Eyre promoted as science fiction or Pride and Prejudice as a teen fantasy. When Lightning Strikes is quintessential literary bait and switch. What is promoted as a quirky Western romance turns into not just a time travel novel, but one riddled with New Age sensibility as well. Ack! Hair ball.
Western romance author Alaina Costanza does an Alice in Wonderland fall into her manuscript one night, turning up in the middle of a bank robbery scene she’s just written with her villain Killian as the chief player. Cool, I thought at this point. Killian is angry that she knows all the details of the robbery and abducts her to find out what else she knows. As she and Killian interact – with some really nice dialog, I might add – she realizes that he’s not a villain, but her hero and the sheriff hero is actually an ineffective loser. Nice twist, right?
It’s at this point that Hannah switches her story. Suddenly, Alaina realizes she and Killian have been lovers for centuries and Killian, rather than being a fictional character, is Alaina’s remembrance of a past love. What? Wait. Now the story gets touchy-feely with reincarnations of half-remembered passion, and Alaina and the memory of Killian becoming soul mates.
Before anyone accuses me of disliking fantasy or Westerns, let me say that Robin D. Owen’s Heart series, which the second half of Hannah’s book resembles, is one of my favorites. And I’m crazy about Westerns, even those that turn out to be fairly clichéd and predictable.
Ineffectually melding the two together, however, is not only disconcerting, but violates my code of author conduct. Without foreshadowing or any other fiction conventions, Hannah’s story looks like an old abandoned manuscript that was picked up and completed without having her reread the beginning chapters.
What this type of author bait-and-switch does is turn readers away from authors who, like Hannah, are fairly good writers. Hannah’s dialog and sense of action are terrific, even though her sense of place needs work. Her West, other than being dusty and uncomfortable, lacks color and depth, things Alaina (and Hannah) should be adept at providing.
Either half of this book would have been very enjoyable if it had fulfilled its promise. Liberal foreshadowing to prepare readers of Westerns and better written promotional material are the least readers should expect so that they aren’t tempted to throw books like these at the wall.