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Legend Meets Life

Mary Alice Kruesi’s Second Star to the Right is a delightful meshing of the Peter Pan legend with a contemporary love story set in London. Faye and her two children move to London so she can resume work in advertising. They left the United States because of an abusive husband and father which resulted in a wholly severing divorce. They rent a house owned by a very old woman named Wendy who comes to remind them of the Wendy in Peter Pan. The other tenant is Jack, one of the top physicists in the world, who is on a soon-to-end assignment at a London Institute. Jack’s problem is that he can’t commit to a relationship, yet Faye and her children tempt him towards commitment greatly. The reason Jack has this problem starts coming to light. It turns out that he was one of the boys taken up for adoption that this old Wendy found supposedly at her doorstep. Thus, Jack fits within the Peter Pan legend as one of Wendy’s Lost Boys.

Avon published this fairy tale love story with the whimsical cover. A woman is swinging on a sliver of the moon surrounded by stars and suspended over a road that goes off into the abstract unknown. This is the way back to Neverland, which will be true for the old woman, Wendy, whereas Faye’s destination will be love with Jack, an equally fantastic place. The colors in the online image are darker than the cover I own. In either version, however, it is the sliver of the moon and woman swinging on it which stands out. It is set off by the background of blues and greens and the stars that glitter inside those colors. The swinging woman part of the visual repeats on the book’s spine. An author at Avon told me these kinds of covers are created by collage wherein cutouts of heavy colored paper are pieced together by the artist/illustrator to form the image. I could find no credit for the artist/illustrator or designer for this cover. My only worry is that this cartoon-like collage image is seemingly overflowing into the romance book market and, through overuse, the day might fast approach where none of us will want to see anymore of them. Anything, after all, can be overdone. This cover is eligible for the 1999 Cover Ballot since it was released in 1999.

Humans Plus Creatures

Some authors enter the paranormal realm by using other creatures. These seem to run the gamut from wolves, to fish, to cats and dogs. I am a big animal lover so these books are added inducement for me to enter the paranormal realm.

This next book cover came to me from readers who discovered it at the author’s web site – the book itself will not be out until October (dual AAR Reviews went online September 5th). After hearing so much about it, I contacted the author, who sent me the cover flat and galleys for the book. It’s title? Touch of the Wolf, by Susan Krinard.

Touch Of The Wolf might also be called The Werewolf Chronicles. I never realized exactly how different werewolves were from vampires until Krinard so meticulously created their world within an aristocratic, Victorian English family. Since vampires don’t sexually reproduce, for one, there is no concern regarding “mixed marriages” whereas this is a big concern for the werewolves. Not only do these werewolves live together as an extended family, first in London and then in the wilds of their Northumberland estate, but they even meet with other werewolves from around the world in convocations. This first volume in this series is also the love story between the head of the English werewolves, the Earl of Greyburn, Braden Forster, and his distant American cousin from New Mexico, Cassidy. A great touch of irony in this story is that Braden is as obsessed with finding mates for his family who spring from true werewolf blood as the rest of the English aristocracy is obsessed with securing titles and fortunes by marital alliances. He is wholly unmoved, as the story opens, with even the idea of love matches. One’s werewolf lineage is all that matters to this Earl. One problem with diluting werewolf blood is that future generations have problems changing into a wolf. Cassidy faces this problem since she is from a mixed marriage of werewolf mother and human father. Braden’s sister is a full werewolf but she hates being one and wants to marry a human against her brother’s wishes. Another great comedic touch is that Greyburn’s chief agricultural concern in Northumberland is raising sheep, of all things. The werewolves don’t attack the sheep; their tenants just raise them.

I wrote about Alice Borchard’s Silver Wolf in an earlier column and its sequel has just been released, Night Of The Wolf . The first book is set in and around Rome at the time of Charlemagne. The second is set around the time of Caesar and Cleopatra but still mainly in Rome. I haven’t read the second book yet but I do know that the male protagonist is a werewolf captured by the Romans and turned into a gladiator.

I’d like to make a distinction between what the two authors are seeking to do with werewolves based on my reading Krinard’s and Borchard’s first books in each of their werewolf series. Borchard is very interested in what is going on historically around the woman protagonist werewolf. A large portion of the first story is this woman involved with other human characters, many of whom are historically important. In the latter portion of the book, the love interest comes into play. He is a werewolf and leads his own tribe of werewolves. However, this is primarily a battle of the werewolves vs. the humans rather than infighting among the werewolves. By contrast, Krinard is not concerned about humans and the lives they lived in Victorian England, nor with the historical events and figures, which affected them. She is concerned instead with the daily lives of these werewolves, in both human and wolf form, their conflicts with one another and their plans for the future. Their love interests are front and center, including conflict over arranged werewolf marriages. I happen to enjoy both approaches and think both authors do great jobs with the routes they’ve chosen. However, these are very different approaches to what may appear to be the same material.

I have received more reader email about the cover for Touch Of The Wolf than I have any other book cover in 1999. Readers absolutely love it. I’ve seen this kind of image on the stepback of other novels but I believe it is a good idea to instead bring this image to the front cover. That way it hits readers right between the eyes in the stores yet doesn’t embarrass them to pick it up. Painted by artist/illustrator Franco Accornero, whose work we’ve previously admired, it is an artful melange of /wp-content/uploads/oldsiteimages from the heart of this werewolf story.

Notice that the moonlit wolf is howling back-to-back against Braden. This shows his werewolf nature. We also see the Northumberland setting, below, but it does not dominate the cover. The Braden-wolf image dominates the cover. The color scheme is powerful in its darkness with the blue-gray-silver at the left mixing with the red at the right to produce purple below. Notice how well shadow is used and that it gives contour and distinction to Braden’s face. Braden’s face, neck and collar are also the focal point of light in the image, which centers one’s gaze upon him. The romance aspect of the story is shown by the man and woman coming together in the upper right, an appropriate place for using the color red. Braden’s image also appears on the book’s spine and back cover, both set nicely against a deep blue background, which will appeal to those browsing the bookshelves. I will be surprised if this cover does not do well on our 1999 Cover Ballot for which it is eligible.

I’ve been to Sea World and even snorkeled, but have never been a rabid enthusiast of the world of fish. However, were I allowed to enter my own sea world, I would make my model The Mermaid, written by Betina Krahn and published by Bantam. I can easily see myself swimming with the communicative dolphins in this novel. This is a wonderful story about Celeste, who is self-taught marine life expert. She’s even authored a book, The Secret World of Dolphins, by working with her own dolphins. She stands up to a stuffy Oxford professor in Victorian England, Titus, whose rigid academic ideas about fish and the sea need a good shaking up. After insulting her at a royal society lecture that Celeste gives about her work, Titus accepts her challenge to come to her home located on the coast to meet her dolphins and see the results of her work with them. Up until this visit, Titus’s contact with fish has been limited to dead ones. Celeste also gets right into the water, swimming with the dolphins, whereas Titus has a phobia about the water and can’t swim. There’s even an ancient sea cult that the two of them are called upon to lead, the Atlantean Society, but Titus resists changing his ideas at every turn. The dolphins can telepathically “speak” with Celeste and Titus.

This is a wonderful cover package. The front cover, by designer Alan Ayers, is a background of blue-green seawater against the iridescent silver-gold-magenta tail of a surfacing mermaid.

Then, opening to the stepback, there is a lovely rendering of the lead characters being underwater and surrounded by the living world of the sea. The color scheme is the same as the front with the addition of human flesh and hair tones. Of course, people wouldn’t really look this good underwater, be dressed this fully or receive such great lighting but this is a paranormal. If the artist, Elaine Duillo, removed his boots and belt though, the clothing could be eliminated as a problem. The bubbles they are blowing while underwater is a nice touch too. A detail of Duillo’s image of the characters being underwater repeats on the spine and the back, including the bubbles!


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