Jamie Leigh Hansen
2008, Paranormal Romance
Tor, $6.99, 324 pages, Amazon ASIN 0765357208

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Hot

My reading year has definitely gotten off to a good start. I've read satisfying historicals and now I get to review the best paranormal I've come across in ages. In Betrayed, Jamie Leigh Hansen combines intense romance with vivid and unusual (that's right, no vampires or shapeshifters!) world-building to create a book that makes quite an impact.

Kalyss has lived through nine lifetimes only to die nine horrible deaths without ever realizing the quest for which she keeps being reborn - breaking a curse that binds her, her husband, and those closest to them. Each time she is reborn, Kalyss starts fresh with no knowledge of her past lives or of her medieval husband, Dreux.

For his part of the curse, Dreux has spent nine centuries encased in stone. He can hear what happens around him and he can feel the almost unbearable ache of not having the ability to help Kalyss in her quest. However, in the modern day, Kalyss can come closer to freeing Dreux from his stone prison and freeing all from the curse that has led to her endless deaths and rebirths, and to Dreux's years of pain.

Though this plot sounds overwrought and melodramatic no matter how one describes it, the author makes it work. I wondered about a few internal inconsistencies, such as why Dreux's faithful squire can die and be reborn as himself, with no loss of memory, while Kalyss must start each life afresh. For the most part, the characters caught my interest enough that these niggling doubts intruded rarely.

The love story between Kalyss and Dreux is intense and vivid both in their modern-day lives and in their flashbacks to the past. Both hero and heroine have suffered deeply, and the author manages to show this to the reader without creating a story so dark that more positive ideas of finding love and peace at last would seem unbelievable. As a result, both the deep emotion and the fast-paced action of the story will keep readers riveted.

In Betrayed, the author combines a strong lead couple with secondary characters that one cannot help caring about (even at least one of the villains) to build a fascinating world. Challenging elements meld together so smoothly that is it difficult to remember this is a debut novel. Even though there are a few weak points in the story, I enjoyed it and definitely want to see more from this author.

-- Lynn Spencer

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