2008, Paranormal Historical (1790s France)
Signet Eclipse, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0451224582 Part of a series
Though Mystic Rider features a fantastic setting and an intriguing premise, the thin characterization and uninspired meandering of the story quickly show the reader that this will be merely an average read. The story glimmers with promise at its best points, but the the flaws ultimately outweigh the good points. After finishing, I certainly did not want to read any more in this series.
The hero of this story, Ian, is an Olympian who has come to France from his own mysterious island world in search of a powerful chalice that he must find before it falls into the hands of a powerful and wicked villain. While in our world, he sees a woman he knows to be his amacara, or destined lifemate. He has no choice but to bind himself to her, so he approaches her home to speak to her.
The amacara, Chantal, is a French widow living with her father, a politician and supporter of the Revolution. When a mysterious stranger appears at her home demanding a chalice and speaking to her of things she does not understand, it upsets her. However, distressed or not, she finds herself so powerfully drawn to the man that the two have sex before she even learns his name. Thus begins a rather average, "only in Romanceland" type of relationship.
While Ian and Chantal have some decent, and even humorous, interactions, their relationship never drew me in. One of the major reasons for this lies in the fact that a great deal of the conflict between them is contrived. Ian has come to Chantal because he knows her to be his lifemate. He is not allowed to simply explain to her who he is, where he comes from, and how things work in his world. The reasoning behind this contrivance makes little sense and it seems to exist solely to keep hero and heroine apart. After all, one cannot have the hero and heroine communicating openly too early in the story. It may cause them to build an open, honest, and healthy relationship rather than a bizarre set of interactions marked by bickering and frequent bouts of passionate lovemaking. And then where would we be? Geez.
In addition, the relationship falters because Ian seems particularly wooden. For example, after his first passionate encounter with Chantal, he tells her, "It is good to verify that we share equal enjoyment of this act." Be still my beating heart? Not exactly. Things do get better between the two, but never fully believable. The quest for the chalice and the rules of Ian's world always held my interest more than Ian and Chantal actually did. While the world-building could have used more polish, it was interesting and I appreciated that the villain of this piece had a good side rather than being wholly evil.
The story takes place primarily in Revolutionary France. At times the author uses the historical detail to good effect. But, as Rice explains in an author's note that I found silly and patronizing, she downplays the history on occasion to keep her story positive. Her reasoning? That the realities of the time period would overwhelm the love story and be too different from modern times for the reader to deal with...without her simplification. If she had risen to the challenge of her setting more often rather than trying to protect our delicate sensibilities and dim wits by forcing history out of the story, I suspect this book would have had more of an emotional impact.
Readers instead are treated to a run-of-the-mill paranormal detailing a quest for a mysterious object. Though the French setting is interesting, Mystic Rider could easily have taken place almost anywhere. Still, even in a thinly drawn setting, richly crafted characters can save a story, but, sadly, this does not happen here. Chantal and Ian read more like stock characters than actual, multidimensional people, and in a romance, this is a deadly flaw. Even with the positive aspects of the book, I cannot recommend it nor do I plan on reading others in the series.
-- Lynn Spencer
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