By Catherine Mulvany, 1998, Series Romance
Loveswept #893, $3.50, ISBN #0-553-44686-X
Seven years ago, Kirsten Rainey was been kidnapped. Her wealthy father, Jack Rainey, paid the ransom - but Kirsten never appeared. The ransom was never collected and Kirsten was eventually declared dead. When the story begins, Kirsten's fiancé, Teague Harris is at a county fair when he sees a woman who is the exact double of Kirsten. He follows her around and when they meet and talk, Teague finds out that she is Shea McKenzie and she has never met nor even heard of Kirsten Rainey. Teague explains what happened to Kirsten and shows Shea a picture of her. Then Teague asks Shea for a favor. Jack Rainey is dying of cancer and has never gotten over the disappearance of Kirsten. Teague asks Shea to impersonate Kirsten for a while to give Jack some peace of mind before he dies, Teague also needs her help to try and find the person who killed Kirsten. Teague thinks the murderer might have been an aquaintance and if Shea shows up as Kirsten, the murderer might show his hand! Shea reluctantly agrees.
Teague gives Shea a crash course on Kirsten's life and habits and even though she is scared at first, she passes the test with flying colors. The Rainey family accept Shea as Kirsten and believe her story that she was suffering from amnesia. Shea begins to have some odd experiences - she knows things about Kirsten that Teague had not told her and even sometimes feels a presence in the room with her, especially when she is near a large aquamarine crystal that Kirsten once owned. Also, as Jack is showing Shea some family pictures, she sees one of Jack, his wife and a young woman who is Shea's mother. Shea always thought her father died in Vietnam, but after she sees the picture she begins to wonder.
Aquamarine is a short book, only 209 pages and it really needed to be longer. Shea was a very likable character and was well-developed considering the length of the book, but Teague was more vague. I never really got a good mental picture of him, and wished for more pages so Ms. Mulvaney could spend more time with the characters and the romance. As it was, the mystery very much overshadowed the romance in Aquamarine. Now that the Loveswept line is going to be discontinued, I still hope that some publisher picks up Catherine Mulvaney. With more pages to develop the plot and characters, I think she could write an excellent romantic suspense book, or (given her wonderful sense of humor) a romantic comedy.
Aquamarine is the story of a woman named Kirsten who helps her fiancé find her killer through the power of a crystal seven years after her disappearance. Strange, you might say? Wait – there's more. Shea McKenzie, a woman fitting Kirsten's description, shows up in Liberty, Idaho seven years later and teams up Kirsten's fiancé, Teague, to ease Kirsten's father's pain, who blames himself for her disappearance years before. Together, Teague and Shea set out to piece together the mysteries of murder, betrayal and desire before the murderer catches on to their farce.
On the surface, the intentions of this book are good. My interest was tweaked when I read the back cover of Aquamarine; but about 20 pages into it, I was lost and bored, but determined to see it through to the end. What can I say, I hate putting a book down in the middle of a chapter. (This would've been a good book to make an exception, though.) Although the author has attempted an ambitious plot line here, I found much of it contrite, confusing, and corny. Who would have guessed people's lives were so shallow and non-descript? If I were Shea McKenzie, I would've kept on driving out to California once I got a taste for what Liberty had to offer.
The book left me with too many questions concerning the characters, the plot and the realism of all of this happening the way it did. Yes, in a paranormal romance one must suspend disbelief, but there are still ways of describing supernatural events without leaving the reader scratching his/her head and saying, "Huh?" My confusion only grew when the end of the book came roaring by. The author tried to tie everything together with a very neat and tidy bow before the last sentence ends, but I wasn't having any of it.
While the author does a hatchet job on the suspense sub-plot, the love story between Teague and Shea was mildly entrancing. But since it is the only part of the book described with clarity and understanding, I couldn't enjoy it to its fullest. When I open a Loveswept novel, I want to be swept away with the romance, desire and sexual tension between the primary characters. In this one, I would have to say my feet were constantly rooted to the ground.
Overall, Aquamarine wasn't an entirely excruciating experience (at least I got to laugh at the obvious ending), but neither was it an entertaining experience. This is only Mulvany's third novel, and since I've heard such good things about her debut novel, I can only guess that this was a one-time aberration. Better luck next time, but I don't think I will read it.
-- Melissa Gold
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