The Blue Hour
by Julie Tetel Andresen
(Madeira Press, $23.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-965-44991-2
****
The Blue Hour is an intricate, intriguing novel involving multiple generations of lovers, whose past lives are reincarnated in present day form. The complex story requires a great deal of concentration, and this may turn some readers off, as may the price tag. But for readers who like a tale involving the unusual, this may well be one of the better reads you come across this year.

Alexandra Kaminski is a cancer researcher in North Carolina, and her team of scientists has just received the promise of funding from a major French pharmaceutical company. The first person she meets from Seine-Lafitte is Valery Dorsainville, and alarm bells immediately go off in her head. Val's unexpected effect on Alex is coupled with a strange flashback Alex suffers in the lab after accidentally inhaling chloroform. In her flashback, Alex is transported to Paris of the late 1800's, where she appears to be a can-can dancer at a club called Le Chat Noir.

Val has strange visions of his own. His great-great uncle, Victor Dorsainville, was the family black sheep and founder of a small chemical company that evolved into Seine-Lafitte. The Dorsainilles have fallen on harder times; the family chateau has long since passed into other hands, and Val is determined to get it back. Val's own career as a rising tennis pro was cut short by a back injury ten years earlier. Now risen to the level of vice-president of Seine-Lafitte, Val is enmeshed in a struggle to get the patents for a new cancer-detection test kit. He's also involved in an affair with the daughter of the company's president. Alexandra Kaminski, however, rocks him back on his heels and before long, the two of them are lovers.

Dreams and visions haunt Val and Alex. They were lovers in the past, and things ended tragically. All the key players from that past are represented in their present lives. This time around, can they get it right?

This story covers a lot of ground. Readers will need to pay close attention to keep the cast of characters straight, both past and present. It's an interesting journey, however, and those who like stories with an incarnation twist will find it engrossing.

The novel did feel a bit too long. At 430 pages, it might have benefited from some judicious trimming to keep the story moving. The action also covers a lot of ground, moving from North Carolina to Chicago to Paris. The plot is unfolded with exquisite detail and expression, but there is not much emotional depth to the characters as the reader is not often privy to their thoughts, but rather watches from outside their visions and flashbacks. Nonetheless, it's worth the effort.

Books like The Blue Hour deserve a place on romance readers' shelves. If you're not put off by the price, it's worthwhile. This is romance for readers who like to think while they read. Kudos to Ms. Andresen for taking the risks in bringing this story to us.

--Cathy Sova


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