Entangled by Kathleen Dante
(Berkley, $14.00, NC-17) ISBN 0-425-21275-0
**
The problems with Dante’s debut novel begin with the packaging. Someone in Berkley’s PR department should have noticed that while the cover art and back cover description suggest Entangled is a contemporary romantic suspense novel, it’s actually a paranormal – a wallpaper paranormal at that.

Kiera Stevens is the CEO of kidTek, which makes children’s toys but also does some work in black ops. Frankly, this is never explained well and it’s extremely hard to wrap your mind around. Anyway, someone is stealing company secrets so she turns to her old childhood friend Dillon, who in turn goes to a former associate John “Lantis” Atlantis. I swear to you that’s what he goes by, “Lantis.”

Anyway, Lantis decides to pose as Kiera’s boyfriend while beefing up security and discovering the leaks. This means sex, and a lot of it.

That’s pretty much it. The paranormal stuff, such as it is, involves magic. Lantis can perform it and Kiera has minor healing capabilities. Frankly it’s given as much exploration and depth as saying Kiera has long red hair. I never understood how this universe worked, or even what universe the characters were living in. It almost felt like the author was assuming I already knew what was going on. That instead of reading the first book in a series (which Entangled is) it was like I was thrown head first into book four of a complicated paranormal world. The marketing on the part of Berkley only adds to the confusion.

The character development is non-existent. The only thing that makes Kiera memorable is that she apparently has more hair than a typical romance cover model. Lantis, outside of his ability to perform magic, is tall, dark and handsome. Blah, blah, blah. Frankly, these two remain so faceless over the course of the story that they’re interchangeable with countless other characters readers have been subjected to over the years.

To counter this lack of world building and character development the author throws in a lot of sex. And I mean, a lot. Over the course of the story Kiera and Lantis become psychically linked, and while it does make the sex more imaginative, it doesn’t replace the fact that there is literally no relationship building. Also, these numerous sex scenes border on the purple side. One of the reasons fans of erotic romance like it so much is that we aren’t subjected to words like “turgid,” “engorged,” “slake,” and “quaking,” all of which make normal appearances in this tale.

All in all this isn’t just a disappointing read, it’s a boring one. The suspense thread might not have been bad, but given the complete lack of character development there is no urgency to it. So not only is the reader left no knowing who the characters are, they’re left not caring what the heck happens to them.

--Wendy Crutcher


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