Shades of Winter by Linda Fallon
(Zebra, $5.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-7432-8
In Linda Fallon’s paranormal romance, Shades of Winter , Lucien Thorpe leaves the small town of Plummerville right before his wedding to inspect a haunted house and doesn’t return. Perhaps his fiancée, Eve Abernathy, would be a little more understanding if this wasn’t the second time that Lucien has left her standing at the altar while he overlooked her in favor of ‘talking to ghosts’. But when Eve is delivered an eerie letter at the church that reads, “I didn’t forget,” in handwriting that isn’t her fiancé’s, she knows that something has gone terribly wrong and decides to find and rescue Lucien.

Eve arrives at the forgotten hotel with members of her town’s secret ghost society and three of Lucien’s ‘ghost hunter’ friends. The group is met with more than a haunted house. An evil, old and unnatural being has lived in the hotel and now lives inside Eve’s fiancé. Lucien, on the brink of death after having his body weakened by the possession of spirits, and his rescuers are now all trapped in the haunted building together.

While the hotel was open, this evil spirit fed off the fear and misery of the hotel’s guests, causing them to commit crimes or worse in order to gain more power and strength. In order to control Lucien’s body, the evil spirit strikes out against Eve and her friends. Garrik, the town’s richest playboy; Katherine, the widow of the town drunk; Daisy, whose painful secret keeps her from forming new relationships; and O’Hara, a man with the power to read people with the touch of his hands who is often shunned for his abilities are each threatened by the spirit who wishes to control them by controlling their greatest fears.

But, where evil will feed on fear, hatred and misery - it will crumble and fall in the face of hope and love. Eve knows that Lucien needs her, and with her love she attempts to free them all from the evil spirit that would destroy them.

Fallon mixes a great story with even better characters in Shades of Winter. Her characters, beginning with Eve & Lucien, set a standard for hot chemistry that is matched by the other two couples within the novel’s framework. Most authors would have a problem juggling the storylines of three characters, let alone three couples, but Fallon does so with finesse. Each couple’s story line is complete - the characters are rounded, have strong backgrounds without a lot of boring descriptions, and they all ease into the storyline. Fallon also makes sure to resolve all the major issues that she begins in her novel, so even the secondary characters have a sense of resolution.

As a paranormal romance, Fallon incorporates a good amount of detail in the ghosts and spirits and writes them in such a way that we can feel as if we are experiencing them as the characters do. She doesn’t overly dramatize the experience which makes it even more chilling - but, don’t worry, the love scenes throughout the novel compensate for that fact more than enough.

Although I gave this book an “R” rating for some of its exorcism-through-sex scenes, I want to assure the reader that although the scenes are quite hot and steamy, there is a definite message of love, hope, comfort and a sense of togetherness. These are really love scenes.

--Nadia Cornier

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