Thoroughly Kissed

Utterly Charming

Simply Irresitible by Kristine Grayson
(Zebra, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-8217-7148-5
Reading Simply Irresistible is akin to taking a big sip of milk when you were expecting soda. It isn’t that you don’t like milk, but the shock takes a bit of getting used to. The cover and back blurb promise a much different story than what is inside. The cover is a cute, contemporary sketch of a ice cream sundae with a heart shaped cherry on top. The back blurb is a fun letter to the reader from the main character Vivian Kinneally. From these two things, a reader expects to find a lighthearted, humorous fantasy romance inside. What they end up with, is basically milk.

Vivian Kinneally is a psychic who has just moved to Portland, Oregon, to take care of her beloved Aunt Eugenia’s estate. Eugenia has been murdered and a few days before her death she sent Vivian several boxes of papers. Vivian is alone, without her family for the first time in her life and she’s just a little uneasy. That fact is not made any better by the arrival of three strange women claiming to be The Fates. The women are on the run from an unknown danger and have come to Vivian for help. Unfortunately, Vivian doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Enter Dexter Grant, a pet-shop owner by day, spellcasting mage and superhero by vocation. Dexter has always had trouble following the rules of The Powers that Be when it comes to helping people in trouble. It turns out that his last attempt to help someone out turned out inspiring the original creators of Superman. Anyway, Dex cannot resist helping Vivian, who is in way over her head trying to protect the fates.

Thus the two are thrown together, along with a dizzying array of other mages to solve not only the problems of the Fates but the mystery of how Vivian and Aunt Eugenia were involved. The other mages are Alex Blackstone, Andrew Vari and their wives Ariel and Nora. I had a difficult time keeping track who was married to who because the author assumes the reader knows these characters and they are never developed farther than their brief introductions.

Both Vivian and Dex had great potential as characters. Vivian is a departure from a typical romance heroine. She is a dusky skinned, dark, curly haired woman in a sea of blonde blue-eyed nymphs. Vivian is also a consummate comic book fan along with many other pleasantly geeky pursuits. She’s easy to identify with and one feels like they’d really like to be friends with her.

Dex is typically gorgeous, but he has such a warm, self-effacing manner that it makes him irresistible. With his history of inspiring comic book creators, he is the perfect match for Vivian. from the very first time they meet, the reader wants these two together.

The trouble is, the reader never really gets their wish. Yes, Vivian and Dex end up together but the reader never gets the satisfaction of watching their romance blossom. Instead, they are bogged down by the mystery surrounding Eugenia’s death and the Fates. There are too many people to keep track of, and more time is spent inside the head of the villain Eris than with Dex or Vivian.

It’s not that Simply Irresistible is a bad book. It’s just not what most would consider a contemporary romance. The intricate plot involving The Fates, Eris and the other mages is not so much a subplot as the main plot. Add to this the fact that the reader spends so little time with Vivian and Dex that they essentially become secondary characters.

Grayson has a way with magic and mythology. She certainly can hold her own among fantasy writers. It's just too bad what I expected to read was a romance.

--Anne Bulin

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