Night Visitor

Dominion by Melanie Jackson
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52512-7
Dom is a soul that has been around for many centuries. In his original incarnation, he lost his true love and unborn child to a corrupted soul named Rychard. Since that time, he has vowed never to love again (where have we read that before?). In life after life he has refused to allow himself to be overcome by that particular emotion. The Great One, however, has other plans for him. Determined to return true love to Dom, the Great One gives him one last chance with a very special woman.

Dom begins by haunting the woman's dreams, reminding her of the passion and heat they shared in previous lives. Then he returns to earth in his new form to try to win her.

The heroine's name is Laris. Laris Isolde Theissan to be exact. She is an opera singer and has erotic dreams about a man called Domitien. That's about all a reader ever finds out about her. Yes, she's had several past lives, all of which are condensed to an italicized paragraph at the opening of every chapter, but her current persona is never developed.

The only thing the reader sees Laris doing is acting like an idiot. The majority of the story takes place as Dom and Laris travel through Death's portal trying to escape the malevolent Rychard. During this time they are faced with violence, the threat of Death's minions and other unpleasant things. So what does Laris worry about? That she doesn't have a camera to take pictures of all the neat-o history they're seeing.

For example, one of the first worlds they visit is Vienna. Despite the fact that Dom has told her it is dangerous to remain in Death's shadow too long, Laris wants to dance, then she wants to sample some pastry. A few worlds later, Laris is whining that she's tired, hungry and wants to go home. So when the opportunity to return to San Francisco presents itself, she baffles the reader by convincing Dom to try the last couple doors just to see what other cool stuff they might find.

Oddly enough, the standout character in this book is Death. He is fleshed out, so to speak, and given an interesting personality. When he sits at a hotel bar, in the form of a creepy, balding man, and watches his machinations unfold, the reader is drawn to him. Death has a sense of humor and isn't what we thought he was at all. He takes on less threatening form when he has to collect children, could he possibly have a heart? Death is fascinating, but not exactly what one would want from a love story.

Therein lies the problem with Dominion. Jackson weaves a very interesting tale of what the afterlife might be all about but it's supposed to be a romance novel. The supposedly secondary characters, such as Enzo and Ilia, the angels, are far more intriguing than the hero and heroine. Dom and Laris are buried in their past lives and supernatural experiences so that the reader never gets to know them.

Also, Dom and Laris' relationship is built on the fact that their original souls were together. Laris has a few erotic dreams about Dom, meets him in real life and suddenly does whatever he tells her to do. Five minutes after they meet, Dom is intimately caressing Laris and being very possessive. Laris seems perfectly content to accept that this man is her destiny and falls in love with him on the spot. Past lives or no, that is a little disconcerting.

As a story about the possibilities of reincarnation and the afterlife, Dominion is a success. As a romance, however, it's a failure.

--Anne Bulin

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