Timeless Wish

Silver Rain by Barbara Sheridan
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12804-X
Silver Rain starts with an interesting premise and an attractive setting, then fails to capitalize on its strengths. The result was a story that should be more enjoyable than it was.

Barbara Sheridan's interesting premise is, as she says herself, a spin on "Sleeping Beauty." The year is 1797, and Alain Devereaux is waiting for his bride-to-be at the Church of Saint Louis in New Orleans. As Brigette Villard crosses the street to join him, she is run down and killed by a wagon team. Alain is devastated, so desperate that when an old woman -- rumored to be a witch -- offers him a chance to rejoin Brigette, he accepts.

He drinks Odette Bishop's potion and falls into a sleeplike trance that will last until Brigette is reborn. He will then awake and have exactly thirty days to convince the reborn Brigette that they are fated to be together. If he is unsuccessful, he will disappear at the end of the thirty days. Before Alain drinks the potion, Odette promises him that the women of her family will guard him and take care of him until he awakes.

By the time April 2000 rolls around, this duty has become an unwelcome burden. Danielle Curtis, the latest descendant of Odette to be charged with Alain's care, gave up a chance to compete in the Olympics to tend Alain. Even though she is attracted to his masculine beauty, she resents the effect "the guy in the attic" has had on her life. After Danielle's fiancÚ dumps her, she goes up to the attic, saddened and lonely, and cuts a "gate" in the protective circle her spells have maintained around Alain. He wakes from his two centuries' sleep to confront both modern technology and an urgent search for his reincarnated Brigette.

That search is facilitated by modern technology. When Dani introduces Alain to television, he spots his Brigette on CNN. She is Cate George, a movie star whose career is on the rise. Cate is being considered for a starring role in a movie to be filmed in New Orleans, thus giving Alain an opportunity to meet her and convince her that the two of them are meant to be together.

Despite the rapidly growing attraction Dani and Alain feel, they are both sure that he must succeed in wooing Brigette or else cease to exist. So quickly does their attraction ripen, however, that we are left with far too many pages dwelling on the lovers' indecision concerning their future as a couple. A trite sub-plot involving Cate George and her manager was not enough to keep the narrative from dragging.

I have two different types of objections to how the plot was handled. The story is set in and around New Orleans, the most atmospheric of American cities, and then fails to exploit that atmosphere fully. Similarly, Alain's adjustment to the 21st century went very smoothly. In a narrative where the romance sometimes drags, more emphasis on his reactions to his new environment might have enlivened a romance that covers the same ground too often.

Besides failing to use her interesting story elements fully, Sheridan has given Dani an irritating "best friend." McKenna, like Dani, is a witch and a practicing Wiccan, a woman with an annoying laugh, a tendency to elbow Dani in the ribs, and a propensity for asking Dani very personal questions. It was difficult to understand why Dani felt so close to this annoying woman.

Finally, in a story with fantastic elements, I look carefully at the consistency of the author's world building. Are there rules governing the supernatural elements? Do events follow a logical path within the framework the author has created? In the case of Silver Rain, the answer to both questions is, ultimately, No. Sheridan's world holds together nicely until the very end. At that point Cate George's fate is determined by a magical intervention never hinted at earlier in the narrative.

Despite competent writing by Sheridan and a pair of cute cats in supporting roles, the drawbacks outweighed the virtues of Silver Rain.

--Nancy J. Silberstein

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