The World's Best Dad

The Lawman's Last Stand

The Man Behind the Badge

Virgin Without a Memory

 
Carved In Stone by Vickie Taylor
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-20291-7
****
Thanks to the current rebirth of the paranormal sub genre bookstore shelves chock full of vampires. OK, also a few werewolves, but mostly vampires. Certainly thatís not all the sub genre has to offer is it? Of course not! And to prove that point, Silhouette Intimate Moments author, Vickie Taylor offers up this promising first book in a new paranormal series.

When she was a little girl, Rachel Vandermere witnessed the murder of her parents. While hiding in a cupboard, clutching her baby brother, she heard gunshots and saw a monster, with claws and wings. Of course, no one believed her and assumed she was merely traumatized. So she learned to keep her mouth shut and grew up to be an Interpol agent. Now she tracks down monsters for a living and is desperately looking for the truth about her parentsí murders.

While on assignment she meets Nathan Cross, a very hunky art history professor who obviously has something to hide. Rachel thinks he can help her in her search, but Nathan is reluctant. Why? Turns out Nathan is a gargoyle Ė a shape-shifting creature created over a century ago to protect mankind from evil.

Nathan has been excommunicated from the gargoyle order because of his unpopular views. While at one time his kind did protect humans, he now feels they do nothing more than feed on the scraps of their misery. Heís determined to deny what he truly is, but Rachel soon awakens dormant emotions. Heís torn between protecting her, and protecting the order. Rachel is looking for monsters, what will she do when she learns sheís fallen in love with one?

There is a whole lot to like here, first and foremost being a truly outstanding and creative story. The idea that gargoyles are more than stone sculptures sitting on top of buildings, but are masked avengers protecting innocent people is certainly hero worthy stuff. Taylor also has a way of writing about the city of Chicago that gives this story a bit of a crime noir edge. There are shadows lurking in darkened alleys, and itís up the main characters to ferret out the truth.

The romance here is really rather good, thanks to some credible conflict. Nathan is immediately drawn to Rachel, against his better wishes, as she is unlike a normal human female. They immediately share a deep, psychic connection that ratchets up the sexual tension between the two several notches. Rachel is hell-bent on solving the mystery behind her parentsí murders, not only for closure, but also to prove that she is not a crazy woman.

The suspense in the story is also rather good, and while the author juggles a couple of different threads, her plot never careens into convoluted territory. While Nathan is trying to keep Rachel from the truth, heís falling for her. While Rachel is trying to learn the truth, sheís falling for Nathan. Thereís also some unseen danger approaching for the gargoyle order and the resolution of what really happened that night Rachelís parents died. Itís all fascinating stuff, and made for an extremely quick read.

Taylor introduces plenty of interesting characters, and while some of them will certainly get their own books, they all serve a purpose in this story. Whatís so great is that all of her characters arenít perfect. They have flaws, making them something more than just studly, hunky cardboard cutouts.

The paranormal sub genre allows authors to be creative, break rules, and stretch boundaries in fantastical ways. Sure, readers are likely to continue to see a glut of vampires, werewolves and more vampires Ė but a few authors are churning out really creative stories, recreating the modern world, and redefining what a romance novel can be. Taylor is certainly doing her part Ė I hope she writes fast.

--Wendy Crutcher


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