Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: Shadow Dance

I can't quite figure out what it is about Julie Garwood that makes her historical novels so damn good and her contemporaries so awful. Really, it's kind of hard to believe that the same author writes both books. Often I've wondered if she has a ghost writer, especially after Murder List, which I thought was terrible. (A better question would be why I continue to not just read, but buy her books). The only thing that I can figure out is that her simplistic writing style comes across as charming in the historical arena but incomplete and asinine in the modern-day setting.

All her contemporaries (with the slight exception of Killjoy have been about members of the Buchanan family. This one is about a Buchanan daughter, Jordan (who was a character is Slow Burn) and a friend and colleague of the family, Noah Clayborne (who has showed up in many of the previous books). Fans of Garwood will recognize that the Buchanan's are descendants of the Buchanan clan that was featured in the historicals The Secret and, one of my all-time favorites, Ransom. And Noah is, of course, a descendant of the Clayborne brothers from For the Roses, One Pink Rose, One White Rose, One Red Rose, and Come the Spring.

The plot of this book is pretty stupid. Jordan goes to a small town in Texas to pick up some files for her friend's sister and somehow gets tangled up in a murder mystery. When she gets in trouble she calls her brother, an FBI agent, who's partner happens to be Noah. Her brother has to leave to get back to his pregnant wife, but he has Noah stay and help Jordan. And of course, romantic sparks fly.

First off, the mystery was boring. There was no reason for me to care about it. But what really bothers me about Garwood's contemporary writing is that she throws in a bunch of stuff that turns out to be irrelevant. For instance, the files Jordan went to fetch were notes from a history professor regarding Buchanan ancestors. I kept expecting for something relevant to come out of the notes, but it never did! I get the feeling that Garwood is leaving that for another book, but that's really unsatisfying for the readers of this book. I find that she does that a lot, puts in a lot of details about things that don't matter at all. That's part of why I am so dissatisfied with her contemporaries. That being said, Shadow Dance was infinitely better than Murder List, and I think it might have been better than Slow Burn, too.

Garwood's newest book is another historical, Shadow Music, and I was really excited about that. But from the reviews I'm seeing it's not a great book and is a disappointing return to historicals. Which makes me sad.

Lindsey's Grade: C-/D+

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