Disclosure: I received Larkspur in exchange for a review from Shut Up & Read.
This was a hit and miss novel with me. I feel like it has a lot of potential, with some editing and revising, to actually be picked up by a bigger publisher. It felt, for lack of a better word, inconsistent. There was a lot of attention to detail, which worked well in some places, not so well in others. There wasn't an overwhelming number of characters, which was good, but the writing style made it difficult for each character to come alive and find a "voice," at least for me. The storyline was well developed and unique, even for a PNR, which is hard to find. Even with that, it still had the universal PNR elements—the love at first sight instant attraction thing, the unique abilities, etc. It was "clean," with no cursing and just one sex scene, BUT that one sex scene… well. I'll get to that.
This novel starts with a bang. Our plucky heroine, Alexandra, has fallen into a cistern and is screaming in the (vain) hope that someone hears her. She was searching for the grave of an ancestor, a Teater Higgins, a distant grandfather. While in the cistern, she finds a rock that is warm to the touch, and after she picks it up, she finds a way out. The rock tattoos her. Later, she and a friend go to find the owners of the property and ask for permission to explore the family cemetery, where they finally find Teater's grave, and she finds her instant attraction for someone to whom she is speaking, Jediah. There is a scene with an orb, and Jediah leads her to a lawyer in town, who tells her that Teater has left her a significant amount of property. She goes back home to finish her degree, then decides to build a house on the property. Meanwhile, she's learned that she's a Sensate, which basically means that she has heightened sensory perception and a few additional abilities as well. The thing with the orb is one of Jediah's talents. Alexandra can travel distances in the blink of an eye, as well as a few other things. She learns from Jediah's mother, Nancy Jane, that she's something called an Ultra Sensate and that there is someone after Nancy Jane's powers, but that Nancy Jane had decided to give all of her power to Alexandra back when her grandfather was alive. This will kill Nancy Jane. Alexandra is kidnapped, then found, and then comes home with no memory of how long she has been gone or who took her. After a while, there's a wedding.
I'm being vague on purpose, because I don't like hiding reviews because of spoilers.
While we're on the subject of spoilers, I don't appreciate being spoiled for other novels or storylines I might be reading, either. Let me tell you all a fun little story: I've been reading Karen Moning's Fever series. I finished Dreamfever (book 4 of 5) recently, but was waiting for February to roll around so Shadowfever (book 5 of 5) would count toward a challenge. I was actually going to start Shadowfever earlier, but I put it off so I could focus on this book.
And this book has spoilers for that series in it. Specifically, character death. As you can imagine, this did NOT make me a happy camper. (I actually marched around my workplace ranting about how only I could pick up a book that spoiled a completely unrelated book that I really wanted to read.) Ironically enough, the most emotion I felt while reading this novel was that anger at having Shadowfever ruined for me (and I don't care how irrational I sound right now; I don't even want to pick up the book and will probably have to force myself through it this weekend. Edit: I started Shadowfever and there is no enjoyment there. None.) and then overwhelming relief when Alexandra moved on to Eragon, which I have not read, and have no desire to read.
It was really one of those times where the attention to detail didn't work in this book's favor—and it doesn't matter how minor that spoiler turns out to be.
Two other instances I marked as a little needless as far as detail goes: there was a scene at one point where Alexandra had just gotten out of the shower, and there is this long interjection about her socks—their color, shape, how worn out they are, how she always matches them to her outfit—and by the time she actually got dressed and the storyline picked up again, I couldn't remember why she was getting dressed in the first place. Secondly, the scene where Alexandra gets kidnapped, and Jediah, Cassie, and John are in her bungalow discussing strategy to find her. Jediah goes into her bedroom, and then he spends quite a bit of time thinking about which earrings she is wearing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it never comes up again.
The dialogue wasn't the easiest to follow—there were very rarely any indications about who was speaking to whom, and all of the characters sounded kind of the same (we all have distinct speech patterns in real life, and characters in books tend to have that, as well), and at least half of the dialogue was just repeating what we'd already heard anyway. Example: Alexandra decides to build a house. She speaks with an attorney about this, who refers her to an architect. She researches house styles, and as she is researching, we as the reader get to hear as she works this out in her head. The next morning, she meets with the architect and all of their dialogue is repetition of what we've already been told. The architect refers her to someone else, and they go over the same information.
Basically every conversation in the book is like this, and it could have been a lot shorter and a lot easier to get through by the end.
I've mentioned that Alexandra is kidnapped. She is missing for six weeks, I think, and eventually rescued by someone who is supposed to be—or has been presented up to this point, anyway—as the "bad guy." She's been drugged, starved, and beaten for the majority of these six weeks. The "bad guy" saves her life, takes off her clothes, bathes her, and puts her in his bed before leaving in a completely gentlemanly fashion (which isn't my issue here; I'll get to this part in a bit). Her first reaction upon waking up goes something like this: "Good heavens! What a headache!" followed by "Ouch, that really hurts!" She's so weak that it takes a whole day to take a shower and get herself home (one of her abilities, remember), and overall that makes this reaction seem just a little… well, mild.
She's rescued 60% into the novel and after that, it seemed like it could have ended rather quickly; I wondered how there could have been almost half a book left when the main conflict was mostly over. It was all more or less dénouement after that point—Alexandra remembering what had happened to her, and there's a bit of checking in about her house; she learns a few details about the heritage of the Sensates; there's a very quick engagement—three days! This, coincidentally, also feels pretty unrealistic to me. When I was ten I wanted a wedding in three days, but then I had to be in a couple and realized that there's almost no way you could get everything in line that quickly.
There's also one sex scene at the very end that was a little more awkward than anything, and it wasn't because it didn't use vulgar words. To be honest, that part wasn't so bad. But there were these floating blue light things and all I could imagine were jellyfish. And then there was a "power surge," and that horrified me a little. (If Wolverine had a power surge when he was having sex, I think he'd be celibate.)
Now, on to what I enjoyed. I thought the beginning of the novel was great; I had no trouble imagining the setting and the characters; I was having a good time getting to know Alexandra and her friends and curiosity drove me to keep reading. I was glad to see her out of the cistern, I was intrigued by the rock that she found and the tattoo that mysteriously appeared (the rock was hardly mentioned after a while—I'm wondering if it comes back later?) And the book as a whole, despite my complaints, wasn't bad. Like I said earlier, with some revision, this would be really great.
This novel has to be one of the most unique paranormal romances I've ever read, and that's saying something, because in this genre there are a lot of clichés. There were no vampires, werewolves or other shifters. There were no casual references to sex and no dirty language whatsoever, which would make this a good book for a younger person to read. These stand out to me because I read a lot of this genre, and it's something that I've come to expect. Realizing that it was missing stuck with me, and realizing that it didn't hurt the storyline stuck with me even more. Even when the clichés came into play, they weren't overwhelming. There was the "you are the one special person who holds the fate of the whole world in your hands" prophecy, but I kind of forgot about it until it was mentioned again. There was the fated romance thing, but at least there was a reasonable amount of time for the lovers to get to know each other.
There is one more thing I wanted to address before I end this rather lengthy review. Ryeth. Ryeth is presented as the bad guy, and then redeems himself later on. Afterward, he's not shown to have pulled a complete 180, but there is some confusion there, and there is also a bit of blame to be placed on the Sensates as well for their treatment of him. The grey area was very well done, and I wasn't expecting it, and of EVERYTHING in this novel (with the exception of the spoilers) this is what's stuck with me the longest.
So overall, I thought that this was enjoyable in the beginning, but less so closer to the end. There were parts I enjoyed and parts I didn't. It was by far not the worst thing I've read all year and it's probably one of the most originals. For an indie novel it was pleasant. When I stand it next to books from major publishers, it fell a little short, but that's to be expected. I gave 3 stars because I enjoyed the originality, the potential, and the characters; I detracted stars for the clutter and the redundancy.
(reviewed 87 days after purchase)