Shadows at Sunset, by Anne Stuart

>> Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I just love Anne Stuart's unpredictability. Shadows at Sunset, one of her single titles, was unlike anything I've ever read by her.

House of Shadows

The house on Sunset Boulevard has witnessed everything: from the infamous murder-suicide of a '50s starlet and her lover, to the drug-fueled commune in the '60s, to the anguish of its present owner, Jilly Meyer, who is struggling to preserve the house and what's left of her wounded family.

Man of Shadows

Coltrane is a liar, a con man and a threat to everything Jilly holds dear. He is also her hated father's right-hand man, a gorgeous, loathsome snake who doesn't care whom he uses to get what he wants. And he's made it clear he wants Jilly. But the question is, what does he want her for?

Shadows at Sunset

Somehow Jilly has to stop Coltrane from destroying everything she cherishes. Including her own vulnerable heart. And the only way to do that is to uncover what Coltrane is really up to, and that could mean upsetting the explosive secrets of the past.
Shadows at Sunset was a tremendously enjoyable story, with a to-die-for anti-hero. My grade would be a B+.

The best thing about the book is Coltrane, the hero. Stuart's dark anti-heroes don't always work for me (see Moonrise), but Coltrane was perfect. He's convinced he's a snake, of course, and he's done some bad things in his life, but there was very obviously something good still alive inside him. It was lovely to see the way his tender feelings for Jilly and for Rachel-Ann caught him by surprise, in spite of all his efforts to fight them and convince himself he's still a mean son of a bitch.

Jilly I wasn't that nuts about. Codependent is right, she's definitely that. However, having the author (and Jilly herself) perfectly aware of Jilly's spinelessness, instead of trying to convince me that it just means that she's gooooood, makes it much more tolerable, and I was able to enjoy the book without wishing for a different heroine.

Even though the book doesn't really have many love scenes, or particularly graphic ones, I thought it was very steamy. Stuart manages to write excellent sexual tension, and even an "incomplete" scene had me reaching for some ice water.

Like most of Stuart's single titles, Shadows at Sunset has a well-developed secondary romance which is a bit of a role reversal of the main one. This one concerns Rachel-Ann, Jilly's recovering drug-addict sister, and is just wonderful. Rachel-Ann sounds like a spoilt witch at first, but little by little, more depths became apparent, and she became for likeable.

There was also a ghost story here, and though that storyline didn't play that much of a role on the main one, it added a certain ambience that I appreciated.

The book had only two negatives, as far as I'm concerned. First of all there was the villain, Jackson, Jilly's father and Coltrane's boss, who's really a bit over-the-top and one-dimensional. Second, the ending. There's a long separation there which didn't really work for me, and the final resolution was too abrupt. But these were small problems, and on the whole, I had an excellent time reading this.

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