Special Gifts, by Anne Stuart

>> Friday, May 05, 2006

Ok, a few short reviews, because I need to go pack!

Special Gifts, by Anne Stuart, was sent to me by Janet. And I was especially happy about that when I saw the review at AAR!

Elizabeth Hardy was afraid -afraid of her ability to see things she had no way of knowing, and afraid to risk her heart again. In Colonel Sam Oliver she found the one man who could give her courage -and tempt her to love once more.

Sam needed her help. A woman was missing, a woman who held the world's fate in her hands, and only Elizabeth could find out where she was. But the search would be a dangerous one, and even success might not assure Elizabeth of a future where she longed to be -in Sam's never-ending embrace.
Interesting book. Even though I've read the basic plot a thousand times (in fact, comparisons to Linda Howard's Dream Man are pretty much inevitable), Stuart took her story in a direction that felt fresh. A B.

Elizabeth Hardy is psychic. She periodically helps the police with cases, especially those relating to missing persons. One day, while in a trance, trying to find a missing woman, Mary Nelson, she sees a truck with the words "Spandau Corporation" painted over but still visible. When she mentions it to the detective in charge, a former Army guy, the man's shocked, because the Spandau Corporation is a shadowy terrorist organization Elizabeth would never have heard of, and this mention turns this supposedly "normal" case into something much more worrying.

The detective calls a former colleague in Army Intelligence, and this colleague, Colonel Sam Oliver, immediately catches a plane to see what's going on. The daughter of a highly placed government official has been kidnapped, and Sam suspects Mary Nelson's disappearance might be related to this. And as Sam and Elizabeth work together to find her, the case becomes more and more complicated.

Well, this was a category book which felt much longer than its 251 pages. Not that it was boring or slow-moving, not at all, but it felt more complex than the regular category. I especially liked the romance. At first you think this is going to be a typical psychic / skeptic relationship, but it turns out Sam isn't really such a traditional skeptic, which adds an interesting edge. He's also a bit more ruthless than the average hero (not that I'm surprised by this, given who the author is), and I enjoyed that surprisingly, Elizabeth was more than a match for him in this way.

Where this didn't work so well was in the aspect that was more traditional, which is Elizabeth's extreme sexual innocence. This is one of those dead-beneath-the-waist virgins, and though being afraid of being psychically overwhelmed by such an intimate act IS a valid reason for her virginity, I didn't like the fact that the woman was so damned naive. Oh, well, it doesn't slow her down much when they get to it!

While the romance was interesting, the suspense aspect was a bit more half-baked and had a few "give me a break!" moments. The enemy was annoyingly amorphous. They are "terrorists", but we never get a sense of what they stand for, of what their objective is, other than to generate chaos. Plus, what kind of terrorist organization paints its name on the side of its trucks? And within the US, too? Just imagine Al Qaeda terrorists driving around in cars clearly marked with an Al Qaeda logo.

The ending was mostly good. I enjoyed the interesting visit to a seedy, dangerous version of Venice, but I just wish Elizabeth hadn't shown some TSTL tendencies.

This is definitely a book to pick up if you see it in a UBS!


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