White Lies, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Friday, April 27, 2007

Jayne Ann Krentz is both a comfort read and an autobuy for me. I don't expect her books to be wonderful and perfect anymore, but I do know they'll reliably deliver an entertaining, warm read, and sometimes I need just that. Like with White Lies: the reason I started reading it was because I'd just finished an extremely traumatic book (which I'll be posting about next week) and needed something safe and comfortable.

Petite, thirtysomething Clare Lancaster is a Level Ten para-sensitive-and a "human lie detector." Over the years, she's come to accept that someone with her extraordinary talents is likely to have trouble in the relationship department. And she's even resigned herself to the fact that everyone, to one degree or another, hides behind a fa├žade. . . .

And now it seems that meeting the half sister and family whom she never knew until seven months ago was a mistake. Her father summons her from California to play a role in his business empire, and Clare doesn't intend on making the same mistake twice. But after meeting Jake Salter, Archer Lancaster's "financial consultant," Clare is convinced that things aren't what they seem. Salter's careful conversation seems to walk a delicate line between truth and deception, revealing and resisting. Something sparks and sizzles between them-something more than the usual electricity between a man and a woman.

Caught in a dizzying storm of secrets, lies, and half-truths, Jake and Clare will plunge into an investigation that demands every bit of their special gifts-together they must overcome their mutual distrust in order to unravel a web of conspiracy and murder.
White Lies was pretty good, with exactly the pros and cons I've come to expect from JAK. Good romance and family relationships, needlessly overcomplicated and pretty boring suspense. And it did help me take my mind off endless reruns of some nightmarish things from the book I'd just finished. A B.

Clare Lancaster is in Arizona at the request of Archer Glazebrook, the father whom she's only very recently met. She was the product of a one-night stand, and Archer only found out about her existence seven months earlier, when Clare sudenly showed up just in time to rescue her sister, Elizabeth, from an abusive marriage.

Clare intends to stay in Arizona for no more than a couple of days, just enough to see what her father wants, but things start getting complicated the minute she gets back. For starters, there's still some fallout from what happened all those months earlier, when Elizabeth's husband suddenly turned up dead and Clare was very nearly arrested for his murder. And then there's Jake Salter, supposedly a consultant working with Archer on his benefits plan, but in reality a man who's obviously hiding some secrets.

So how does Clare know there is more to Jake than it seems? Well, that's because she's a human lie detector! Oh, oops, maybe I should have mentioned the fact that WL is an Arcane Society novel earlier?

For those of you who haven't been keeping up with JAK, the Arcane Society is a gimmick the author has come up with to link her contemporaries to her Amanda Quick historicals, like Second Sight. The Arcane Society is, in her words, "a secret organization devoted to paranormal research". Which means, apparently, that most of the characters in this book have some kind of psychic gift, each of a different intensity, and they are all members of this secret society.

Think of this book as a Jayne Castle St. Helen's paranormal, only set here on Earth. Jake and Clare are, of course, both Level Ten plus and both exotics. That is, the power of their talents is off the charts, which only go up to ten, and the nature of their talents is one that the other members of the Arcane Society mistrust. Jake is a "hunter", which is considered by most as a kind of throw-back, uncivilized and threatening talent, while Clare can detect whenever someone is lying. Both of them make other people very uncomfortable, which is why they are considered "unmatchable" by arcanematch.com, the Arcane Society's matchmaking website (*sigh* More shades of those Jayne Castle books).

When I saw the premise of the series, I thought "blah", and I was right. The suspense subplot here is centred on attempts by the "cabal", a shadowy organization within the Arcane Society to get their hands on a formula the Society has, which is supposed to strengthen psychic talents. Jake has been employed by Jones & Jones, the investigative arm of the Society, to go undercover in Stone Canyon, the Glazebrooks' home town, and find out what's going on.

This was, quite frankly, not very interesting. There are overly complicated plot twists and turns, with what seems like a thousand villains all working together and each doing a little part of the evil plot. But as much as the suspense subplot wasn't interesting, Clare and Jake's talents and how they dealt with them were, and very much so.

Clare was an especially fascinating character. Just imagine always knowing when someone is lying. Talk about overwhelming! I mean, everyone lies, some about small things, some about big ones; some lies are only intended to keep from hurting someone's feelings, some are meant to hurt others. But they are all lies, and it really would be a struggle to function in the world if you're can see through all of them. I really liked the way JAK showed how this has shaped Clare into who she is, and how she's learned to cope with the knowledge. She's remarkably well-adjusted, considering!

Also, Clare's powers were well used to advance the plot. I liked that she didn't only have the raw powers, she also had the know-how to expose scams. She didn't just detect their lies, she knew the psychology and knew how to manipulate them into revealing themselves and how to deal with them. And Jake had no problem with admitting that she was the pro in this respect.

Jake's hunter abilities are a bit less developed (I think we saw more about what they meant in Second Sight, when the hero's talent was described), but also pretty cool. Actually, what I liked best about Jake was in the romance department, the way he felt about Clare. I'm talking about the way she affected him, the way being with her gave him this sense of immense satisfaction. That really came across very clearly in the writing, this sense of his having come home whenever they were together. I had no doubt that they were perfect for each other, and theirs was also quite a hot, passionate relationship, which was a plus. Some of this author's previous hardcovers seemed to have lost that warmth.

It wasn't just the romantic relationship that was really good, but also the family stuff, with Clare struggling with how she fits in with her father's family.There's her immediately sisterly relationship with Elizabeth, the stiffer but very promising one with Archer, and the difficult one with Myra, Archer's wife. All three were intriguing and well written, and I wish we'd had more of that and of the romance, and less of the cabal's conspiracy.

At the end of the book, we're left with the knowledge that the cabal isn't done with their attempts to get the famous formula. I suppose that's to make us want to read the next books to know what happens, but it didn't work on me. Oh, I'll read the next books, no question, but not because of the Arcane Society. I'll read them because JAK is still great when it comes to romance and family relationships.

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