Again, by Sharon Cullars

>> Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TITLE: Again (excerpt)
AUTHOR: Sharon Cullars

COPYRIGHT: 2006
PAGES: 320
PUBLISHER: Kensington Brava

SETTING: Contemporary Chicago and 1870s New York City
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: No

REASON FOR READING: I was very intrigued by Bam's review.

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From the moment they meet, Tyne Jensen and David Carvelli share an intense attraction to each other. Each feels something inexplicable but much deeper than mere physical connection.

When Tyne uncovers the story of the unsolved murder of a nineteenth century woman named Rachel, she becomes convinced that she and David share not only the present, but also a distant past in a very different world.
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THE PLOT: In 1879 New York, Joseph Luce (of the Manhattan Luces, doncha know) falls madly in love with Rachel Grant, a black schoolteacher. And when I said "madly", I mean it: the man becomes completely obsessed with her. He doesn't take it easily when she decides not to give up her whole life and position in black society to "be with him forever" as he wants, however much she's tempted to do so. Their love affair ends in tragedy.

In 2006 Chicago, white architect David Carvelli and black journalist Tyne Jensen have each been experiencing weird dreams, sometimes scary, sometimes erotic, often both at the same time. When they meet at Tyne's sister's wedding, the chemistry is undeniable, but there's something about David's persistence and total focus on her that disturbs Tyne as much as it turns her on. Soon it becomes clear to the reader that while Joseph and Rachel might be dead, their souls are still trying to live out their story through David and Tyne, and it just might end up being as much of a tragedy as it was on the first go.

MY THOUGHTS: Well, wow. I don't think I've ever read a romance quite like this. Those dreams, scary and erotic at the same time? That describes this book perfectly. What develops between Tyne and David is one of the least comfortable romantic relationships I've read lately, but also one of the most exciting ones.

I think what struck me the most was how Cullars manages to make her hero a scary figure without going the old gothic way of trying to make us believe he might be the villain in the piece (which just doesn't work on us longtime romance readers, anyway, because by now we can usually tell who the hero is from a thousand yards away, and we know he won't really be bad... unless it's an Anne Stuart novel, that is, but that's a whole 'nother subject). Anyway, what Cullars does is much more effective. The reader knows what David is going through quite well. We know it's Joseph Luce's soul that is trying to possess him in a certain way, but we don't know the details of what he wants and what he can make him do, and that's what makes the whole thing so creepy and chilling.

In a way, Cullars made me feel a bit like Tyne must feel. I liked the person David was very much, but I found myself very disturbed by some of his actions, especially his obsession with Tyne. But at the same time, I thought this unwavering and immediate fixation on her was as sexy as it was dangerous. When she actually got involved with him despite all her qualms, I didn't feel like shaking her for her risky behaviour (and it was very risky), but couldn't help but understand why she couldn't help herself. In fact, that was a constant throughout the whole book. I completely identified with Tyne, which isn't something that happens to me that often. Her reactions were pitch-perfect, a strong, sensible woman caught up in an unimaginable situation

Apart from the scary feelings, the other thing I thought was disturbing to me as a reader was trying to decide to what extent Joseph was determining David's feelings for Tyne. Was David falling for Tyne at all or was it all Joseph still loving his Rachel? I kept going back and forth with this, but never fear, this is a romance and it works fine as one. Still, I was glad that Cullars gave us the ending she did.

When the book focuses on David and Tyne and Joseph and Rachel and the way their stories mesh, this was an A book, a story so powerful I couldn't stop reading. However, there was a bit too much going on around them, too many threads that seemed not to go anywhere or were not used to their full potential. There were some which should have been cut altogether, like Tyne's journalistic investigation into a tire plant dumping old tires into a poor neighbourhood, or like David's difficulties with his partners at his architectural firm. Others could have been cut as well, or else should have been substantially more developed, as the young woman who's researching Rachel's life. During the climactic scenes, I kept expecting all these threads to come together in a way that would make me think "ah, so that's why we spend those long scenes finding out about the tire dumping" , but it never happened.

MY GRADE: A very strong B+. I really like Cullars' brand of paranormal (am I the only one who misses the monster-less paranormal?) and I can't wait to read The Object of Love.

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