Mesmerized, by Candace Camp

>> Monday, May 17, 2004

I only rediscovered Candace Camp last year, after reading Secrets of the Heart. Before that, I'd read a couple which were basically bodice-rippers. This was years ago, and those books were old by then, but this still predisposed me against the author, even though I'd also read a more recent book I'd quite liked, Rosewood. Secrets of the Heart made me realize Camp's style had evolved quite a bit, so when I read the review of Mesmerized, I was open to trying it.

Psychic investigator Olivia Moreland works to expose the gaggle of frauds who stream into London, feeding the public's fascination with clairvoyance. She can discern the fakes because she has the "gift" herself, though she doesn't rely on her powers.

When Stephen, Lord St. Leger, hires Olivia to investigate an alleged psychic, she discovers an overpowering dark aura at Blackhope Hall, Stephen's estate. The house is filled with tension. Stephen's brother is dead, killed by a ghost or a medium, and past anger between the brothers follows them like a dark spirit. And yet, Olivia finds herself drawn into Stephen's arms.
I found Mesmerized's plot very enjoyable, but the romance was a bit lackluster. A B.

I know objectively that this book's plot wasn't perfect, but I'm such a sucker for ghost stories like this one, that I probably enjoyed Mesmerized much more than it deserved. It wasn't just any ghost story, it was the exact type I adore, with the hero and heroine quickly accepting that all those unexplained phenomena must be the work of ghosts, because nothing else fits, and immediately setting out to investigate the historical facts surrounding this haunting. They didn't even take so long to tell each other about those dreams they were sharing! I mean, I was actually expecting to be irritated by Olivia and Stephen stubbornly refusing to acknowledge to each other that they were experiencing this, for fear the other would think them strange, but they did so pretty fast, and this pretty much won me over.

The ghost story itself was interesting, if a little undefined in the end (for instance, what exactly did those ghosts want them to do?), not to mention a final explanation that was a little bit melodramatic. I was expecting a basically cozy story, so I was pleasantly surprised by some very creepy parts in the second half of the book.

The book's main weakness was in the romance. First of all, Stephen and Olivia never quite gelled as characters. I never really got a sense of who they were, so their love story never captured my imagination. It was a shame, because their relationship was esentially quite nice. Even the very stereotypical Evil Other Woman, trying to make trouble between them by telling Olivia lies about Stephen didn't get much screen time, and her lies were exposed as lies only a few pages later.

I'll definitely keep reading this author. I hope next time both plot and romance are strong!


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