The Cards of Life and Death, by Colleen Gleason

>> Monday, September 17, 2012

TITLE: The Cards of Life and Death
AUTHOR: Colleen Gleason

PAGES: 283
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Related to The Shop Of Shades And Secrets

A modern gothic romance in the tradition of Barbara Michaels and Antoinette Stockenberg...

Diana Iverson is an up and coming malpractice attorney with a logical, scientific mind and a handsome fiancĂ©--until she walks in on him with a sexy female surgeon playing doctor. When Diana’s eccentric Aunt Belinda dies, leaving her a big old house in Maine along with a box of Tarot cards, she takes the opportunity for a summer get-away from the painful memories at home.

The last thing she wants to deal with is Ethan Tannock, the unnervingly handsome neighbor who seems to have conned Aunt Belinda into thinking he’s some sort of ghostbuster. But when the old house becomes the scene of vandalism and a number of break-ins, and it begins to appear as if Aunt Belinda's death was not as it seemed, Diana finds that life isn't always black and white and filled with logic. And then there are Aunt Belinda's Tarot cards...which seem to be trying to tell her something from beyond the grave...
When Diana Iverson was growing up, her great-aunt Bee was one of her favourite people. But then her mother decided she was a bad influence and refused to allow contact, to the point of lying to Diana and telling her Aunt Bee was dead.

Diana discovered the truth as a grown-up, but before she could arrange a visit, Bee died. Now Diana has inherited her house in rural Maine, and she decides to leave her increasingly successful medical malpractice firm for a week to sort the place out. It will also give her some space away from her fiance, Jonathan, whom she recently discovered cheating on her. She allowed him to convince her to keep the engagement going, but things are still strained.

The problem is that, in addition to the house, Diana has inherited some more problematic things. There's her aunt's pack of Tarot cards, to which Diana is inexplicably drawn, and from which she keeps drawing the same card over and over. There's a disturbingly attractive neighbour, Ethan Tannock, who seemed to have quite a close relationship with Bee. And most problematic of all, there's someone who seems determined to drive Diana away, and she soon begins to suspect that there might have been more to Bee's death than a heart attack

This is supposed to be related to The Shop of Shades and Secrets, which I really enjoyed last year. Ethan is apparently Fiona's brother, but you wouldn't know it from reading this book. Unfortunately, it's also nowhere near as good.

There was quite a bit of potential here. I liked the basic plot and the bare bones of the characters, but the execution just wasn't great. One of the most interesting elements, which was the paranormal aspect, felt underbaked. It quickly becomes apparent that Diana has paranormal powers, just as her aunt did, and that her constant migraines are a result of her trying to block them. Ethan is a university professor whose work involves doing formal testing for paranormal powers. He was working with Belinda, and would very much like to work with Diana. This element, like many others in the book, quickly goes nowhere.

There was a fair bit of WTFery as well. For instance, Diana and Ethan first meet when he lets himself into the house, not knowing that Bee has died. They clearly had a kind of relationship where it was perfectly acceptable for him to do that. Fine. But then he gets really pissy about Diana not being particularly welcoming to him. Err, mate, you are a big man who's just let himself into a house where a woman is on her own. It was an honest mistake, but as soon as you realise what is going on, you need to apologise profusely, turn around and leave. She doesn't know you. She doesn't know if you really are her aunt's friend, or if you're just a potential rapist. If you want to make friends, you can give her a call when you get home and are not a potential threat. But nope, the utter idiot gets offended, and then lets himself in AGAIN the next morning when Diana is out, because he wants to grab some beer from the fridge. And then he's offended when Diana changes the locks. Worse, in the narrative, Diana is portrayed as being mean and wrong for changing the locks. I almost put the book down then and there.

This was the worst bit of the book, and things got better, but the character development still wasn't great. The secondary characters were cartoonish, and there were still plenty of other WTF moments with Ethan and Diana. Things like why the hell Diana was still with her cheating fiance, when she didn't even like him, and the resolution of the suspense subplot.

So, disappointing, but I'll still give Gleason another try, on the strength of the other book, which really hit all the right notes.



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