A big family, a reading addiction, and the occasional celebrity scandal are the ingredients of life that create one woman's opinion on just about everything.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PALE IMMORTAL by Anne Frasier

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Pale Immortal by Anne Frasier (aka Theresa Weir)

This review is a toughie. Let me start by saying I'm a huge Theresa Weir fan, so I had expectations before I ever opened the book. I was looking for a similar voice and tone that I had come to expect from Ms. Weir's books. That wasn't the case. In fact, I don't believe I would characterize this book as a romance at all.

Here's a blurb from the author's website:

Welcome to Tuonela, a sleepy Wisconsin town haunted by events of 100 years ago, when a man who may have been a vampire slaughtered the town's citizens and drank their blood. Now, another murderer is killing the most vulnerable...and draining their bodies of blood.

Evan Stroud lives in darkness. The pale prisoner of a strange disease that prevents him from ever seeing the light of day, he lives in tragic solitude, taunted for being a "vampire." When troubled teenager Graham Stroud appears on Evan's doorstep, claiming to be his long-lost son, Evan's uneasy solitude is shattered.

Having escaped Tuonela's mysterious pull for several years, Rachel Burton is now back in town, filling in as coroner. Even as she seeks to identify the killer, and uncover the source of the evil that seems to pervade the town, she is drawn to Evan by a power she's helpless to understand or resist....

As Graham is pulled deeper and deeper into Tuonela's depraved, vampire-obsessed underworld, Rachel and Evan team up to save him. But the force they are fighting is both powerful and elusive...and willing to take them to the very mouth of hell.

Back to my expectations...with childhood friend Rachel Burton, back in town as Medical Examiner, I thought there would be more developments in the relationship between she and Evan...romantic ones. And, I have to say Evan's character certainly has lots of fodder for a different sort of dark and misunderstood protagonist. But I was disappointed this wasn't explored more and the characters while interested in one another appear to be disinclined to take too close a look at how they feel for one another. Aargh!!

Anyway my problem with PALE IMMORTAL is that while it is a well written book and had characters I was interested in and liked, I kept wondering why these people were hanging around this horrible town? While I can understand Rachel returning because her mother was sick, I just didn't buy her leaving a successful and interesting job in LA to return to weirdsville Tuonela. The town(s), for there are two Tuonelas, are actually like an additional character in the book. A character we don't understand and has many more mysteries than what we see on the surface.

While there were elements here that could certainly keep you guessing, I didn't have any problem solving the mystery by about a third of the book in. Evan and Rachel are supposed to be pretty smart people and I got irritated with them overlooking the obvious. I did very much enjoy Graham Stroud and his internal dialogue. I thought Ms. Weir did a great job with him.

This isn't a book to read if you are looking for a traditional HEA, and maybe that's what's bugging me. I haven't decided whether or not I'll read the next book in this series. However, I am nothing if not curious so I suppose nosy Nora that I am will have to check it out.

BTW, the link on Theresa Weir's name is to her back list of books and if you can lay your hands on them they are all pretty damn good. AMAZON LILY is a revered favorite on my keeper shelf.

I told you at the beginning this was a toughie. I can't really decide if I liked this book or not.

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Blogger Kristie (J) said...

I have this one too TBR and I'm a real fan of Theresa Weir. But I know going in that this isn't a romance so I'm not expecting the traditional HEA there is in romance. It will be a different reading experience 'cause I've pretty much stuck to romance for such a long time. Good review. And honest :)

3:18 PM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Kristie, I thought I was prepared too, I mean I read the cover and browsed the book. I guess I just wanted Evan and Rachel to take a leap. So, I'll probably have to buy the next book.

7:11 PM PDT  
Blogger anne frasier said...

hi rosie!
i appreciate your honest take on PI. i wanted to ask if you felt the cover was misleading? that was a concern of mine from the moment i saw it. (I have no cover input.) when writing PI, i was instructed to make sure the book wasn't a romance, and yet the cover... well... it says romance to me. i think it sends a confusing message. i've been out of the romance circle for a long time, and i don't have a solid feel for what's going on. i have to rely on romance readers to clue me in. i honestly didn't know how readers would respond to this book -- so i really appreciate your input!

7:57 AM PDT  
Blogger Rosie said...

Anne, wow, that's one thing about the internet, even the author can drop by and read your review! Surprised me to be sure.

To answer your question, I don't think the cover is misleading or would necessarily make anyone just looking at it think they were picking up a romance novel. It does sort of have a gothic feel to it and the title Pale Immortal triggers (at least for me) all that romantic fascination for vamps that many romance readers have. While the blurb on the back links Evan and Rachel together, it only does so as childhood friends.

Like I said in my comment to Kristie, I think I just wanted PI to be a romance especially after reading that bit early in the book when Rachel sees Evan for the first time and her feelings about how betrayed she was by Evan's involvement with Lydia. I thought...Ah ha!!!

So at the end when Rachel understands it was more than the town that drew her back and Evan is confused about the tea and his connection to the PI, I was left with a feeling of doom. I'm still very curious about these characters. I still care about them and want to know what happens to them. But maybe I'm projecting my romance needs to see them attach and at least form some sort of family unit because they seem so lonely and alone and I want them not to be. While the ending leaves room for all sorts of possibilities, I have a bad feeling about it all.

Maybe though...that's what you were going for? Maybe its not supposed to be a satisfying ending and tied up nice and neat. Life rarely is.

For myself, I'm sorry that you were told to write and make sure there was no romance in the story. Partly, I'm sure because the pub wants to make sure you have two distinct voices/personas and doesn't want them associated with one another. I also understand, I honestly do, when a writer wants to move onto another genre and do something new and fresh. As a reader though it's disappointing because I loved your Theresa Weir books.

My goodness, this is waaaay longer than I expected it to be when I started. As a final note I just wanted to say that your promotion for the book was clever and unique. I have known for some time that Anne Frasier was also Theresa Weir and visit your site from time to time. I've picked up the AF books several times and put them down because I knew they weren't romances and knew I would have expectations. While I read other genres from time to time, I do primarily read romance. However ambivalent I am about the book, I DID buy this one and will probably buy the next one about Evan, Rachael and Graham. So in that regard, the book and your promotion of it was a success.

10:22 AM PDT  
Blogger anne frasier said...


well, we like to google ourselves when a new book comes out. :D
the book would have ended differently if there hadn't been a sequel planned, and the sequel is almost just a continuation of PI. i do wish the books had come out close together. not sure people will still be interested a year from now, but that kind of thing is out of my control.

thanks for the input on the cover. i was afraid it shouted vampire romance!

before the book came out romance readers were asking if it had any romance in it. i think it does, but i wasn't sure romance readers would agree with me. now that it's out and i've read some reactions, i'm guessing that solid romance readers aren't finding the satisfaction they look for in that aspect of their reading. i also think there's something about tone that makes a book a romance. if i can ever pull my thoughts together on the topic, i plan to blog about it. big if, because it's almost too deep for me brain. ;)

anyway, thanks for the post, rosie! you got me thinking again.

6:22 AM PDT  

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