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Sunday, October 08, 2006

****½ Parallel Attraction by Deidre Knight. Contemporary paranormal romance.

"Green is the new red." (ETA: in regard to the romance genre, not politics, and I read it in an email rather than the blog I linked.) I read that after I read this book, but damn, I hope it's true. I love, love, love the combination of science fiction and romance. In fact, it's that combination that got me started reading romance in the first place, even though it's been distressingly rare--at least up until now.

I had no idea what to expect from Parallel Attraction when I started reading it, other than that it was paranormal romance, but I was hooked from the first sentence of the prologue: "It wasn't every day you managed to lose your king while on a security mission to an alien planet." More reinforcement for never reading back cover copy--I'd have missed out on that lovely jolt of excitement.

"Jared Bennett" is an exiled king directing his rebellion from a hidden base on Earth. The result of that initial sentence was that the teenaged king meets a human girl, Kelsey Wells, and spends time with her, connecting on several levels, until his advisors catch up to him and wipe both their memories. Fast-forward several years, and Jared crashes near a geologist's camp. He's injured, and is saved by Kelsey, now a geologist. In the process, he transfers secret information to her brain--a secure hiding place, as long as no one suspects where it is.

There are several things going on--the information in Kelsey's head is key to winning the war, and Jared knows he has to retrieve it and remove her from his life, both to protect the information and to keep the Refarians' existence a secret from humans. Then too, as king, Jared's under pressure to provide an heir, preferably with his cousin, so as to preserve his rare, dual-form bloodline. Logic and duty both demand that he sever ties with Kelsey, but their connection and their growing love for each other are impossible to deny.

For her part, Kelsey is surprised but not alarmed by the alien revelations, and instinctively knows she's safe with Jared. The more time she spends with him, the more strongly she feels.

Until she's kidnapped by a time-traveler.

It's hard to know where to draw the line on describing the plot--usually, just explaining the first quarter or so of the story will give a good idea of what's going on, but this one takes a sharp turn in the middle. Parallel Attraction is not a straightforward ride. It's one of those rollercoasters that dip and loop and swerve and don't let you relax for a second.

The characters felt very real to me--Jared's self-sacrifice and inherent nobility; Kelsey's intelligence and courage. I particularly appreciated Kelsey's reaction to learning Jared's secrets--in less deft hands, it would have degenerated into one of those pointless conflicts about trust that irritate me so much but are distressingly common. She's a geologist--a scientist--and she's as intelligent and independent as that implies.

Likewise, the science fiction details felt real. Granted, I never figured out exactly what the "mitres" were, but I didn't need to. I could believe that they were important because of the context, and that was all I needed. The time travel was just a fun bonus. I've always loved the paradoxical nature of time travel, and the things that changed--and didn't--as a result of it were enough to feed my inner puzzle-lover.

There were only a couple of things that kept this from being a perfect read for me: the pre-prologue, which had my attention wandering. It was important information, but I'd have preferred learning it in a different way. And I wondered what happened to Kelsey's partner, and why she didn't wonder about him herself. Of course, I was so caught up in the story that I didn't remember him until after I'd finished the book, either, so that's not a very big complaint. The prologue itself, by the way, felt absolutely necessary. It's one of those rare times when we could have learned the information in bits and pieces in the "now" of the story, but the impact would have been lost.

All in all, I'm very glad I read this, and I'm even happier that Parallel Heat is waiting on my TBR pile.


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