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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

**** Touched by Darkness by Catherine Spangler. Contemporary paranormal romance.

Am I the only one who gets defensive when a book opens with a glossary? It always gives me the impression that I'm supposed to study the glossary and memorize the terms before reading the book, and that there will be a test. Follow that up with a prologue about the world's origins--more testable material--and I'm already in a negative mood before I even start the book.

Dr. Kara Cantrell has been on the run with her six-year-old son Alex ever since the death of his father. They've settled in the small town of Zorro, Texas, and Kara believes hopes that this time they're far enough off the beaten path to be safe.

Alex's father was a Sentinel, a magical protector, and he was killed fighting a Belian--the supernatural bad guys of this world. Kara is a Conductor--a human with the psychic ability to enhance a Sentinel's powers. She never learned much about the magical side of things, and since Richard's death, she's avoided anything to do with magic, up to and including banning video games with magical characters for Alex.

Unfortunately, it's a case of "you can run, but you can't hide," as Kara learns when Sentinel Damien Morgan arrives in town, tracking an especially dangerous Belian who he thinks must have taken over one of the town's inhabitants. Damien asks Kara to conduct for him, and she reluctantly agrees to a limited conduction--without sex--sexual activity enhancing the conduction.

He also demands to train Alex, who, as a budding Sentinel, is glowing with magic that can be sensed by Sentinels and Belians alike. Again, Kara reluctantly agrees, with limits--Damien is allowed only to teach Alex to shield his powers, not to use them.

And that's where the story lost me. Not completely--I still enjoyed it, but from more of a distance. That kind of counterproductive over-protectiveness irritates the heck out of me, as does narrow-minded fear. Kara continued to refuse training for Alex even when she knew he was in danger without it, and she continued to refuse a sexual conduction with Damien even when lives were at stake. I could believe in her character--I've seen plenty of real people like this--but I couldn't respect her or empathize with her.

That really made me think. I'd been all smug after reading a post on Romancing the Blog a while back (I'm too lazy to find the specific post) about liking characters even if their values differ from mine as long as their motivation is clear. Obviously, I was wrong. I don't mind a thief or an assassin, but some values I apparently don't budge on.


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