Jinx

Jennifer Estep
September 2008, Alternate Reality Romance
Berkley Sensation, $7.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425220621

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

I like superhero movies; I'm a real sucker for them. But while the premise of the main character possessing superhuman powers used for good is always intriguing, the execution sometimes falters. Jennifer Estep's book Jinx is set in an alternate reality where superheroes are common. This has the unfortunate effect of making them seem rather more quirky than extra powerful. And then there's our heroine, who can't really be called powerful at all.

Bella Belluci is a designer with a zeal for the arts. She comes from a family of crime fighters, people who aren't especially supernatural, but who like to take on uber villains, nonetheless. Unfortunately for Bella's father, one of those uber villains proved to be too powerful, and he was killed. Bella, as a result, has developed a fair amount of dislike for the superpowered, but since she's knows several personally she has to suck it up and play nice despite her antipathy.

As the story opens, Bella is frantically organizing some last minute details for the Bigtime Museum of Modern Art benefit. But Bella has a unique problem – she's cursed. She doesn't have a super power so much as a super curse. Unlucky things happen to her. She trips, she spills, sometimes she emits static electricity that causes electronics to short circuit or blow up. She occasionally has good luck, too, but the bad luck seems stronger. Because of this Bella is especially nervous about the benefit and how it will come off. When she finds Debonair, a dashing superpowered mystery man whose talent is teleporting, in the house of her biggest donor – the donor who is about to loan a priceless sapphire to the museum – things get interesting. Especially since Debonair seems more interested in Bella than the gem…

Estep's prose is competent, and Bella is a likable heroine with a "clutziness" reminiscent of chick lit protagonists. Because of these two plusses, my reaction to the story tended to see-saw depending on what was happening. The novelty of a city full of superheroes – plus. So many of those heroes being related to Bella or having obvious romantic backstories from previous books in this series – minus. Debonair's eyebrow twitching smarminess – minus. His alter ego's shy, awkward, and pining for Bella demeanor – plus.

One thing that was a consistent minus, however, was Bella's complete inability to control her power. She clearly has a dislike of anything out of the ordinary, but her luck is so disruptive on a daily basis that it's difficult to understand why she hasn't moved heaven and earth just to be able to neutralize it.

Debonair as a love interest has real potential, but seems kind of needy once his outfit is off. And Bella's objections to they're being together seem quite rational, but of course they must be overcome for this book to have the requisite happy ending. Unfortunately she waffles at least one time too many and the book's denouement comes considerable after its climax.

Jinx was a mixed bag for me. Readers who like a more slapstick, overt sort of humor might like this better than I did, but they will still have Bella's passivity and wishy-washy-ness to endure.

-- Rachel Potter

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