November 2008, Urban Fantasy
St. Martin's, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312949197 Part of a series
I'll admit it. The main reason that I wanted to read the first book in Lori Handeland's new series had to do with the title. Any Given Doomsday certainly beats the title-ing socks off The Alsatian Tycoon's Latest Acquisition, Banging the Baron or other similar imagination-deficient titles that run together in my mind when I see them in bookstores. However, beyond the catchy title, this book delivers an exciting story that has left me eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.
Ex-cop Elizabeth Phoenix's psychic abilities have caused her no end of trouble in life. Her ability to touch someone and learn things she didn't necessarily want to know about them has cost her a lover, a police partner, and more. She now works as a bartender in Milwaukee and tries to avoid using her unwanted gift as much as possible. As the book opens, this holding patterns appears about to change as Elizabeth receives a strong message from someone she simply cannot ignore.
Ruthie took Elizabeth in as a child, but it is not until Elizabeth gets the urgent message to contact her that she starts to realize just how different Ruthie is. Her large and giving heart is not the only thing that sets her apart; Ruthie is also a seer and she recognizes in Elizabeth a similar gift. Now, as the final battle between good and evil is set to begin, Elizabeth is called to receive her full powers. Of course, not long after receiving Ruthie's blessing, Elizabeth finds herself fighting for her life against evil creatures bent on her destruction.
Battling evil while learning one's true talents on the fly makes Elizabeth somewhat testy, but believably so. Her character seems real and flawed - and also rather likable. As Elizabeth learns more about who she is and the role she is to play in the upcoming battles, the character development, as well as the ever-increasing pace of the action, draw me in and I found myself greatly interested in the story.
Though this book is more urban fantasy than romance, there are some distinct romantic elements. As Elizabeth comes into her powers, she must reconnect both with her former teacher Sawyer - whose hotness she can now appreciate with more mature eyes even if his position on the good-evil continuum can be hard to place. She also finds herself working closely with Jimmy Sanducci, her former lover who later betrayed her. Needless to say, with both men, Elizabeth faces some rather daunting issues. She (and the men) handle these with varying degrees of grace. If the author had chosen not to introduce a romantic element, this story would have flowed beautifully. However, since it is there, the relationships between Elizabeth and the men in her life need to be a bit better developed. There is definitely chemistry and heat in this story, but sometimes the emotions at play get a little lost in the acrobatics.
In addition to the romantic elements, it's also fair to warn readers that this book is the beginning of a series primarily focused on a battle between good and evil. As such, the author does a good job of making that battle feel real and one way she does this is by not sugar-coating the evil. The violent content in this book will disturb some readers; however, for those who can handle this and who enjoy urban fantasy, Any Given Doomsday marks a promising start in what I hope will be a strong series.
-- Lynn Spencer
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