Charming Blue

Kristine Grayson
September 2012, Paranormal Romance
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 1402263740

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Kisses

For those of you who have missed the trend, fairy tales are in. Not only do we have popular TV shows putting new twists on these old tales, we have plenty of books coming out that do this as well. Charming Blue takes a look at a story that was always more horror than magic and turns the fable upside down.

Jodi Walters' magic is technically that of a chatelaine, someone who turns living environments into more than just a dwelling. But a lot goes into making a castle a home, and Jodi has used those skills to create a highly successful casting business in LA. Disney may not know it, but when they call Jodi asking for a fairy she can deliver the real thing. Jodi also holds the position of "fixer" for the L.A. magical community, because being chatelaine is all about maintaining order she can set anything that goes awry back to what it should be - and that includes magic.

When the pain in her back side known as Tanker Belle (cousin to Tink) asks her for a favor, Jodi wants no part of it. But Tank wisely points out that "fixing" the problem of the so-called Fairy Tale Stalker doesn't belong to the mortal cops, it belongs to the magical community. The man appears and disappears at will, calling himself Bluebeard, the most notorious serial killer known to fairy. Clearly he is from their community. And he's following the pattern of the fable closely enough that heads will soon begin to roll.

Jodi's first order of business to fix this massive mess is to meet with the actual Bluebeard. Recent years have seen him as a bumbling, smelly, aqua velva-drenched nasty drunk. Tank has placed him in rehab and Jodi is shocked to see the man for what he actually is - a gorgeous, muscled, blue eyed, black haired charming prince. She also notes that his aura is clear of any of the kind of magic it would take to perform the tricks attributed to the current stalker. Intrigued, Jodi asks Blue for his help; he will look over whatever she can get him on the stalker, and he will offer her his insight into what is happening.

Blue is fascinated by the lovely Jodi. Her auburn hair, cafe au lait skin, that stunning smile. But bad things happen to the women he admires and he is determined to keep her out of harm's way. He only reluctantly agrees to look at the paperwork regarding the stalker because she and Tank seem determined to believe that it will help. Then Jodi receives a creepy visit from a stalkerish apparition that looks just like Blue and he has to wonder - is he back to his old killing game? Or is he a victim like Tank and Jodi think? And will that really matter once women start to die?

I really loved the premise of this story since it combined my love of fairy tales with my love of suspense. The idea of a curse that had others taking the fall for a killer who had been murdering for centuries was awesomely intriguing.

I also really loved the character of Jodi. Not only is she one of the few women of color in fairy tales, I adored that she used a type of domestic magic to run a successful business and solve all kinds of problems within the magical community. She's got a great personality too - she's compassionate without being the sort of sap that falls for every hard luck story - organized yet flexible, smart, dedicated and with just the right touch of kickass. She knows her limits but she also knows her skills. That balance makes for someone who really can tackle tough situations.

I liked all the secondary characters, too. Tank, Selda, Ramon and Gunther are all drawn perfectly. They aren't cardboard; they supply the heroine with just the right amount of help without taking over the story. While a scene involving a mermaid, a troll, and her selkie driver wasn't laugh out loud funny, it did tickle my funny bone. The author achieved a nice balance of light and intense, just right for a fairy tale crime novel.

My one quibble with the book was Blue. I could understand that he had issues; he wrongly believed himself to be a murderer for years, and he was a recovering alcoholic. But when he got the chance to help solve the crime by delving into his past he really didn't want to. His reason is that he had repressed it so long that he couldn't really go back there. The woman he is beginning to love is being hunted by a serial killer masquerading as him. I get that the past was devastating, but why have the present be equally so? I have seen authors use a wounded hero without making him whiny and self-pitying, but unfortunately, Blue went there. He came across as the spoiled young prince who expected everyone to solve his problems.

The romance is also on the back burner for much of the tale and never advances much beyond them longing for each other till the end. That was totally appropriate and didn't affect my grade but for those looking for a hot love story, you won't find it here.

Overall, I enjoyed this look at the legend of Bluebeard. I'd recommend it to fans looking for a paranormal tale who don't mind their romance on the light side.

-- Maggie Boyd

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