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Contemporary romances also feature psychics and one of my favorites is Theresa Weir's recent novel, Bad Karma. Weir's writing always involves unique, quirky, colorful characters who find themselves in offbeat situations in locations not used by other authors. Bad Karma is no exception.

Cleo is a psychic who can see things which have happened. Her power scares her. She prefers it when people take her for a charlatan, but, unfortunately, she is down to her last dollar. As a result, she is earning money as a psychic. Cleo also has an eating disorder which is an accurate, but usually ignored, character trait in modern day heroines. Daniel is the small town cop in Egypt, Missouri, openly skeptical about Cleo's powers. Daniel is stuck squiring her around though, because his boss believes in her powers (in a different state, Cleo once successfully led police to a body). Cleo has been hired to find a missing master key but she starts to see alarming things - things having to do with murder. Daniel and Cleo are powerfully attracted to one another but Daniel can't envision himself enamored of a psychic, real or fake.

Harper's has developed a cover look for Weir that appears in her most recent three books. They all look good together when seen on a shelf in a bookstore. The look suits her writing in that the covers are saturated in intense colors in a gradation of values. All of her novels are intense and contain colorful characters which these covers amply suggest. However, the covers are also spare and Minimalist in design which describes her writing style perfectly: very modern and right to the heart of the matter. I also admit that if there is one color that is going to pull me in over any other, it is an intense purple, which is the color of this cover. There is the quirky addition of an iridescent silver Cupid next to the same colored title and there's even something wrong with Cupid's arrow. The tip of it has come off and is falling in the wrong direction. This was a cute touch and fit the title of Bad Karma perfectly. The purple repeats throughout the cover flat and the silver cupid is on its spine. The cover illustration was by Danilo Ducak and cover design was by Saksa Art & Design. As a 1999 release, this cover is eligible for our 1999 Cover Ballot.

Linda Howard seems to incite controversy among both her readers and reviewers. Her paranormal-murder-mystery-romance, Now You See Her), published by Pocket Books, is no exception. I thought Howard did a splendid job on the paranormal, art and romance aspects but I found her depiction of the criminal justice system within a murder mystery lame. I wish she had dropped that whole aspect and stuck to the paranormal-romance set in the New York art world. There was a wealth of potential material there without having to resort to the ho-hum resolution of a virtual paint-by-number murder mystery.

Sweeney is an artist who now lives in present day New York City because she could no longer stand seeing the ghosts of dead people in her hometown. This novel came out before the movie Sixth Sense, so this was the first I'd read of this particular paranormal ability. I was very intrigued by it. Sweeney felt that by moving to a city known for its anonymous lifestyle, at least she wouldn't know the ghosts whom she sees. The main person she knows in town is her art dealer. The husband who is divorcing the art dealer becomes Sweeney's hero. She has some other bizarre psychic abilities as well including being able to answer all the questions on Jeopardy! in advance, making traffic lights all turn green as her car approaches and painting her most recent work in her sleep. It becomes apparent as her painting progresses that she is painting a murder scene, one that has yet to happen.

C. Linda Dingler designed the high impact cover. It shows a woman's eye which is staring out, both unseeing and seeing, suggesting Sweeney's psychic power. Directly in front of the eye is a wet paintbrush with a big drop of red paint, suggesting blood, hanging off of its end. This is all set against a deep blue background, a color which suggests the world of sleep and otherworldly abilities. It is a very modern, direct image and correctly announces the various blended fiction genres the reader is buying. Only the romance element is not conveyed in the cover. That is an accurate omission according to some of Howard's readers. They say they miss her earlier romance-only novels with their larger-than-life heroes.

Witches, Warlocks & Other Beings of Magic

I'm a hard sell on funny romance novels. I rarely would give any of them above a B but Bewitching, a Pocket Books historical by Jill Barnett, was Desert Isle Keeper material all of the way. I laughed myself silly and then wrote my sister about it because it reminded me of the old TV show Bewitched, which both my sister and I loved. My sister even named one of her kids Darren after Samantha's husband! The hero of Barnett's book, Alec, is a stuffy, punctilious British duke who is right all of the time about everything. His whole life proceeds smoothly according to plan until he marries the witch, Joyous, not knowing she is a witch until she later plays levitation games with him. One problem they face is that Joyous is a rather incompetent witch who meets him after something goes wrong with a spell and she lands on him in a roadside ditch out of thin air. Worse for him, as he sees it, her witch relations are all too competent and out to run his life, a man who is a total control junkie. By alternate turns this novel is also quite poignant and it is easy to shed tears shortly after you've been laughing yourself into a frenzy. When a comic work can hit both the highs and lows, it becomes a real winner for me.

Frankly, I think the cover could have been better. This book has also been through multiple printings, just like Uncertain Magic. The purple color, gold print and stars and design factors are just fine. The problem is in the depiction of the characters. They are not sufficiently individualized. They could be anyone. The artist must not have used models to draw these two nor did it take him or her very long since they are so generic looking. This cover especially doesn't capture the uniqueness of Alec, one of the most memorable heroes in romance fiction. Yes, he's handsome but he also is a comically self-righteous prig who hilariously undergoes witch-after-witch experience throughout, bellowing and protesting all the way. You see none of this in the illustration. It would be better to not use characters on the cover than to diminish our fantasy image of Alec. This is of course the danger of using a visual depiction of characters in a novel. The models better be as good as the characters themselves!

The Bride Finder by Susan Carroll, published by Fawcett, is a dramatic paranormal romance. I was expecting great things from this novel but it only partially delivered. I wish the story were as good as the cover is. I'd like to give Bewitching its cover although none of the elements pictured in Bride Finder fit that novel. The dominant image is the sword with its gorgeous magenta crystal. The bluish setting on the stormbound Cornwall coast broods below. The blue portions of the cover mix with the magenta to produce purple in the balance of the cover's palette. The jagged streaks of lightening operate as the perfect design counterpoint to the sword, pulling the image together. The cover painting is by Jim Griffin and its design is by Ruth Ross. I discovered this book in a bookstore when it first came out. Its image lured me over to the front display rack to pick it up.

Anatole St. Leger lives in the estate pictured on Bride Finder's cover. He inherited his powers from his ancestor, Prospero, who was (rightfully it appears, for a change) burned at the stake for witchcraft. Anatole has psychic, telekinetic and visionary powers and uses the crystal in the sword to see the future. He sees a warning vision in the crystal to beware a woman of flame. Anatole hates his powers because they alienated him from his mother when he was a boy. He expects those powers will now also alienate him from his bride to-be, who will be decided upon by the family Bride Finder. To Anatole's horror, the Bride Finder returns with a flame-haired woman who must not be gainsaid. Anatole marries Madeline but does not tell her of his powers while, ironically, she is one of the few women capable of handling such powers sensibly. If the story had stayed within these simple elements, it would have been terrific. However, other elements and characters are then introduced to this novel which only distract from this powerful plotline and its lead characters. The ghost, Prospero, whom both Anatole and Madeline can see and communicate with, was much more interesting than all of these other characters. I could have used a lot more of him and less of them.

 

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