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Monday, April 09, 2012

WINTER’S SHADOW By M.J.Hearle. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, 2011

I was intrigued by the notion of a man writing paranormal romance - it’s such a very female genre! - so I asked for a review copy of this. The sequel will be out soon.
Winter Adams lives in a small town not far from Pilgrim’s Lament, a falling-down church built many years ago. While taking photos for her school newspaper, she spots a hot young man at one of the graves, before he rescues her from a collapsing roof. He is Blake Duchamp and he’s not quite human, as she discovers. Winter has always been able to open any lock, but now she starts to see scary things, such as three beings, the Skivers, who are a cross between the Dementors of Harry Potter and the Gentlemen in the Buffy Episode “Hush”. They’re terrifying and they're after her...

SPOILER ALERT! Sorry, but I couldn't avoid this one.
This book avoids standard paranormal romance critters. There are no angels or werewolves or Faerie princes. Blake is a vampire of a sort, but not the usual bloodsucker. His kind have powers that drain them of energy when used, so they sometimes need to feed on life force, a need which can be resisted, but only with great difficulty. I thought it a nice touch that it’s dangerous even for him to kiss her! 

Spoiler ends. You can open your eyes now.
Most paranormal romances are based on the classic Gothic romance, but this one pays deliberate tribute to those, starting with the fact that Winter is studying Jane Eyre at school and having trouble writing the Gothic fiction creative response required by the teacher. There’s another tribute to Jane Eyre, but I can’t tell you what it is, without risking another spoiler. Actually several Jane Eyre elements, now I think of it. Read the book and you’ll figure it out. 
I liked the fact that the author has a bit of fun with all those weird names heroines of paranormal romance have. I can’t recall a single one in which the heroine is called Jenny or Lisa or even an ordinary non-Anglo name. Winter’s unusual name is due to her mother being a fan of singer Johnny Winter. And she has had to grit her teeth and put up with teasing from her classmates! It also gives the author an excuse to use a punning title.

There are, I admit, some times when you just have to suspend disbelief, such as when her worried sister, who has been looking after her and yelling at her for coming home late, doesn't ask any questions when she comes back after a night of running from  Skivers and crazy humans who are trying to kill Blake and have no problem with using her as bait. But I have yet to read a paranormal where you didn't have to suspend disbelief, and far more frequently than in this book, so kudos to Mr Hearle for managing to keep it down to one or two occasions.
The setting is - deliberately - vague, but clearly American. Students routinely drive to school. They are in “eighth grade”, an American term. There’s a cafeteria, something rare in Aussie secondary schools (my school has one, but it’s really just a common room where you can buy fast food from the tuckshop window). There are showers in the gym and a football team that has a “coach” and they do gym class instead of PE. The characters speak of “college” instead of university. I found all this a little puzzling given that the author lives in Sydney, but concluded that it’s probably to help his US sales when the time comes, and who can blame him?  I wish this author a lot of sales from his book, both in Australia and overseas. 


MJ Hearle said...

Hi Sue,
Thanks for reviewing my book. Love the fact that you picked up the Skivers inspiration was partly taken from the Gentlemen in Buffy. I'm a massive Whedon nerd.

Sophie said...

I strayed from gothic romance for a little while, but have been seeing so much of it lately, I might have to jump back on the bandwagon. I also agree that it's interesting to see a man writing from a girl's perspective. I'd read it just to see how he fared.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Do read it, Sophie, it's worth checking out. MJ, is it available in ebook yet for overseas readers?

Glad you liked the review, MJ, and a pleasure to meet a fellow Buffy/Whedon fan. I liked it better than Angel, though I enjoy that too, and I have Firefly for when I can stay awake watching ANYTHING!

MJ Hearle said...

Hey Sue,
The book is available as an ebook.
Pop over to my online 'store' to see the options.