By Lisa Kleypas
(Friday Harbor, Book 4)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
February 5, 2013
Justine Hoffman is a hereditary witch with untapped powers and a limited knowledge of witchcraft. After a nomadic upbringing, Justine has found contentment as the owner of Artist’s Point, a bed and breakfast on San Juan Island, but she longs to experience a deep romantic love. So intense is her longing that she tries to cast a love spell. When that doesn’t work, she turns to the ancient Triodecad, a particularly powerful grimoire, and it reveals that a geas, a lifetime enchantment, has been placed upon her that condemns her to living her life without the love for which she yearns. Consumed with anger over the injustice, she breaks the geas without understanding the repercussions such an act will have.
Jason Black, a reclusive billionaire who made his fortune in the video gaming industry, has rented Artist’s Point for five days for himself and a small group of people who work for his company, Inari Gaming Enterprises, who are on the island for a series of meetings. Only Jason and his executive assistant know that he has a secret reason for being at the bed and breakfast. Jason is a man without a soul, a circumstance that means not only that his lifespan is likely to be abbreviated but also that death means the end of his existence since there is no part of him beyond his physical existence. His only hope of changing his situation lies in the Triodecad, which he plans to steal. But when he meets Justine, their connection is so powerful that she immediately becomes far more than a means to an end.
Justine is horrified to learn that in breaking the geas she has placed Jason under a death sentence since because the man truly loved by a hereditary witch always dies young. Justine’s desperate attempt to find a way to save the man she loves results in a broadly comic scene and in a poignant one. But can even a love as powerful as the one Justine and Jason share prove stronger than the magical force that threatens their union?
This is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever written. I’m a Lisa Kleypas fan; she has been an autobuy author for me for many years. And there is much in this book that I love. I love the friendship between Justine and Zoe. I love the passage Zoe read from Connie Brockway’s The Other Guy’s Bride. I love Justine and Jason, individually and together. Justine is immensely likeable—nurturing, quick-tempered, loyal, and vulnerable. Jason is a Kleypas alpha—confident, protective, commanding, but capable of great tenderness—with an Eastern touch that makes him a bit different. I prefer to see relationships that build, but I could accept the instant compelling attraction that exists between these two. But the witchcraft element just distanced me from the story.
Kleypas has moved more deeply into paranormal territory with each of the Friday Harbor books, from none in Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor to the magical realism of Rainshadow Road to the ghosts of Dream Lake and now to witches in Crystal Cove. As a critic, I find the progression interesting, but as a romance reader, with this last book I’ve moved into a place that I don’t want to go. Also, and this reaction may be because the characters hit a sensitive spot with this particular reader, I was not amused by the redneck, backwards Arkansas witches with their Elvis altar cloth. Just sayin’. . .
This fourth book is also the most sensual of the Friday Harbor books. There is a light bondage scene that some readers will doubtless find hot. I confess my reaction was a big sigh accompanied by the exclamation “Not another one!” Bondage scenes appear to be becoming as ubiquitous as oral sex in romance fiction. But that’s a single scene and certainly not the only one that gives the book a high sizzle factor.
Kleypas’s prose is wonderful. She has been at her most lyrical throughout this series, and in Crystal Cove particularly she has her characters say some of the wisest and most moving words about love that I’ve encountered in romance fiction. After reading the passage from Brockway, Zoe says:
Sometimes real life is even better. Because love is there not just in the big romantic moments, but in all the little things. The way he touches your face, or covers you with a blanket when you’re taking a nap, or puts a Post-it note on the fridge to remind you about your dentist appointment. I think those things glue a relationship together even more than all the great sex.
And Jason’s thoughts as he and Justine part after what may be their last time together:
And it was enough. Those three well worn, everyday words got the job done."
So do I recommend this book? If your favorite Nora Roberts series is the Three Sisters Island trilogy, I highly recommend it. If you prefer your witches under eight and dressed for trick-or-treating on Halloween, you might want to approach this one more cautiously. I remain a devoted fan of the Friday Harbor books and of Lisa Kleypas generally. I’ll preorder Lightning Bay, which is set for release on September 13, 2013. But I do hope it won’t feature vampires or shape shifters.
Are you a fan of paranormal romances? What’s your favorite witchy romance?
I am one of Lisa’s Divas and received an ARC of Crystal Cove as a benefit of belonging to this group. (I hope I’m not drummed out of the group for posting this review.)