Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Playing With Fire - Gena Showalter

Playing with Fire
Gena Showalter


Belle Jamison has had all manner of menial and low-level jobs. Currently, she’s a “coffee wench.” She’s taken this job, and others like it, in an effort to support her ailing father, who lives in an assisted living facility. Far from being resentful, she’s happy to do this for her dad, in return for her own happy, carefree childhood. When she wakes up late for work one morning, Belle figures it’ll be just another normal day. But, during her morning break, a man in a lab coat bursts into the coffee shop, pursued by two burly men. He begs Belle for help, saying his life is in danger. While Belle phones 911, the man disappears in the confusion.

Heading home that evening, Belle suddenly feels like she’s got the world’s worst flu. She barely makes it to her bed, where she spends untold time sick, in pain, and hallucinating. When she wakes up, she sees what she thinks is the Angel of Death next to her bed. The (incredibly attractive) Angel of Death is talking into a walkie-talkie. Turns out, his name is Rome Masters and he works for an outfit called the PSI. The man in the lab coat slipped something into Belle’s mocha-latte-cchino-thing, and Rome is there to eliminate her if she poses a threat. Which she does, since she now possesses the power to control the four elements. But Rome offers a deal: he’ll teach her how to use her new powers if she helps him protect his daughter.

As a rule, I’m not a big fan of the first-person perspective in novels. I make a serious exception for Gena Showalter. I’ve only read two of her books thus far (this one, and OH MY GOTH) but they’re both examples of how first-person can be perfect in the right hands. Belle is sarcastic and irreverent; but she’s never abrasive or mean. Rome is definitely an alpha male, but he never edges into savage/jerk territory. The relationship between them starts out in dire circumstances, but grows in a very believable way. The paranormal aspects were done very well. Belle’s powers; the rules of the fictional world; and the power struggle between Belle and Rome; and the two shadowy paranormal agencies looking for them all add extra depth. I’m looking forward to much more from this talented author.

Rating: 8 ½
September 2006
ISBN# 0-373-77129-0 (paperback)


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