This review was submitted by Qualisign, and get ready, for it is majestic. This novella was nominated in the Romance Novella category.
The summary: Dr. Grace Hunter seeks an ancient text beneath the castle of Count Alessandro Volta.
The reclusive count wasn't expecting scientist Grace to be a beautiful woman who stirs his scarred soul. Outside, a media storm is brewing, but inside the count's world the heat between them is sizzling!
And now, Qualisign's review:
Alternate title cum synopsis:
“How a scar(r)y Count Count was possessed by the Cookie Monster only to be exorcized by a fame-seeking scientifically-minded Sunshine Bear with scraped-back hair”
Seriously. This was horrible. And I paid for it – just so that I could review it for SBTB. AAARRRGGGHHH! It has such promise: a long-lost manuscript containing healing secrets-of-the-ages, a PhD-carrying-manuscript-curator of a heroine, a wounded hero with a title and a castle on an island with secret tunnels, caves and wicked storms. It was SO good – until I started reading it. But then, to my joy, it was so awful, I simply couldn’t put it down. Actually, what was so compelling was the possibility that the author was purposely tantalizing the reader with multiple sly references to Sesame Street. Equally probable is that the author took most of her tropes from Sesame Street without realizing it.
At the end of the story – but prior to the epilogue oddly reminiscent of each of the final Star Wars scenes where all the characters take their bows and are available for cheerful group photos – the hero, Count Volta provides his own twuuu love, Dr Grace Hunter (yep, Grace Hunter), with a most Sesame Streetwise coda/summary:
I think you are the healer here, Grace. You came to an island where a monster resided, where only darkness existed. You lit up that world and shook it until your light and your love chased the darkness and the monster away.
The most wonderful gems found in this novella – and thank goodness it was a novella or it would have been a DNF – were the guffaw-provoking mixed metaphors peppered throughout, random comets shooting across the sky like salmon in a spawning frenzy:
Through grizzled eyes in a leathery face the man looked her over as one might consider an unwelcome stray dog found whimpering on the doorstep, before he grabbed her duffel in one dinner-plate sized hand and flung it in the back of a rusty Jeep.
You are not who we were expecting,” [Bruno] said in gravelly English, his accent as thick as his ham-hock biceps…
The last thing [Count Volta] wanted was the media sniffing around again, turning the place into some kind of fish tank.
The portrayal of researchers and academia was as fanciful as the metaphors. Perhaps those of you working in the wonderful world of romancelandia are accustomed to the kind of fame and fortune that brings with it dressing rooms, taking bows after a presentation, and multiple offers of academic chairs, but in my corner of academia, Morey’s portrayal of the academic life was as startling as her metaphors:
…Dr Grace Hunter smiled in her sensible suit and bowed on final time to the audience, finally able to withdraw to the quiet of the room generously labeled her dressing room—little more than a closet to store her things, really, but at least it provided her with a bolthole.
She had a book deal and offers of chairs at universities all around the world. Even, in her latest coup, a last-minute slot on a prime time chat show.
However, as an academic, I was most impressed with what I consider to be a beautifully succinct, accurate – and probably inadvertent – summary of academia:
He had a theory? She looked up. She wanted to hear that. She just wasn’t certain about the you-show-me-ours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine subtext.
But it was the unrelentingly weird division between woman and scientist presented as coming from both the Hero and Heroine that had my head spinning. It was enough to make one wish to cast up one’s accounts. (I figure if the author can mix metaphors at will, I should be allowed to want to puke in a different genre.)
What was wrong with him? She was a scientist, with scraped-back hair and a passion for ancient relics, and he was lusting after her? Damn!
He let himself into the darkened room, the ache in his loins more insistent than ever after a night spent torturing himself thinking about that damned Dr Hunter. He refused to let himself think of her as anything else. He needed to think of her as a cold-blooded scientist and not as a woman.
What would it take to shake up those frosty blue eyes and strip off that sterile scientific cladding she wrapper herself so tightly in and see what really lay beneath?
Lucky she was a scientist, really, and not some paranoid panic merchant who saw portents of doom in every swirling cloud or flutter of apprehension. She was here to do a job after all.
Great, she thought, doing her utmost to shake of the irrational sense of impending anger. So much for priding herself on being a logical scientist
Ah, but this was supposed to be a romance. Indeed, Count Count and Scientific Sunshine Bear did get down to enchanted insertions. Yep. Magical. Really. It says so in writing:
… he stilled and entered her on one long, deep thrust that stretched her, filling her so completely, so perfectly – so magically – that she cried out with the wonderment of it all. (Italics in the original)
Well, it had better have been magical to make up for Dr. Hunter’s previous and pitiful sex life. That info dump was astounding; I reread it three times – and I fear that my jaw remained in dropped position throughout each and every reading. Seriously, this is WTF-ery at its absolute finest:
She’d had lovers before, and neither [neither?] of them had come close to making her feel anything like this man did. Okay, so maybe her first time had been more clinical than exciting, and borne of desperation that she would be the sole virgin in her university graduating class, and the second time had been grief sex with a colleague after a child she’d nursed for days in the refugee hospital had died in her arms.
In the end, I gave this a D. In the midst of the goofy plot-let, the head-spinning (vomit-inducing) portrayal of female scientists as oxymoronic at best, and the hilarious metaphor hash, there was a nicely written scene filled with Count Count at the piano, playing for the first time in ten years, his notes and the storm outside building a beautiful emotional metaphor that showed enormous promise. And the metaphor mash-ups were truly funny. But a RITA nomination? No effing way.