RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: True Colors by Joyce Lamb


Title: True Colors
Author: Joyce Lamb
Publication Info: Berkley 2011
ISBN: 978-0425240359
Genre: Romantic Suspense

True Colors This review was written by Katherine. This story was nominated in the Best Romantic Suspense category.

The summary:      

Detective John Logan moved to Lake Avalon, Florida, to put a lifetime of hardship and tragedy out of sight. But when Logan's darkest secret comes to town with revenge in mind, he puts the woman of his dreams in a serial killer's crosshairs.

And here is Katherine's review: 

I was worried about reviewing True Colors because I don't usually read romantic suspense (A I don't like being scared, B if you're on the run from imminent danger and you keep stopping to have sex I can only hope neither you nor your children survive to contaminate the gene pool and C I am even more bored by the ubiquitous serial killers of suspense than I am by the limitless eligible dukes of historical romance).

But True Colors is not romantic suspense, or not just romantic suspense.  First of all it's not suspenseful (does anyone ever think the serial killer is going to defeat our heroine? Does it constitute a spoiler if I tell you he doesn't?) plus there's a paranormal element.

Our hero is mostly a cardboard cutout, although occasionally he's a douche bag. Our heroine is introduced hurrying to the scene of an accident – so she can photograph it.  She's a photojournalist, not just your average voyeur of tragic events, but it's still somehow distasteful.  I have no idea why these guys are attracted to one another, other than them both being physically perfect specimens. I can't say I actively dislike either of them. I don't know enough to dislike them. I don't know enough to care.  In the interest of time, I'm not going to get started on all the unnecessary secondary characters, although so much of the book is unfathomably devoted to them that it seems wrong not to give them equivalent time in a review.

Our heroine's superpower is a kind of empathy.  It adds nothing whatsoever to her development as a character, nor to the romantic relationship. The so-called romantic relationship goes from 'I think my friend is hot and am senselessly waiting for someone else to make a move' to 'we are in a committed relationship' in a few pages. Their journey is condensed so there is plenty of room for delving into the Most Traumatic Experience Evah of all the other characters. The heroine feels other people's MTEE's whenever there is skin to skin contact.  This does not cause her to dress or act like Rogue.  She carries on with the short shorts and tank tops plus the unrestrained grabbing at psychopaths and random victims of abuse clear through to the end.  To be fair, it is warm in Florida.

Our heroine doesn't care for her superpower, presumably because she can't photograph the appalling things that happen to other people when she experiences them in her head.  The good news is that she also experiences the hero's climaxes – not sure how that ties in with trauma, but the author cleverly makes the paranormal aspects confusing and alien to the characters as well as the readers, so as not to have to provide a coherent explanation for how they work.  Also, apparently if our heroine is tasered enough she'll get a sampling of every bad thing that happened to the person she's touching, in rough chronological order, so that we can conveniently get out all the plot points in the backstory of our villain.  Hurrah.  Don't you just hate it when romance novels skim over descriptions of children being tortured?  If the author doesn't lay proper groundwork, sometimes you don't get a proper sense of exactly how fun it is to stick a knife in a woman's belly.

Back in the day, you knew who the bad guys in a romance novel were because they had “deviant” sexual practices.  This meant things like being gay, enjoying bondage, or using sex toys.  I'm pretty sure it was an effort to spice up the books without potentially alienating more conservative readers from our heroes.  This book is sort of like that, except that these spicy bits feature the serial killer mutilating, raping, and then killing women.  No judgement if you're not with me, but I find it hard to believe this is sexy for just about anyone, and I say this as one of the old skool readers who doesn't shy away from a good rape scene (invoking all possible disclaimers on the difference between fiction and reality here).  So if you enjoy reading about torture, then I have just the book for you.

Otherwise, well,True Colors has half a dozen damaged dogs of the plot moppet variety, some more traditional sex scenes, and a relatively unobtrusive prose style to recommend it, which is why it isn't an outright fail.  Initially, yes, having six maimed dogs seemed excessive.  This one's blind, that one doesn't have back legs, yet all of them can be endlessly left alone or taken care of by others when our heroine is too busy getting laid, being kidnapped, or passing out from vicarious trauma.  Why do we need one, much less half a dozen of these simulacrums of empathy hanging around?  We don't.  We don't get to know the dogs beyond their missing body parts but…I'm a sucker, OK?  I feel badly for the dogs, I do, even when I'm angry about them being mistreated so as to manipulate my emotions, I still just…I like dogs.  Dogs go in the plus column.  And really, the plotting was very fluid.  I guess the grade comes down to the fact that I've read so many books that are so much worse.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

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