5.0 out of 5 stars A story that has found its heart (Amazon.co.uk)
Although this is the first `paranormal romance’ novel I’ve had the pleasure of reading, my wife’s dedication to the genre and its celluloid/TV derivatives have given me some familiarity. And if I were to choose a book to kick off my reading of the genre then Heart Search: Lost would be a great choice.
Unlike most books in this genre this one is a distinctly British affair. Set in England and,
due to the nature of one of the character’s searching, it provides us with a wonderful range of scenes in our (seemingly vampire rich) nation. There’s a definite `British-ness’ to the characters and the dialogue too, notably amongst the vampires and their coven, and their (initially) polite and formal discourse.
But before you consider you’ve wandered into Merchant-Ivory does Twilight, let me explain the premise of the book.Joshua and Remy are a happily engaged young couple eagerly awaiting their imminent wedding. Whilst Remy is in the US, Josh gets bitten by a vampire, Samir, and begins a transformation process which continues as Remy returns. During this time he inadvertently hurts her and, wracked with guilt, decides to leave her (Dear John letter and all).
The book follows our two main characters through their separate journeys. Joshua is drawn by his `maker’ to join a coven of vampires in the South-East of the UK. Josh’s story introduces us to the vampire sub-society, with their etiquette and traditions, through the coven. Although initially a happy little group of vampires, munching their way through the population, the cracks in the coven begin to show when two of the members begin to clash. Joshua finds himself embroiled in the conflict, as well as coming to terms with his new `life.’
Remy’s journey is less dramatic, but in many ways more poignant and interesting. After the tears and heartache she resolves to seek out Josh by revisiting the places they have stayed together over the years. It’s a clever plot device–I was initially struggling to warm to the couple and their relationship as the split-up happens so early in the book that you don’t really know either character when it happens, so can’t empathise with their distress. But by building the relationship retrospectively by the end of the book I had a definite emotional link with both characters and their break-up.
The two main characters evolve nicely over the book, Cullen drawing realistic and
likeable personas. Remy, once she stopped crying every paragraph, really shone out for me. She fluctuated between vulnerable, strong, needy, independent and resourceful in a fascinating manner. The mysteries she unlocks are bound to make the further books very exciting.
Joshua, undoubtedly the more exciting character and storyline, didn’t resonate as much with me until the latter part of the book where I got a real sense of his trauma and dilemmas. He seemed initially to simply accept his new status and new life in an unrealistic fashion, but that is explained later as a coping strategy, as a method of
`boxing up’ his emotions. His handsome, slightly dark, moody and impulsive
character is very much the stuff of this genre–I can see him alongside a
guilt-ridden Edward Cullen, or a troubled Stefan Salvatore. I hope in the future
books we see him evolve as much as I felt Remy did within the first book.
One of the difficulties in writing in such a saturated and popular genre is introducing new ideas. There are traces of other paranormal books in here: the coven feels very much like the `family’ of Cullens in Twilight; we have vampire venom, which pops up in a few places in other works. The vampires have magical powers–Joshua has several–in addition to their super fast speed and strength. The societal structure has traces of the Volturi, although in a far more pleasant way. It is tricky to do different things with vampires–you go darker you end up with `Being Human’, `Vampire Lestat’ or `True Blood.’ You go lighter, it’s beautiful teen vamps in `Twilight’ and `Vampire Diaries.’ So it’s really all the more important that the story you are telling has verve, given that vamps are vamps are vamps.
And Cullen’s story is suitably different and very well told. It’s a tale of love, a tale of dedication and a tale of passion. I felt reaffirmed by Remy’s quest to find Josh, that she wouldn’t take this lying down, that she didn’t believe someone she cared about could change so abruptly that he’d just dump her and run off. She does what we all would want to do, would want to have the courage to do–to cast our lives aside and not take
it passively–to fight for what we would want.
The style of the book is very readable, and the dialogue bounces along well. The diction of the vampires feels almost unrealistically polite at the start, like an undead `get along
gang’, but when they all start squabbling it gets some hairs on its porcelain-white chest and bites nicely. The descriptions of scenes and places are lavishly detailed and draw you deep into the book. My only grumble was the tendency to flip between multiple points of view in scenes–I found it quite distracting and often unnecessary.
Heart Search: Lost is a great debut for a series and leaves you with a smorgasboard of teasers and plot threads for the next book. I was left pondering which ones are going to play a big part in book two, and which ones will mull like a good wine until book three.