Today’s SBD: Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre
From the back of the book:
As a handler, Corine Solomon can touch an object and know its history. Its’ too bad she can’t seem to forget her own. With her ex-boyfriend Chance in tow lending his particularly supernatural brand of luck, Corine journeys back home to Kilmer, Georgia, in order to discover the truth behind her mother’s death and the origins of her "gift."
But while trying to uncover the secrets of her past, Corine and Chance find that something is rotten in the state of Georgia. Just a few miles away, no one seems to know Kilmer exists. And inside the town borders, there are signs of a dark curse affecting the town and all its residents — and it can be satisfied only by death.
This is the second Corine Solomon book, the first being Blue Diablo, which I mentioned a little here. Corine is a handler — she can tell the history of an object by touching it. In exchange for the information, though, she is burned. In DB, Corine (and readers) learned from her newly acquired mentor that this is unnatural, a function of how she acquired her gift — as her mother died. She also wangled a promise from Chance that he would use his luck to help her find out who killed her mother. Hell Fire picks up just where Blue Diablo left off, with the two of them heading to Kilmer, Georgia. Of course, what they find there is not what they (or I as a reader) expected. Corine learns who killed her mother, which was a surprise, and ultimately learns why as the secrets of the town are gradually revealed.
I loved the idea of Kilmer as a Bermuda Triangle of sorts in small town America. Also found it rather ironic and entertaining — in genre romance, rural, small town life is the beau ideal and urban is evil. Except Hell Fire isn’t genre romance — it’s fantasy, not romance, and the Ace Fantasy logo on the spine makes that very clear. In fact, the relationship between Corine and Chance feels very melancholy because it doesn’t seem possible for there to be any sort of HEA, although a HFN might be possible in the short term, in the longer term, Chance’s good luck has to be balanced by bad luck, and Corine might not survive how his power rebounds on her (or anyone who is close to him).
I’ve been trying to figure out why the Corine Solomon books appeal to me so much, while the Sirantha Jax books are kind of ~meh~ and the romance published under the name Ava Gray was DNF. The Jax question I haven’t entirely figured out yet, but it may have to do with the Jax/March dynamic that doesn’t work much for me, along with Jax-as-savior. On the other hand, I think the genre differences make a difference. Corine and Chance’s moral ambiguity is acceptable to me because 1) they are aware of karma, and 2) I don’t expect redemption of any sort in urban fantasy. Meanwhile, the assassin and grifter romance couple…I wasn’t interested in their HEA, because it was going to include ongoing killing/cons. [Yes, bad people fall in love every day, but in the fantasy of genre romance, I’d rather read about people redeemed by love, not killers in love. Killers in love belong in other genres for me. YMMV.]
Anyway, the next book of the series, Shady Lady, will be out next year, and I’ll be sure to pick a copy up.
Two minor editing quibbles: either "Linoleum" or "linoleum", but not both, especially not within two or three pages of each other; and one use of "Jess" when all other uses were "Jesse". Like I said, minor, but they caught my eye.