Friday, May 7, 2010

Review: Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer

The wildest ride at Dreamland isn’t the roller coaster.

Lots of women think they’ve fallen in love with a demon. Mab Brannigan really has...

Mary Alice Brannigan doesn't believe in the supernatural. Nor does she expect to find that she’s the newest recruit in the Guardia, an elite team of demon fighters formed centuries before to guard the five Untouchables, the most powerful demons in the history of the world, now imprisoned right there in the Dreamland amusement park. That would be bad enough, but there’s a guy she’s falling hard for, and there’s something about him that’s not quite right...

Then there’s Ethan Wayne, a former Green Beret who’s come home to Dreamland to die. Ethan has his own problems including a bullet in his chest inching closer to his heart, a true love who shoots him on sight, and a mother who drags him into the Guardia after he’s possessed by a crazed killer mermaid demon. Between ducking his mother’s attempts to reform him and dodging the bullets of a secret government agent he’s pretty sure is his soulmate, Ethan really doesn’t have time for demons, touchable or not.

But rocky romances and demented demons aren’t Mab and Ethan’s only problems: they’re also coping with a crooked politician, a supernatural raven, a secret government agency, an inexperienced sorceress, a betrayer within the Guardia, and some mind-boggling revelations from their own pasts. As their personal demons wreck their newfound relationships and real demons wreck the park, Mab and Ethan find out that the Untouchables have escaped and opened the gate to hell on earth. Now they’re facing down the Devil himself and finding out what everybody who’s ever been to an amusement park knows: the end of the ride is the wildest.

I have no idea what Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer were thinking when they wrote this book and certainly I wouldn't be so presumptuous to tell one of my favorite authors what to write about in the future but as a faithful reader, I have one thing I really need to say: Please stay away from paranormal stuff in the future. Please. Pretty pretty please.

I so wanted to like Wild Ride. I have written about how freaking fantastic I think Jennifer Crusie is (Bob Mayer deserves a mention too) and how I love her books but I have to admit, when I read the blurb for this book way before it came out I got a little nervous. Why is Jennifer Crusie writing about demons when she writes about regular people so well? I got even more nervous when Jane said she couldn't even finish it. Whoa! I had prepared myself for a book that had some problems that weren't so big that they couldn't be ignored but she couldn't even bring herself to finish it? That's so not good, I thought, but I put on my big-girl panties and sat down with this alleged odious book to see what I thought anyway.

I think this is was a mess. The goofy Jenny Crusie humor was there in spots thank goodness but the overall tone of the book was sad. "...a former Green Beret who's come home to Dreamland to die"? What's entertaining about that? And Mab, a repressed woman who spends more time involved with her artistic works than with people? What about the demonic possession and death in an old amusement park? That definitely sounds plausible to me since clowns are freaky but am I going to want to read a romance with that as the setting? Probably not. Sounds more like a Dean Koontz novel.

Maybe it’s because my copy is an ARC and they hadn't completely worked out all the bugs but some things aren’t clear, like how Ethan and Mab are basically strangers that graduated from the same high school class but by two-thirds through the book, with what seems like little interaction, are close and think of each other like siblings. I would have liked to have seen more of what their childhoods were like and seen them fleshed out a bit more. We are told that Mab’s mom was a bit fanatic about demons in the park but why? Some real family history would have been nice instead of little bits supplied when only necessary.

Not only were the platonic relationships out of whack but the romantic relationships are different than usual too: in Jenny Crusie books, the main male and female characters become romantically involved by the end but usually fight in the beginning. My favorite example of this is Bet Me. In this one, Mab falls for a drunkard who is possessed by a demon and pays her the slightest bit of attention. She goes instantly from obsessing about the decorations and artifacts in the park to becoming a infatuated with a man, then falling again with one look at another while Ethan ends up with a Homeland Security soldier who fights the paranormal, a female GI Joe. Ethan and GI Jane make sense but after Mab quickly gets over her demon and she falls for that other guy, it seems more like an afterthought, as if they don't want Mab to feel left out of the happy ending.

I'm not going to talk about all the demonic stuff happening at Dreamland except to say that in the right author's hands, it could have been good and scary as I don't think it was meant to be a romance. Though there are some amusing things about Wild Ride that stuck out to me, like there being a witch named Glenda and the squabbling demon spouses. There were periods where Wild Ride had the feel of Agnes and the Hitman, the only collaboration of the three between Crusie and Mayer that I felt was a success. Those periods were the reason that I made it through Wild Ride and for them, I thank you. On they have for a free download a short story prequel to Wild Ride called "Wild Night". I haven't read it yet as I found it as I was writing this review but maybe that will be the backstory I was looking for. Jenny Crusie has a solo book out on August 31, 2010 called Maybe This Time. Ironic title, don't you think?

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