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Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Crystal Cove' Friday Harbor #4 by Lisa Kleypas

From the BLURB:

In New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas's Crystal Cove, Justine Hoffman has made a comfortable life for herself on the island of Friday Harbor. She is the proprietor of a successful boutique hotel, and she has the safe, predictable life she has always wanted. Growing up with her flighty, nomadic mother, Marigold, has instilled in her a deep longing for stability. But in spite of everything Justine has achieved, there is still something missing. Love. And after years of waiting and dreaming, she is willing to do whatever it takes to change her destiny.

What Justine soon discovers is that someone cast a spell on her when she was born, with the result that she will never find her soul mate. Determined to change her fate, Justine finds a way to break the enchantment, never dreaming of the dangerous complications that will follow.

And when Justine meets the mysterious Jason Black, she accidentally unleashes a storm of desire and danger that threaten everything she holds dear . . . because Jason has secrets of his own, and he wants more from her than fate will ever allow.

Justine Hoffman wants to fall in love, but can’t because she’s cursed. Every natural-born witch who falls in love is destined to lose her lover to an untimely death – it’s the price of balance that must be paid to harness magic. Justine’s own mother never recovered from her loss, and so tried to spare Justine the heartache with a spell.

But now a grown adult who has never been in love, Justine is desperate for change. 

What she doesn’t expect is Jason Black to be that change – a gaming guru who’s staying at Justine’s Friday Harbor B&B with a small team of minions while he closes a property deal. 

Jason has his own problems, and is likewise seeking to alter his fate with magic. But when Justine crosses his path, he becomes even more desperate to alter his circumstances and gain a little more time with her …

‘Crystal Cove’ is the fourth book in Lisa Kleypas’s ‘Friday Harbor’ series.

I don’t know what possessed me to pick this up. I hated first book ‘Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor’, despised ‘Rainshadow Road’ and was so indifferent to ‘Dream Lake’ that I didn’t even write a review. This series has been a big departure for Lisa Kleypas who rose to romance fame for her historical’s. And while I loved her contemporary ‘Travis Family’ series (and I’m thrilled to learn of a fourth book coming in 2014, for Joe!) I thought ‘Friday Harbor’, with its dashes of nonsensical magic, was just plain ridiculous. But I've had ‘Crystal Cove’ sitting on my bookshelf since February, and I think it was just being desperate enough for something new of Lisa Kleypas’s that moved me to read … and I've got to say; this is a turn-around book for the ‘Friday Harbor’ series!

Unlike ‘Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor’, which I couldn’t remember having any sort of magic in it (wait – does coincidence count?) and ‘Rainshadow Road’ which I vaguely remember had a scene in which the heroine turns a piece of glass into a butterfly (yeeeeaaaahhhh) ‘Crystal Cove’ makes it absolutely, positively clear that it’s a romance with supernatural bent. The first paragraph has Justine musing on her failed love spells, and a few pages later she’s confessing to being a witch. Yes! I loved this. Writing magic in contemporary romance is a bit like being pregnant – you can’t have just “a little bit of magic” the same way you can’t be “a little big pregnant.” Go big or go home, I say! And, thankfully, Kleypas has started to understand that in this, the fourth ‘Friday Harbor’ book.

Justine owns a grimoire and her mother belongs to the local coven. She can light candles without a match and when she meets Jason Black for the first time, she gets a feeling about him that’s all witchy-instinct. I was so happy that Kleypas finally decided to stop writing on eggshells around the supernatural element in this series – whereas in previous books it was always a weird curveball that seemed plopped into the middle of the plot, in ‘Crystal Cove’ magic is a driving force and the book is better for it. 

And it helps that instead of focusing on the boring Nolan brothers of past books (I’m sorry, but they were DULL) Kleypas introduces us to new and far more interesting characters in local B&B owner, Justine and gaming-guru from San Francisco, Jason Black. In these two Kleypas has written one of her steamiest pairings and, once again, it’s partly in thanks to her embracing the magic element that allows these characters to be a bit headier, and revel in their animal instincts.

The book also feels a little like Alice Hoffman’s ‘Practical Magic’ (to the point that I wondered if Justine’s surname was an ode to the author?). The same way that Owens women lose those they love, so too do all natural-born witches in Kleypas’s world. And where death-foreshadowing in ‘Practical Magic’ was a cricket chirping, in ‘Crystal Cove’ it’s clocks stopping;   

Cletus paused reflectively. “A week before it happened, Bo told me that wherever he went, clocks stopped ticking. His watch froze. Hell, even the kitchen egg-timer hourglass shattered when Bo got near it.” He pulled up the stay-tab on a new can of beer. “Strange thing was, Clive told me he had the same problem, right before his accident. Showed up on time to work every day of his life, but started punching in late, ’cause every clock in the house had stopped. A week later, Clive was gone.”  
Jason stared at him alertly. “They each died a week after the clocks stopped?” His gaze lowered to his stainless-steel watch. Relieved to find that it was still functioning, he let out a controlled sigh. 
Before he looked up, he heard Cletus say gently, “Boy, you’re in a mess o’ trouble, ain’t you?” 

I have been severely unimpressed and downright bored with Lisa Kleypas’s ‘Friday Harbor’ series … until ‘Crystal Cove’. Here is a book that marks a turning point in what has previously been a dragging series. Its strength lies in Kleypas (finally!) embracing the magic element, instead of throwing snippets in as an afterthought. In this book we have an intriguingly doomed romance between a loveless witch and her dark suitor – Kleypas writes one of the steamiest pairings and the entire world of ‘Friday Harbor’ suddenly has interesting prospects for future instalments.


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