Author: Castle, Jayne (Author’s Website)
Genre: Romance, futuristic romance
Bibliographic: Pocket Books, 336 pages, Mass Market Paperback List Price $7.99, , ISBNs 9780671569037, 9780671021436, 9781574901399, 9781451624014
Publication Date: October 1, 1996
Rating: ★★★☆☆/♥♥♥♡♡ (The rating scale is here).
Appeal Factors: Futuristic, character-driven, fast-paced, steamy
Why I picked it up: This book was required reading for my readers’ advisory class. I would not have picked it up otherwise.
S.I.A.S.: Lucas Trent and Amaryllis Lark both have mysteries to solve, not least of which is why they are so drawn to each other.
Summary: After leaving her career in academia, Amaryllis Lark has recently been hired as a professional prism — a person with the ability to help a psychic focus his or her ability. She is intrigued but not optimistic when Lucas Trent, owner of the massive Lodestar corporation, hires her to help him solve a mystery. Trent is a detector talent; he has the ability to tell when other people are using their talents. He knows that one of his employees is betraying him, but he hopes to discover that she has been mentally enslaved by a psychic with the ability to hypnotize people, even though all of the current research suggests that such a thing is impossible. He invites Amaryllis to come to an event with him to find out, under the pretense that she is his date for the evening from a reputable marriage agency. While they are there, they detect another psychic using a prism to enhance his natural charisma (which is also allegedly impossible), and while they are linked they realize they they are incredibly attracted to each other.
The day after the event, Lucas calls Amaryllis to ask her on a date, and she invites him to join her as she researches the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death Professor Landreth, her academic mentor and the man who established the reputable prism profession. The more time Amaryllis (with Lucas reluctantly in tow) spends digging, the more questions she raises — and the harder it gets to accept the fact that she and Lucas will have to separate when their marriage agencies find their ideal spouses.
Evaluation: This book is not my usual style of romance, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I was expecting the psychic link construct to be absolutely ridiculous, but the author did a good job of weaving it into the story. I don’t think the steamy scenes were any more over-the-top than I’ve read in other types of romance (although I don’t really see what Amaryllis and Lucas saw in each other, aside from physical attraction). Furthermore, I thought that the looming threat of the marriage agency was a good way to create tension in Lucas and Amaryllis’s relationship — quite often with romance I find myself frustrated by the obstacles keeping the main characters apart because they seem so minor, but that wasn’t the case here (although I can’t say I was at all surprised when the marriage agency matched them in the end).
The characters were fairly three-dimensional. I would have liked more background about Lucas Trent, especially about how he learned to control his talent and what exactly happened in the Western Islands. I suspect that there might be a bit of that in the rest of the series, since the heroes seem to be his island friends, but I don’t have any inclination to read them so I guess I’ll never know. I really didn’t like Amaryllis. She was prim and proper and uptight to the point where it was difficult to believe. There’s no way she made it to adulthood — especially given her personal background and all the drama with her parents — and still had trouble understanding that sometimes people don’t act ethically.
Clearly, this book works for the intended audience, since it has several sequels and is still fairly popular twenty years after its initial publication. I would recommend it to science fiction fans looking to start reading romance, maybe, or romance fans curious about sci-fi. But I doubt I’d recommend it to established readers in both genres, or people who are already familiar with paranormal romance.
Significance: This is the first title in the St. Helen’s series.
- How is St. Helen’s similar to modern America? Did you see any parallels between their ongoing election and our current events? How is their focus on Founders’ Values similar to ours?
- Amaryllis and Lucas seem like polar opposites, at least at first. Why does their relationship work? In what ways are they similar? How are they different?
- Of those mentioned, which psychic talent would you most like to have? Within the confines set by the book, what’s the most interesting talent you can imagine?
- Why did Lucas wait to get tested until he could mask his talent? Why does the idea of the “psychic vampire” hold such sway over St. Helen’s society?
- Were you surprised by the truth about Prof. Landreth’s death? Why or why not?
Lists and Awards: None.