Crystal Gardens by Jayne Ann Krentz
Writing as Amanda Quick
(Ladies of Lantern Street #1)
Piatkus Books (May 2012)
Paperback, 320 pages
Historical Paranormal Romance
Crystal Gardensby Amanda Quick is not your typical historical romance as the main characters are plagued with paranormal gifts that prevent them from leading a normal societal life.
Our protagonist is Evangeline Ames, a female author and private investigator who has left London for the calm life of the country village, Little Dixby, after an attempt on her life. Her employers have forced her to take time out to recover her wits, enabling her to work more on her novel at the same time, which is in the process of being serialized.
However, trouble seems to follow wherever she goes, and when we first meet her she is fleeing out of her window from a man who wishes to murder her. This second attempt on her life sees her escaping from her cottage onto the grounds of Crystal Gardens, the country house owned by the mysterious Lucas Sebastian. He puts a stop to her would-be assassin through paranormal means and insists that she reveal why anyone would be after her, and why she chose to flee onto his property.
He can also detect that Evangeline has her own paranormal abilities, as he is able to see other people’s auras and their intentions. Whilst our heroine is investigating who could be behind the attempts on her life, Lucas is trying to discover who murdered his uncle, the previous owner of Crystal Gardens. His uncle was also paranormal and dabbled in botany, with the maze in the garden being full of dangerous plants that can easily kill trespassers. It becomes clear that their investigations could be linked, making Lucas and Evangeline work together to decipher the truth.
It is also apparent that the maze holds more answers for the pair, as it is well-known that an ancient Roman treasure is hidden in the grounds, attracting unsavoury treasure hunters to the gardens. Could their assailants be after the treasure, or is there something paranormal behind their quest?
As a heroine, Evangeline started off well as she seemed strong and independent when escaping from her attacker, and I felt that this was a great opening scene. However, I soon started to get annoyed with her, as her work as a novelist induced frequent references to her writing, with her main character being based on Lucas after just one meeting. I didn’t like how easily she gave herself over to him, allowing him to take possession of her with their relationship not seeming equal. She is an intelligent character but there were still times when I wanted to slap her for her stupidity.
I found it difficult to make up my mind about Lucas’ character, as there were times when I really admired him, and other times when I felt he was taking liberties. He is very much the outsider of his family in some respects, and is the only one who believes that his uncle was murdered and didn’t die of a heart attack. This made him very independent and protective over those he cares about, but at the same time he still respects Evangeline’s need to investigate wherever she wants. What annoyed me about him was his control over their relationship, as he seems to stake a claim on her straight away with there being little build up to his affection.
The plot of this book was set up like a mystery, but I almost felt that there were too many avenues that were explored and that the book lost its direction at times. It kept switching from the murder of Lucas’ uncle to Evangeline’s attacker to the mythical treasure, with some of the links being a tad tenuous. I still enjoyed the book, as I liked the writer’s different use of perspectives to show both character’s thoughts, as well as those of lesser characters.
I did feel that the romance in the book could have been more developed than it was, as it seemed to occur surprisingly quickly and it didn’t feel like a typical romance of the historical era as Evangeline has practically no reservations about giving herself up to him. I had mixed feelings about the ending as some parts were predictable whilst others were a surprise, but overall I did like reading this book and felt compelled to finish it. The paranormal elements were well-explored and felt spiritual, like an energy or aura in the atmosphere, and I felt that this benefited the mystery rather than detracting from it.
I did enjoy reading this book but found the heroine to be annoying at times, and was a little frustrated at some of the unanswered questions. The ending was tied up far too neatly for my liking, but I did like elements of the plot throughout the rest of the book. The paranormal aspect of the plot was well-explored, especially as it heightened Evangeline and Lucas’ awareness of each other, but I thought their relationship was too hastily thrown together.
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