Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review of Incorporeal by J R Barrett

I am popping up from my self-imposed exile, where I have been searching diligently for the meaning of life, to post a review. I decided to attempt reading again. Believe it or not, I am checking out a non-romance--Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff--and a new romance by Julia Barrett, who is also publishing under the name JR Barrett.

As for the meaning of life, the only significant discovery I've made in the last week is that Francis Ford Coppola makes a really kick-ass Merlot.

As for the new reading materials, Cleopatra seems promising and fascinating. And Incorporeal was a wonderful surprise.

Barrett has managed to combine true romance, eerie paranormality, a bit of history, and an interesting commentary about the state of publishing in this tale. The story starts in a weird place, not at the beginning of the two main characters' journey together. I'm not sure I would have chosen to start the story here. We jump right into the midst of this incorporeal love affair, between ghost-man and aspiring romance writer. So we miss their introduction and beginning of their dream-induced sexual affair. Barrett gets us up to speed pretty quickly with the state of their relationship. Sara is a sympathetic character, with dreams to be a writer, and saddled with an unwelcome affinity for ghosts. Natan is a very sexy and protective hero....with a troubled past, and an unclear place in this paranormal world. Normally I hate dealing with the learning curve of confused heroines thrown into a paranormal setting (in particular, Katie MacAlister often creates TSTL heroines dealing with unknown paranormal forces, and the lack of clear direction drives me up the freakin' wall). But Sara's gradual understanding of her circumstances unfolds in a logical way, and is shadowed by the growing emotional pull between herself and her ghostly lover.

One thing I have discovered about Barrett's writing is that regardless of the setting, she is able to create very intense emotional and sensual connections between her hero and heroine. And romantic. This seemingly tragic love affair reminded me of one of my favorite Karen Marie Moning books, Kiss of the Highlander. When Sara, pregnant with Natan's child, must convince his "reincarnation" that he is indeed her lover, you feel her frustration and Natan's confusion. The resolution of this conflict is wonderfully satisfying and romantic.

Barrett's portrait of the bitchy romance publisher is, unfortunately, a rather telling exasperation with the state of the romance industry today. I love this bit....

"To sell books, just like McDonald's, you have to make the same cheeseburger over and over again....that's how you win the game."

The completely self-absorbed diva of a publisher is balanced out by Sara's kind and supportive friends. Eventually, there is a HEA (happily ever after) for Sara's writing dreams, and indeed the story within a story (the heroine has written about her ghost lover in a book titled Incorporeal) is used to draw the hero and heroine back together at the end. After Natan reads the manuscript, he is able to reconcile his dreams, memories and past existence with this new reality. And so Sara's romance novel leads to her very own HEA, and a future with her delicious lover.

Me likey!

After a somewhat slow beginning, I got completely sucked into the book and couldn't put it down. The end is sweet and romantic and life-affirming. In Incorporeal, true love survives even death. Sounds pretty damned good to me.

Grade: A-

Available on Kindle
Available at Smashwords

Penelope....Slinking Back Into Exile (With a glass of merlot)......