I grabbed a copy of Cynthia Wicklund‘s Thief of Souls from the Smashord’s seasonal sale.
Description from Goodreads:
Nicholas Anthony’s spirit has been corrupted. A moment of spite four hundred years in the past turned him into an immortal monster. Now he is obsessed by an unnatural hunger, feasting on the good in others while seeking the good in himself. But unlike the vampire of myth, it’s not the taste of blood that draws him, but the very essence of his victims. The soul. Fortunately for Nicholas the evil that dwells within him has not destroyed his conscience, his ability to care, because that in the end will be his salvation.
That and Regina Miles.
The appearance of “Nick” in Regina’s life comes at a time when she is vulnerable. As a young intern in a teaching hospital, she’s overworked and exhausted most of the time. Her vulnerability is the very weakness Nick intends to exploit. However, he does not reckon with Regina’s strength of character or her sensitivity to what he is, despite her pragmatic nature. Most important, Nick does not recognize his own growing dependence on her, emotions so raw, so new to him that are emerging unexpectedly, emotions that can end his purgatory.
I found this on Smashwords, classified as PNR. While it does have a paranormal character and eventually a romance of sorts develops, I have a hard time seeing it as PNR. If anything I would call this horror, not the gory, bloody kind of horror but the suspenseful, emotionally terrifying sort.
There are almost no ‘Awww’ moments here, no budding hearts and flowers, or emotional outpourings. This is ‘love’ from a creepy stalker’s point of view. Oddly, though the subject matter varies vastly and they have very little else in common, reading this book reminded me a lot of reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. You spend a lot of time inside the deviant’s unrepentant head, watching him manipulate and trap his victim. It’s uncomfortable, to say the least.
And since it was previously classified as PNR I also found it confusing. There are certain expectations a person places on a book by virtue of it’s genre. This book never conformed to my PNR expectations and until I finally forced myself to accept that it never would and to give up my preconceived notions I had a hard time going with the flow. The problem, of course, is that there isn’t a horror romance genre to place it in. I have no doubt this is more a matter of finding the closest available genre, as opposed to an actual inaccurate genre.
None of this, however, is to suggest this isn’t a good book. Because, like Lolita, being an uncomfortable read doesn’t negate literary value or a story worth tolerating goose bumps for. Playing mental passenger to someone facing an obsession is a rare opportunity. While I cringed for Regina and kept waiting for her to find her miraculous inner strength, I also found Nick’s selfish internal dialogue enlightening. His petty jealousies and purposeful isolation techniques told a story of their own, quite separate from what often left his mouth or even what he felt would be ‘the right thing to do.’
I think the characters probably could have been fleshed out a bit more though, Regina especially. Other than seeing her fall for Nick’s charisma we see very little of her personality. We also only get the bare bones of why Nick was cursed, and the punishment seemed a little server if you ask me. If we knew a bit more of about the man he was, instead of just what his single slight might have been, that might not be the case.
The book is what I would call a slow boil. It builds slowly, spends a lot of time cultivating a suspenseful atmosphere. Even hugely important events are treated with the same muted attention as everything else, as if the author is whispering it to you for fear she’ll be overheard if she allows her excitement to give evidence to the gravity of the moment. As a result, I found very little actual action, but I was still held rapt by the narrative.
I wouldn’t suggest this for fans of J.R. Ward or Jeaniene Frost. It’s not that sort of paranormal romance. Hitchcock fans, however, might find something here to appreciate. It has a similar kind of surreal, atmospheric horror feel to it.