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Witch Heart by Anya Bast

October 26, 2010

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: January 6, 2009

Format: Mass market paperback

Status: Third in the Elemental Witches Series

Source: Purchased by self

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Other Info: None

Description:

With a strange and powerful type of elemental magick, Claire isn’t destined to remain a demon’s handmaiden. Yet this has been her fate since she was six, when her warlock mother brought her to Eudae. Now an adult, she’s about to discover her true power– and how far others are willing to go to take it away…

As part of a mission with the Coven, Adam Tyrell rescues Claire from her enslavement– and finds himself immediately taken with the beautiful witch. But this charming playboy soon learns that it’s easier to steal Claire from demons than win her heart, for her life as a servant has ravaged her spirit. But Adam’s determination to protect her from the warlocks who want to harness her magick for evil begins to weaken Claire’s resistance–and  in the heat of danger they find themselves surrendering to the lure of their deepest desires…

Boy, it’s just not my week. I set aside Witch Heart so I could start on Big Bad Wolf and I guess I got what I deserved. The only thing is, I didn’t like Witch Heart a whole lot more than I liked Big Bad Wolf. It’s too bad, really. Enough to turn a girl off Paranormal Romance for a while. Kidding!

I knew going into this book that I wasn’t reading the first book in the series. I was prepared for missing puzzle pieces and not being able to connect to certain characters in the novel. Unfortunately, that wasn’t Witch Heart‘s biggest weakness. I think my main struggle with this book was that it suffered from the thing that turns most people away from Romance novels: the hero and the heroine go from zero to sixty in as many pages. I hate that. I like the instant attraction storyline–but I don’t like it when the main characters hurry into bed together as though the author is chasing them there with a chainsaw. Sexual tension is at its most delicious when there’s time for said tension to build. Bast doesn’t give us that with Jack and Claire and that’s the major flaw in this book.

Let me tell you a little about the plot. In Bast’s world, there are witches, warlocks and demons. There’s also a demon world. Occasionally, the two worlds intermix, and not with good results. Demons and warlocks are the bad guys. Witches are the good guys–and in Bast’s universe, even males are called witches. I admit that tripped me up every time I ran across it. The hero of Witch Heat is Jack. Jack works as the bodyguard (I think) of Thomas, the leader of his coven. In what I assume was a previous book, Thomas was sent into the demon world, where he met our heroine, Claire. Claire’s mother dragged her into the demon world when she was five. After Claire’s mother died, Claire was never able to return to Earth–so she has lived the last 25 years of her life as handmaiden to the demon Rue. Claire met Thomas and developed a crush on him in the last book (again, I’m assuming) and helped Thomas escape back to Earth. Then, Rue (who had been tampering with her magick for years), forced something called an elium into Claire and shoved her through a portal that left her stranded on Earth.

The witches of Bast’s world have powers that are linked to the elements: air, water, fire and earth. Claire is an earth witch, but because of Rue’s tampering, she has access to the powers of the other elements. The elium inside of her is also a dangerous source of power. If extracted from Claire’s “seat” of power, the elium could be used as a weapon. This makes Claire the target of some power-hungry demons. The main thrust of the plot is twofold: hiding from the demons trying to find Claire and figuring out how to extract the elium from her.

On Earth, Claire seeks the help of the Coven. Thomas, who is now married, brings Jack to rescue Claire. When the two meet, Claire still hasn’t gotten over her infatuation with Thomas–but don’t worry. A few more pages will take care of that little detail. It’ll be forgotten like it was never there. Claire is supposed to be the outsider in the story. She’s lived on another plane for most of her life. Her understanding of modern slang and pop culture comes and goes. She’s also lived in an emotional vacuum. She lived among demons who did not much care for her and the only demon she thought did (Rue) forced the elium on her and shoved her, alone, through a portal to Earth. Furthermore, Claire’s one and only romantic relationship ended in tragedy. So she begins the novel as a cold, closed off character.

It’s the hero’s job to “warm” Claire up. Jack is a playboy, or he has been since the death of his wife. Though he’s slept around a lot since her death, Jack likes to keep it casual. Which is why his attraction to Claire goes unacted upon for about sixty pages. I personally never bought Jack’s grief over his wife’s death. He seemed like he felt more guilt than grief. She certainly never gets any personality. Jack professes to miss being married, but we never learn a single personal detail of their life together. Does he miss the way she took all the closet space? The fact that she never rinsed the sink after brushing her teeth? I don’t know because Jack never tells us. The same goes for Claire’s dearly departed ex. They’re both faceless, personality-less and therefore, it’s hard to buy into either Claire or Jack’s grief. Who would miss two such nondescript people?

The other thing that I didn’t like about this book was lack of follow-through and consistency. Characters were constantly contradicting each other and themselves. At first Claire doesn’t want to endanger anyone. Then she’s suggesting that the most expendable witches come with her. First she’s in love with Thomas but then she remembers that he’s married and, anyway, here’s this hot fire witch who’ll do just as well. Sometimes it’s best if Claire stays away from the Coven. Then they’re driving to get to it. Jack doesn’t want to sleep with Claire because it’ll feel too much like cheating on his wife. Then, in the next scene, they’re doing it and all feelings of betrayal vanish in the afterglow.

Then there’s the fact that this book is basically made up of three different kinds of scenes:

  1. Claire insisting that she doesn’t want to put anyone in danger. Thomas insisting that his wife, Isabelle, would kill him if he didn’t save the woman that saved her husband. Jack insisting that he and the other witches can take care of themselves.
  2. Claire and Jack having sex.
  3. Claire and Jack fighting off demons with things like: the ginormous explosion of the elium, Jack’s fire magick, the four threads of elemental magick that Claire the Amazing Anomaly can draw on, thanks to Rue’s experimentation.

You could say I got tired of it. Especially toward the end of the novel, when Jack and Claire had sex almost every other page. I couldn’t wait to finish this book, just so I could be done with it. I don’t mind sex in my books. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Kresley Cole or Nalini Singh if I did. But Anya Bast goes way over the top. It’s not the quality of what she writes–although I admit to skimming and rolling my eyes–it’s how often she inserts love scenes into this book. I felt like Jack and Claire only ever connected on the physical plane, which doesn’t give me much hope for their future. Which makes it a good thing, I guess, that I never became attached to either character.

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