~by Sherrilyn Kenyon
2002 PEARL Winner
2002 PEARL Nominee
2002 RIO Award of Excellence Nominee
For many years now I've been rather smug about never having read a romance novel. I joke about them, and never really considered them to be worthwhile reading. Well, I decided that wasn't really fair of me and that I should actually read one before continuing on with my low opinion. For various reasons, I chose the prequel to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series, Fantasy Lover (although I've had several people tell me it doesn't really count because it was hardcover and is considered to be a paranormal romance, but whatever.) And you know what? I enjoyed it. I really did.
Because of family troubles, which can be a major issue when you're related to the gods, Julian of Macedon has been cursed and imprisoned in a book for all eternity. But he can be summoned by a woman, freed for a month at a time. Although, his freedom is only relative, for he must serve as a love slave, required to fulfill his summoner's every wish, whim, and desire. Originally a highly successful general from the Hellenistic period, he has been summoned hundreds of times over the last two thousand centuries; he has forgotten his humanity long ago.
Grace Alexander is a sex-therapist in New Orleans. She has also been celibate for several years; determined not to be taken advantage of or mistreated, as she has been by a previous lover. For her birthday, her best friend Selena has decided to add a little spice and romance to Grace's solitary life. Having found a mysterious volume in a used bookstore, she is bound and determined to have Grace summon the gorgeous man trapped within its pages. Grace finally relents, not really taking Selena seriously, and is astounded when a naked Julian appears in her living room.
But Grace refuses to let him "have his way with her" and instead treats him like a person rather than an object. Her kindness confuses Julian, who has been shown very little in his long life. When they discover that the curse can be broken, Grace resolves to help even though it will demand things of her she isn't willing to give. In fact, it will be extremely difficult, and even dangerous, for the both of them.
Fantasy Lover was a fun, light read, although it had its serious moments. The characters were endearing and their interactions real. Well, as real as they can be when you're running into the Greek pantheon on the streets of New Orleans. I particularly enjoyed the dialogue as it reminded me of how the people I associate with talk and banter with one another--puns, innuendos, friendly intimidation, it's all there. Was this top of the line literature? No, not really. Was it a good story? Definitely. Will I stop making fun of romance novels and their readers? Okay, fine.