Anne Stuart is probably best known for her dark heroes. Heroes who enjoy skirting very close to or stepping over the line. I’d say the hero in “Shadow Lover” is one of the rare ones who doesn’t cross it completely.
The story opens with the surprise return of the prodigal son. After an 18 year absence, Alex MacDowell returns to the prominent, wealthy MacDowell family fold.
Sally MacDowell, the matriarch of the family is dying. As her sole heir, Alex stands to get half of the MacDowell fortune. However, his return isn’t well received from the other members of the family, especially from Carolyn Smith, his “almost” half-sister.
The MacDowell family took Carolyn in and raised her but never officially adopted her. She left her job and her life behind in Boston to take care of Sally for the past 8 months. Carolyn refuses to leave her bedside despite the fact that Sally has a nurse to take care of her.
Carolyn uses Sally as an excuse to stay near the MacDowell family. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you why she even bothers. Each of the MacDowells with the exception of Alex and Sally, treat her like an outsider. But it is later explained to us that Carolyn also stands to gain financially from Sally’s death.
Carolyn doesn’t believe that this stranger is the real “Alex MacDowell.” Her reasons for believing that Alex is an impostor is supported by an event that happened on Martha’s Vineyard 18 years ago. She has good reason to believe that the “real” Alex MacDowell is dead.
The story then spits out a lot of exposition into Alex’s past and also plays heavily on Carolyn’s suspicions. I mean is this the real Alex or not? We also learn that the MacDowell’s are a dysfunctional family. After all the smoke and mirrors, it all boils down to greed. I got tired of being reminded of Sally’s dying. Oy, it was uttered so much that you never forgot it and couldn’t wait till the event finally got here.
Reading this story, I suspected the truth behind Alex’s disappearance and sure enough it unfolded just like I thought it would. Carolyn’s disdain for Alex was so convincing that I had a hard time believing that she’d fallen in love with him. Only Carolyn knows the truth behind Alex’s disappearance. When he left, he took off with the family cash, jewels and also with Carolyn’s charm bracelet.
Alex was a hellion. A real bad boy that Carolyn harbored a crush on when she was young. The romance part of the story started off nice with their back and forth, often heated banter. Alex spent most of the book trying to convince her that he is the “real Alex.” His plans to seduce her is a forgone conclusion. It’s the aftermath of their lovemaking that makes things go off kilter and had me scratching my eyes out.
The author does an excellent job with the pacing and the suspense but when the truth unfolds, the story started to loose it’s steam for me. One can’t help but notice all the repetition and subterfuge. The romance was shaky since both admit to being more in lust than in love. But they utter “I love you” anyway.
To enjoy “Shadow Lover” is to not delve too deeply into the convoluted plot. Otherwise, I can see a lot of readers enjoying this story. Wish I could add my voice to the others who praised this novel but I just can’t because Carolyn was a stuffed shirt wound too tight and Alex was a bad boy hero who often contradicted himself and cared more about how to get Carolyn into bed.
The chemistry was fine between them but in this case the plot was just too flawed to have me overlook my annoyances so this will have to be a C+ from me. I’ve enjoyed one or two other titles by Anne Stuart, namely, Nightfall and Against the Wind (the latter is a category title of a defunct line).
This review is apart of the TBR Challenge 2009 where readers such as myself are reading books from our tbr piles and reviewing them on a monthly basis. Make sure to visit the other participants in this challenge!