The Wicked and the Wondrous by Christine Feehan
My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars
The Twilight Before Christmas:
Finally I have gotten to read Kate Drake's story. So that leaves me one more Drake sister book to complete (Dangerous Tides--Libby's story). All in all, I found The Twilight Before Christmas to be a great story. I can't give it 5 stars, because it did drag a little in some parts. It's probably a 4.25 star story.
What I liked about it:
*Matt's adoration for Kate was very endearing. It was funny how he felt like he made a fool out of himself in front of her, and how she made this very physically-accomplished guy act clumsy and wreck three cars. I like that although he became enamored of her when she was fifteen and he was college age (I'm going to assume he was maybe 19 or 20), he didn't act on it, but left to her grow up. Plus he joined the military and Special Forces. Some might argue that this was just an infatuation, but the fact that he had these feelings for so many years suggests that this is not the case. When this book rolls around, Matt is in full hero-in-pursuit mode, although gentle and wooing about. Matt was a very nice guy.
*The humor in this story was great (which I alluded to above). Poor Kate thought that Matt's brothers were laughing at her, because she always felt clumsy and inadequate around Matt in their interactions. They were really laughing at their brother, and how stone cold cupid-struck he was for Kate. This story had lots of other family interactions that made me laugh. Christine Feehan really is a funny lady, for all the angst and darkness in her stories.
*Family and friends--always a good thing for this reader, although sometimes I get a little bored with some of the descriptions of various denizens of Sea Harbor. I like the Drake books best when they focus on the family and immediate friend interactions than talking about such and such and who did what around town. I felt a little cheated because we didn't really see too much Damon in this story. He's a cool character for me. What can I say? I love nerdy guys. And Damon, well, he's brilliant. Smart is sexy. So: I.Wanted.More.Damon! Loved seeing all the Drake sisters. What a cool bunch of women. Since I read Hidden Currents just before this book, it was nice to see the beginnings of the bond between Jackson and Elle. Sadly, no Ilya or Alexsandr :( I love me some Jonas, and he's in this one a lot. You can tell he has it bad for Hannah.
*Very cool gothic, scary, creepy angle. The ghostly villain, shall we say, reminded me of the creepy Old Man from Poltergeist II. It goes without saying that it was a bit scary in moments since I refuse to watch that movie since I saw it the first time. The backstory behind the haunting was very interesting, and Ms. Feehan utilized it very well to tell us a little about the history of Sea Harbor and a bit about the Drake ancestors who settled in this seaside town. The scary parts probably dragged out a little too long for me, but overall, I enjoyed it.
*Kate and Matt--Although I could see where Kate was coming from with her fears that she was a mis-match for Matt, the man was clearly in love with her and adored her. Say yes already! I doubt the man was going to change his mind after being in love with her for what I estimate is over ten years. So that part was a bit frustrating for me. Great love scenes (as usual).
All in all, a nice story, and just right for this time of year. I liked the message about religious tolerance and the fact that we can all be united in some way, even if we don't share the same beliefs.
After the Music:
After the Music was the second story in this volume. I loved it. Music is in my heart, and I am definitely getting the impression that Ms. Feehan is a big music fan. She really seems to get the power of it, and how it can consume a person, and how great it is when someone is gifted to bring music to life in a wonderful way.
This has a very prominent gothic theme to it. I'm not a big fan of romance stories where accidents happen and you spend the whole story trying to guess who the culprit is. But I think this one was well-done. By and large, I enjoyed the time spent sifting through the clues and trying to figure out who the villain was, and discarding suspects. It got a little frustrating when the mystery plot seemed to be a frequent cause of coitus interruptus in this story. As frustrated as this made me, I'm sure that it was worse for Dillon and Jess. Although I liked that there wasn't insta-sex in this story, and there were actually plenty of love scenes, especially for a short story. My one issue is that the kids were in the house and they knew what they were up to. Okay, I admit I'm a prude about such things (when it comes to unmarried couples)!
This story has some really dark elements in it. Dillon is a widower who lost his wife after she was shot with her lover, on a night in which their house burned down and killed seven others. Dillon was accused of the crime, tried, and acquitted. The worse part is all the people who died (including Dillon's wife) were involved in Satanic worship, drugs, and sexual orgies, and the ringleader actually grabbed Jessica and tried to use her as a sacrifice. Whew! What was really hard for me is to understand that all this was going on with kids in the house. I'm very particular about kids and what they should be exposed to. I admit I don't have any, but I do feel that kids should be protected from stuff like this. Dillon carries a lot of guilt because he felt he should have intervened more when his wife started this downward slid into addiction and dark religious practices and sex with other men. He was too busy traveling and performing and making music. Compounding his guilt was his fascination/fixation/love for Jess while he was married, which I want to make clear that HE NEVER ACTED ON THAT. They were really good friends, and they bonded in their mutual love for music and the kids.
Dillon is a bit on the tortured side, but it's not dragged out or annoying in how it's executed. He had been scarred horribly by the fire that happened eight years ago, which took his family (Jess and the kids away). He had some long years of recovering, and he has lost some of his dexterity in playing instruments, but decided to compose and sing when some of the old bandmates convince him to make another record to reinvigorate their careers. So the bandmates are in the house, along with Brenda (his dead wife's sister), and her husband. You have to decide which one of them is perpetuating the accidents that endanger the twins and Jess.
Dillon and Jess are one of those couples I really wanted to see together, which is why the coitus interruptus kept bothering me. And also why I could get pass the fact that they were having their interludes with young, impressionable kids in the house (thirteen year old twins.) I was rooting for things to work out for them because they were such a good couple and so in love. I think they were soulmates.
I won't keep blabbing on and on, since this is a short story. I liked the execution of this one, and the whole paranormal element was good. As I said earlier, I loved the music elements. Both Dillon and Jess are very talented musicians, which you get to see in this story. I thought the kids were fun and interesting. Their dialog seemed likely for kids that might be on the intelligent, more mature side. Jess and her mom did a great job raising them, because they were good kids. I liked how the bonds were rebuilt between Dillon and his kids. Although the gothic mystery romance genre is not my favorite (with a few exceptions, including Jane Eyre, and most books by Anne Stuart), I really enjoyed this one. I'd give After the Music five stars.
So my total rating for this collection is: 4.75 . It would have been higher if The Twilight Before Christmas didn't have the draggy parts.
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