Title: Stealing Kathryn
Author: Jacquelyn Frank
Page Count: 363 pages
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review was from my personal library
50 words or less: Adrian is hideously deformed by his constant contact with evil energy as the Guardian who gathers energy from nightmares for those who live Below. He's been sashaying through Kathryn's nightmares for months and finally answers her request to be taken away, even though he knows she won't ever really care about him. Or so he thought...
It's official; I take back many of the reservations I had about the Gatherer series. While Hunting Julian, the first book, didn't exactly ring my bell, this second book was a definite winner for me. Combine the vivid worldbuilding and unique setting of the first book with a clever reworking of the Beauty and the Beast story and introduce some characters that will make perfect leads for future books (but not so many that the story bogs down or the pacing suffers) and you've got a book that's lush, vivid, and engrossing.
By all accounts, Adrian is not a nice guy. He's so warped by his duties to his people that he's basically sitting around waiting to expire; only his sense of duty, his infatuation with Kathryn, and his vague recollections of love for his twin sister are keeping him from exiting the mortal coil.
Kathryn isn't much of a catch either; trapped in a cycle of codependency by a father who loves her but wants a housekeeper-wife but doesn't want to go to the trouble of getting married again and a sister whose health problems pose another full time job, Kathryn's life is one of duty and obligation but little fun or joy. Kathryn's dreams are the only place where she has any sense of identity at all; Adrian finds this very engrossing to say the least.
Adrian takes matters into his own hands and brings Kathryn to his temporary home, ostensibly
to take her place among the treasures and baubles he's collected over generations. Kathryn is no wilting flower, though, and makes it clear that Adrian can get stuffed if he expects her to just sit back and take whatever he feels like dishing out. When he, in his infinite insensitivity, points out that Kathryn's life up until this point has consisted entirely of sitting back and taking whatever people feel like dishing out, Kathryn doesn't know what to make of that; the seeds of self awareness are officially sown.
The primary theme of this book is that it's never to late to change and that changing as a result of one's circumstances isn't always a bad thing; Adrian becomes less monstrous and more human as his relationship with Kathryn deepens and takes shape. Kathryn, likewise, learns that she doesn't have to be a doormat and that sometimes people we think we're helping just wish we would move on; there's a really poignant scene where Kathryn visits her sister's dreams to say goodbye and learns that the world will move on without her, and not in a bad way.
This book has all the characteristics of my favorite Jacquelyn Frank novels; great setting, vivid details, a spicy, spicy romance (VERY spicy, in fact), and characters who have depth as well as stamina, so to speak. I'm now officially excited to read more in this series, which shows that giving the benefit of the doubt can sometimes pay off in a big way, and after all, that's kind of what this book is trying to communicate from the beginning.
Overall Grade: A-