Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Raintree Trilogy: Three Books, One RITA Nominee

While perusing my list of RITA finalists last week, I noticed that Raintree: Haunted by Linda Winstead Jones has been nominated in the Best Paranormal category. I was glad to see this, because I find that this subgenre is very heavy on vampires and light on everything else. The Raintree Trilogy is a refreshing change. Featuring three siblings who each display a different paranormal talent, the stories take place concurrently in different parts of the country during the week leading up to the Summer Solstice. Each book is written by a different author; each author takes their characters through fairly intricate individual storylines that intersect periodically with the storylines in the other books. For example, we hear conversations between the Raintree siblings from one side in one book, and the other side in a later book. This could have been a real mess, but these writers executed it extremely well. Though all three stories run along parallel lines, the difference in the main characters’ abilities and back stories lends plenty variety.
In Raintree: Inferno by Linda Howard we meet Dante Raintree, casino owner. As the eldest member of the Raintree clan’s royal family, he has multiple powers, not the least of which is his ability to control fire. He can also recognize psychic abilities in others, so when Lorna Clay is brought to his office, suspected of somehow cheating at the blackjack tables, he realizes immediately that she is no ordinary casino crook. The attraction between them is instantaneous, but since the casino is torched within minutes of their meeting, and for some inexplicable reason Dante is unable to control the flames, Lorna becomes guilty until proven innocent. Suspecting that she may be a member of the Ansara clan, Raintree enemies from centuries back, Dante decides that he can’t let her out of his sight until he figures out what’s going on. Sparks of all sorts fly as the two try to avoid what quickly becomes an ongoing series of assassination attempts.
Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, North Caroline, Dante’s younger brother Gideon is grappling with his own problems in Raintree: Haunted. Gideon is the town’s one and only homicide detective. He has an exceptionally high case clearance rate due to one of his particular gifts: he doesn’t just see dead people, dead people chat him up on a regular basis. Particularly murder victims, though Gideon has learned that he has to work fast to gather information before the ghostly energy of the victim moves on. This skill is not something he lets anyone know about, so when he is assigned a new partner he’s not too happy. Hope Malory will not be brushed off however, and pretty soon figures out that all is not quite what it seems with her new mentor. So the two dance around each other, Hope trying to snoop without seeming to snoop, and Gideon being evasive while trying to appear very upfront. That the two are attracted to one another is a given. When someone tries to murder Gideon’s cousin Echo, and then starts targeting both he and Hope, everyone’s secrets must come out into the open.
While her brothers are dodging arsonists, sharpshooters, and serial killers, Mercy Raintree, the heroine of Beberly Barton's Raintree: Sanctuary, is keeping an eye on the family homestead in the Smoky Mountains. Heavily protected, Sanctuary serves as a safe haven to any member of the Raintree clan in need. As Guardian, Mercy’s job is to watch over the place and its residents. With her gift of empathy, she also serves as a healer for both her extended family and the local community. Mercy also has a six year old daughter named Eve. Much to her older brothers’ dismay, she has adamantly refused to name the father of her child. However, when an attempt is made on her life and the boundaries of Sanctuary are threatened, Mercy is forced to reconsider whether keeping her secret will help or hurt Eve in the long run. Enter Judah Blackstone, head of the Ansara clan and Mercy’s former lover. He bears the unwelcome news that the attack on Mercy may well be the work of a rogue member of his own clan, and that in order to protect Eve they will have to work together in spite of being sworn enemies with a checkered, if passionate, history. It is in this final volume that the siblings are reunited and forced to make some hard choices regarding the future of their clan.
Though all three of these books are enjoyable, I can see why Haunted received the RITA nomination. The romantic suspense element in the middle book of the trilogy is stronger than in the other two, and is balanced nicely by the budding romance between Gideon and Hope. The secondary characters are fully realized and enjoyable, particularly Hope’s rather bohemian family. Though I really enjoyed the attitude Lorna displays in Inferno, and thought that Judah was a great sexy bad boy in Sanctuary, Haunted remains my favorite. If you are looking for a fast paced paranormal any or all of the Raintree books will do the trick.

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