All of us have a friend who is made to do great things. I first met my friend Michelle Boule on the very first day of my very first library job. She is the kind of colleague and friend who inspires you to do your best, encourages you to take risks, and motivates you with her infectious enthusiasm and passion for everything she does. It’s without hesitation that I say that she was one of my first library mentors.
When I heard that Boule, a long-time romance reader and well-known writer within the world of librarianship, was working on her first romance novel, I was floored. I was so excited to read what she dreamed up and couldn’t wait to get her book on my Kindle. I anxiously pre-ordered, waited (impatiently), and finally downloaded (huzzah!).
Then the worry set in.
In the time I spent waiting to read this book I never once doubted it would be good, but now that it was in my hands I wondered: What if I don’t like it? What will I say if I don’t enjoy it? Thankfully, Lightning in the Dark, the first novel in her Turning Creek series, was a wonderful love story and a fantastic introduction to a fictional world that combines various romance sub-genres into one delightful read.
In the mid-19th century in the mountains of the Colorado Territory, the town of Turning Creek hides a secret. Among its human residents reside Remnants, descendents of figures from Greek mythology. In Lightning in the Dark, Boule introduces readers to a trio of sisters–Petra, Marina and Dora–all remnants of the harpies, female monsters with the face of a woman and the body of a bird of prey. But Petra, the most misanthropic of the harpy sisters, is her focus. Despite her best attempts to live a solitary existence, Petra finds herself drawn to James Lloyd, a local dairy farmer and cheese maker. After leaving his life in the English countryside behind, James hopes to have a fresh start in Turning Creek. Yet his obsession with stories about the fate of Zeus have the potential to interfere with his peaceful new life. For something unsettling is hiding beneath the mountains. It’s calling to James and threatening to fulfill a prophecy that will change Petra’s life forever.
Lightning in the Dark is a genre-bending lovestory. It’s primarily a fantasy-based paranormal-esque romance with a heavy layer of old-school western romance and some revisionist mythology thrown in for good measure. Boule, you had me at Greek mythology, and kept me there with your mid-19th century western historical setting. It’s a lot to take in at once, but if, like me, you’re up for suspending disbelief in the face of fantastical settings, you’ll find yourself immersed in Turning Creek. Boule’s world-building is excellent without being heavy-handed. One of my romance novel pet peeves is the tendency of some authors to tell not show, when attempting to create a setting for a series of love stories. Lightning suffers from none of that. You get a sense of the Turning Creek world from the characters’ interactions, inner thoughts, and emotional reactions, not through some lame narrator intervention.
The primary romantic leads–Petra and James–are charming (especially James). Their courtship is a quiet one that burns not from an intensity of passion but from the coming together of two people who find they long to be in one another’s company above all others. At times it almost felt like an old-school Laura Kinsale or Beverly Jenkins romance. So much of what builds the love story between James and Petra is what is unsaid. Unexpressed sentiments are powerful things that just sort of simmer below the surface. Yes, there is drama, and yes, there is paranormal strife, but the love story is solid, which is what we all really want from a good escapist romance.
Petra and James are bolstered by a cast of intriguing secondary characters, some of whom will be featured later in the Turning Creek series. As someone who devoured Edith Hamilton’s Mythology in her teen years, all I can say is MOAR REMNANTS!!!!! I just can’t get enough of the mythological allusions and references. I found the climax of the book (which I won’t spoil for you here, so don’t worry) to be a straight-up ball. Anytime an author works Dionysus into a story you know you’re in for a good time.
If you’re looking for something new and different, give the Turning Creek world a try and pick up a copy of Lightning in the Dark!