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Revenge Gifts

Cindy Cruciger. Tor Romance. $6.99
(292p) ISBN: 0-765-35225-7
(August 30 2005)

book coverThis paranormal has a cute hook -- Tara Cole, the heroine, runs a website [sic] devoted to revenge. Her products include Candy-A-Day (sent to pencil-thin types you want to get back at) and pillows stuffed with whatever your victim is allergic to. Get the picture? She's well aware her business means bad karma and she has a New Age-y friend who keeps reminding her of the fact in case she forgets. Along with her entrepreneurial Web biz, Tara tends bar at night, not for the money, but to help out an old friend. It's also a handy plot device to put her in the middle of a cast of colorful Florida Keys characters. She shares her bungalow with the ghost of her Uncle Lester and a kitchen-raiding poltergeist and, even though an independent woman like her isn't looking, she's soon sharing her bed with Howard Payne. (Howard came looking for business partnership and found love instead.) The plot is thickened with some sort of "voodoo" curse inflicted on Tara. (Black animals keep showing up followed by, you guessed it, Bad Things.) Before the end there's a mysterious murder (of local womanizer no one much likes anyway), lots of local color, some warm and fuzzy sex, and another ghost. This is romance, so all turns out well in the end. The tale is told in Tara's first person self-absorbed but humorous chick-lit voice, and the plot plays second (or maybe third) fiddle to the establishment of the heroine's personality and her milieu. Crucifer writes well enough and has a distinct voice. One suspects creation of a franchise is the hope, but Tara Cole's no Sookie Stackhouse. Cruciger, however, is a first-time novelist and Charlaine Harris had two mystery series and a dozen novels to her credit before creating Sookie. Check back on Cruciger in a decade and she may have made the big time. -- Paula Guran (Originally published in Cemetery Dance #54, Spring 2006)