Night Secrets by Norah-Jean Perkin
(LoveSpell, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-505-52473-2
**
An implausible plot (even for a paranormal), some rather overheated writing, and a few badly-kept secrets made this a difficult book to warm up to, and an easy book to put down.

Arriving at the lakeside resort in Canada left her by her Uncle Arthur, Valerie Scott is awed by a fantastic display of the Northern Lights she remembers from her childhood visits. She is somewhat less delighted to trip over an unconscious man lying naked on the beach.

Without knowing anything about his injuries, she drags him over sticks and stones up the beach, stuffs him into the back seat of her car and takes off for the hospital. During the drive it occurs to her to wonder about little things like spinal cord injuries, but before she can fret too much the man wakes up. In fright, Valerie “instinctively” closes her eyes and drives off the road.

Her passenger gives his name as Jack Wilder - apparently he’s the man to whom her uncle left the other half of the resort. He does not want to go to the hospital, but he would like to go back to Aurora Lodge where Art always kept a cabin waiting for his infrequent visits. Valerie obediently takes him back to the isolated lodge in spite of his shaky story and dubious health.

There are lots of ominous suggestions that all is not as it should be with Valerie, either. “Valerie bit her lip. There was a time when she would have accepted Jack’s story without doubt. But that was before the fear, the fear that had nothing to do with him, and yet everything to do with him. The fear she’d thought she had left behind in Chicago, with Reed and that one terrifying incident.”

After one or two references to “the incident” and the bruises on Valerie’s neck, I had a pretty good idea of what happened to her, so subsequent hints about the danger in her past had me muttering “yeah, I get it already.” My frustration was heightened by the almost complete lack of other insight into Valerie and why I should care about her, other than the fact that she does some very dumb things. Biting her lip constantly to show anxiety, and shrieking and dropping things when she’s startled are not character development.

Jack is no more thoroughly developed - he spends the whole book hiding his secret from the reader as well as Valerie. This created two problems. Firstly, since the cover blurb says “the Northern Lights had once again transported him to Lake Aurora and the site of a tragedy that he yearned to forget,” all the not-so-mysterious innuendo inside the book felt unnecessarily coy. Secondly, I had no idea who this person was under the cloak of secrecy he wrapped himself in. There’s a fine line between creating suspense and shutting the reader out.

Since the big secret is not revealed until the very end, I’ll only say that I found the resolution less than satisfying. The paranormal “transportation” was never really explained and I got the impression that the author didn’t think it was all that important.

All of this is rendered in prose that sometimes sounds like it came from the melodrama chapter of Romance 101. “Oh, Valerie,” he murmured against her soaked hair. Slowly she drew back and raised her face to look at him. Her hands rose to circle his neck. “Oh, Jack,” she whispered…” Oh, brother, I groaned.

The sex, such as it is, is prim and constrained, as thought the author felt she should go into a little bit of detail but wasn’t very comfortable with it. Frankly, I’d rather be left at the bedroom door than go in and be let down.

If you like your romantic fiction highly dramatic and appreciate fantastical elements that definitely take a story outside every-day normality, you may enjoy Night Secrets more than I did. Unfortunately, its joys remain something of a mystery to me.

--Judi McKee


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