Pandora'a Box
Seeking Miss Scarlet

Between a Rock and a Heart Place
by Natale Stenzel
(Love Spell, $6.99, PG 13) ISBN 978-0-505-52783-7
Between a Rock and a Heart Place is the coming of age story of Daphne Forbes.

Though she is a grown woman, she has been hiding in her quiet world of numbers and straightforward equations as an accountant. Not so simple is the fact that she works for her nasty, magical parents, Duncan and Violet Forbes; who try to hurt each other at every turn. Daphne has lived with her mom and dad's angry ways for her entire life, watching them inflict pain on each other through any means available, magical or not.

At the beginning of the story, Daphne has tailed Duncan to try to catch him in the act. He's been acting strangely recently and she can't help but suspect that he is up to something destructive. Daphne stumbles into a public park to eavesdrop and ends up getting struck by a magical stone which gives her both Druid and Puca powers…and she suddenly shape-shifts into a cat. Jolted by this situation, she begs the Druids and Pucas who have come to remove her father's magical powers to remove hers, and let her go back to her well-planned life, which up until now, had included a new job, apartment, and life away from her dysfunctional family.

Not only has she fallen into magical powers, there's a sexy guardian that comes with them. Daphne has noticed Tremayne trailing her father, surmising that he must have been watching for criminal activity. She was only partially right. Tremayne is an evolving nature spirit who was watching her father, and her as well. He has noticed that Daphne is sweet, forgiving and trying to stop her parents from harming others.

Daphne reluctantly moves into Tremayne's apartment, since she's missed her plane to her new job and home, and has no place to stay. Tremayne begins to teach Daphne how to control her powers. One of his special talents is that he is a dampening force and can reverse magic powers. This special ability makes him her perfect guardian while she explores her new abilities. Unfortunately, Treymayne's other charms - his caring, his seriously endearing conversation, and his hot body - are seriously distracting her.

Daphne learns the history of her powers and some background on her parents in the meantime, while she grows fonder of Tremayne. She starts to discover that there are a whole lot of drawbacks that come along with shape-shifting, mind-walking and so on. Not the least of which is having to decide whether she can handle a special ceremony needed to set Treymayne free. Or that maybe her powers could drive her insane before she can master them.

When dysfunctional Daphne finds out that Tremayne has been keeping a secret from her, a very big, important secret, how will she react?

Between a Rock and a Heart Place is a complicated, character-driven story with a lot of action. There wasn't a dull moment and Stenzel knows how to write uncommonly engaging, unique characters. I loved the villainous, bickering parents, the modern, therapy-seeking high Druid Phil, and Tremayne is a most refreshing hero.

Treymayne is the highlight of the book. He is a manly nature spirit, at ease with himself and his passions. Without giving too much away, he has been waiting for a long time for a woman like Daphne. Now that he has her within reach, he plies her with charm, romance and pure, raw sex appeal. It's hard not to fall madly in love with him! At the same time, Tremayne is tormented by his desire for freedom, but he doesn't want to risk Daphne's life to gain his own. That alone makes him a truly romantic figure.

Daphne can be funny, open and intuitive during her wickedly twisted adventure. I appreciated her internal dialogue, which really added a funny edge to the story. The big negative about Daphne was her very dependent, ugly relationship with her parents. Their every interaction seems very awkward, mean-spirited, and completely without redeeming qualities. This also spills over into her conversations with Tremayne, making some of their interactions very juvenile in nature. Based on her tough childhood and family trauma, I did feel bad for her, but not enough to deal with her childish approach to relationships.

Overall, Between a Rock and a Hard Place was a dynamic paranormal tale, that was well-paced and balanced between romance and action. The shortfall of the story is the annoying, immature side that Daphne displayed in her interactions with those around her, which brought this book down to a three-heart rating.

--Amy Wroblewsky

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