Shadow Woman vs Obsession

I began two suspense novels recently that were extraordinarily similar, yet I had very different reactions to them.

{There will likely be some spoilage here, so if that bothers you, go ‘way.}

The first was Obsession by Karen Robards. (That’s actually a super-bland and meaningless throwaway title for this novel.) The story began with an incredibly complex prologue/backstory that appeared irrelevant to the main story, which was annoying. Story opens with our heroine about to be murdered (she wasn’t obvs) and tons of repetition. Where is it? Where is what? We’ll torture you! But I don’t know what you’re talking about. Over and over and over.

Even though it was supposed to be a super-tense and exciting scene, it wasn’t because of two factors. One, the boring repetition. We can only take so much of an adrenalin rush before we shrug it off completely. Two, the fact that we’re supposed to care about Katharine, who is being hurt for apparently no reason, and we don’t because she hasn’t been introduced to us yet. I can’t care about a character just because she’s about to be hurt. Who is she? Maybe she deserves it, idk.

The next problem is that Katharine wakes up in a hospital, all messed up with this weird feeling she isn’t herself and has the wrong face, obviously trusting no one, but then she immediately decides to trust some hot doctor, even though he is totes shady. So, she’s an idiot, and it’s really hard for me to care about stupid characters. It just wasn’t interesting to me to see how K dealt with the return of her memories, etc. I basically didn’t like her.

I skipped ahead to the ending to find this ridiculously convoluted explanation for everything that didn’t even rouse my curiosity enough to go back and finish the story to see how Ms. Robards arrived there.

Now, let’s take Shadow Woman by Linda Howard. From the start, I was hooked. Ms. Howard introduces her protag slowly. We sink into Lizette’s mind as she wakes up one ordinary day to realize her face has been altered and she has memory pings that make no apparent sense. I could totes feel what she was going through via all the small and precise details Ms. Howard provided. By the time Lizette was in actual danger, I cared about her.

As the story unfolds, it makes sense. Everything hangs together. I mean, one might step back after the ending and go oh please, they just would have shot Lizette straight away and never took the risk she’d recover memory. But hey they wanted to test their super-duper memory erasing thinger, so OK. And not only do the triggering events fit together in a seamless puzzle, but also the romance is hot and believable, unlike K’s attraction to the “doctor.” There is also a prologue to this novel, but it is directly relevant to everything that happens to Lizette. (Ergo, not annoying.)

Totes different experiences with the same idea: woman wakes up with the wrong face on. Just goes to show you that, as always, it is about the writing not the plot.

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2 responses to “Shadow Woman vs Obsession

  1. Funny thing is in my imperfect memory I thought I liked Robards & Howard about the same, but after reading these (though to be fair, I skimmed the 2nd Q of Robards book and basically didn’t read the rest except for the ending), I realized duh I never liked Robards nearly as much as I enjoyed Howard’s books all along.

    One of my fave books of all time is Howard’s After the Night. She also has a great novel along the lines of Romancing the Stone (but better IMO) called Heart of Fire.

    I can’t even recall the names of any Robards’ novels offhand.

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  2. it is about the writing not the plot.

    I agree. I haven’t fully figured out how that works, though. I still think that the story is the thing, as SK wrote. However, I enjoy James Lee Burke’s books mainly because of the writing, the descriptions and characters, and the stories leave me underwhelmed. And he’s a great writer–I couldn’t tell you why I can’t seem to get real involved in his stories–with a few exceptions.

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