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After a career-stalling tangle with a fraudulent gallery owner, Art Deco expert Alexa Chambers is ready to get back in the game. But when she secretly consults on an exquisite collection for Arizona's luxurious Avalon Resorts, she doesn't know she will cross paths with enigmatic business titan J. L. Trask. Years ago, Trask accused Alexa's stepfather of murder -- and vowed he would get revenge. Now, their meeting is inevitable -- and attraction immediate -- as they trade sizzling sparks and snappy repartee. But when a killer emerges from the shadows, these sensual sparring partners team up to solve a deadly crime from the past. Following a trail of clues to a trendy but decidedly strange New Age spa, Trask and Alexa don't need a crystal ball to see that their survival -- and their chances of bliss -- will depend on a little help from a higher power: a true and trustworthy love.
Jayne Ann Krentz may not be great literature, but she knows how to tell a story and how to keep me turning the pages — and when I’m stressed out, that’s exactly what I want. Eye of the Beholder (1999) is classic Krentz: a powerful, driven, and somewhat wounded hero, a feisty and intelligent heroine, snappy dialog, plenty of romantic/sexual tension, and a mystery that puts one or both characters in danger.
In this case, Trask’s arrival in town to discover the truth behind his father’s death thirteen years earlier stirs up a series of dangerous events in the present, from threats to both Trask and Alexa, to several deaths and near-fatal accidents involving other people. Trask is the owner and CEO of a hotel conglomerate which has just opened a new resort in Aurora. Alexa’s involvement stems from two things: she is the stepdaughter of one of the two men Trask believes were behind his father’s death, and she’s the art expert who put together the Art Deco collection that graces the resort. She had to work anonymously through another dealer, because her reputation was shredded two years ago when she blew the whistle on an art fraud and was erroneously thought to be involved. Their conflicting goals — Alexa believes her stepfather is innocent, and wants to restore her professional reputation, while Trask wants the truth and probably revenge — put them at odds more than once, but it becomes clear they’ll have to work together to get what they both want.
One thing that often bothers me about the relationships in Krentz’s novels is how quickly the main characters progress from attraction to sex, usually before they’ve worked out the problems in their relationship (let alone truly committed to each other.) In this case, neither fully trusts the other initially, which would seem to me a recipe for disaster. That it doesn’t end up being a disaster is largely thanks to the fact that it’s fiction; you know things will work out all right because it’s romantic suspense, rather than because the characters are deeply in love at that point.
That complaint apart, Trask and Alexa are an interesting pair, and their relationship, while prickly at times, evolves into one of partnership and trust.
There are fewer interesting or well-developed secondary characters in Eye of the Beholder than in some of Krentz’s other books. Most are there purely for the plot, or to highlight some characteristic of one of the main characters. Alexa seems particularly alone: she has business acquaintances and her art-dealer friend, but her mother and stepfather are out of town and she has no close friends. Krentz’s heroes are often loners, so I wasn’t surprised that Trask’s brother wasn’t much in evidence, but I missed the variety offered by the more interesting and eclectic (often eccentric) secondary characters from other books.
Krentz describes Aurora as “the next Sedona”, and the fictional town is clearly modeled on the real one, from its geography to its New Age mystique. Krentz has written other books set in similar towns, but I had fun reading this one having spent some time in Sedona last summer. I was easily able to picture the red rock formations, the heat, the darkness of the desert night, the dryness that makes water in the desert “seductive” (in Krentz’s phrase.)
All in all, Eye of the Beholder isn’t my favorite of Krentz’s novels, but it kept me entertained and involved in the story — a welcome distraction from real-life stresses.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge (Mar. 2016)
- The Backlist Reader (TBR) Challenge 2016