GENRE(S): Fairy tales, Metaphysical, romance, literary
PUBLISHER: Kindle Direct Publishing
When bookish good-girl Alexa's friends drag her out dancing on Valentine's Day, she meets Cristien, a handsome, mysterious young man. They develop an instantaneous and intense attraction, and must overcome opposition from her family and threats from his past to pursue their love.
Sound familiar? The Innocent follows the traditional love story plot from mythology, and from dozens of recent supernatural books. Lee throws in some twists along the way that make this story appealing and keep it fresh. Rather than vampires, the hero, Cristien, is an 800-year old incubi, and the heroine, Alexa, has a mysterious past of her own (one that she's not even aware of.) Her single mother, abandoned before she even knew she was pregnant, is intent on ensuring her daughter doesn't repeat her own mistakes. Her mother's past comes back to tie into the story in an interesting and unexpected way that helps to explain Alexa's and Cristien's attraction and adds a lot of humor to the story.
The melodramatic "love at first sight" relationship almost defies suspension of disbelief, until we learn about the Compulsion, an irresistible force that affects incubi. When the attraction lasts longer than can be accounted for by Compulsion, Dr. Chandraswami, a healer, mentor, and guardian angel figure, determines it must be true love.
Chandraswami and his wife show up at a few critical junctures in the story to reveal and interpret the backstory and mythology from which The Innocent is derived. The author does a great job of seamlessly weaving them in, and the perspective they provide, as an integral part of the story, so they never come across as an information dump. There are also hints of their own interesting backstory that may be explored in future books in the series.
What prevents The Innocent from becoming an epic love story, relegating it to just another good YA romance, is the rapidity with which conflicts between Cristien and Alexa are resolved. Alexa isn't a particularly appealing character: a little teenage angst goes a long way and there's a lot. Too often, her self-absorbed laments go on for multiple paragraphs, stating the same idea in different ways. When Alexa and Cristien face real conflicts, they are resolved in the same number of paragraphs, thus missing an opportunity to develop real dramatic tension. Despite that, there are enough interesting subplots and well-developed characters to keep the reader engaged and entertained.
For fans of YA romance filled with teen angst, this "modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast won't let you down. The Innocent stays true to the formula of supernatural love stories, but includes enough mythology, poetry, unique elements, and humor to keep it fresh. Despite Alexa's excess of angst and melodramatics, The Innocent is populated with well-developed characters who draw in the reader, making them want to know them better. Characters like Chandraswami, Lance, and the evil Lilith will bring the reader back for the second book in this series.
4 out of 5 stars. The Innocent is appealing and the story pulls you in and keep you turning pages with interesting characters and different take on the familiar, traditional star-crossed lovers' story. A bit heavy on Alexa's self-absorbed angst, but the other characters and subplots keep it interesting and fresh.
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Lynne Hinkey is a writer by passion, a marine scientist by training, and a curmudgeon by nature. Her first novel, Marina Melee, is a tropical-island misadventure. In her second novel, Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons, a monster is on a rampage in Puerto Rico. Is the chupacabra real of myth? Dog only knows. Visit her at www.lynnehinkey.com.