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25 May 2006

Thief of Hearts (1999)

By Katherine Stone

From Amazon: "The Falconer twins are as different as two men can be, and nothing could separate them until suspicions of rape and murder tore them apart. Now, years later, Patrick is diagnosed with aplastic anemia and will certainly die without Jesse's blood, a gift that Patrick would never request. Only Caitlin Taylor, a doctor and Patrick's best friend, has the courage to seek out this remote man and ask for this sacred gift. But when Caitlin meets the dark twin, she discovers Jesse is a complex man with whom she feels an intense connection. Can she convince this reclusive and wounded man to save his brother's life? Meanwhile, though Patrick faces death, he meets Amanda Prentice, a woman who has the power to inspire him with love... if she can overcome her own tortured history."

Gack, cough, squeak, ow, not again...

Have you ever had a piece of molasses taffy stuck in a tooth filling and felt the searing pain of unrelenting sweetness that refuses to relinquish your nerve endings? If so, skip Thief of Hearts because the effect is nearly identical. But if you have any doubts, feel free to test your memory against my review of this, the fourth of my farm holiday romance reads.

I would never recommend this scholcky, wrenching, over-wrought, toxic mass of saccharine to anyone unfamiliar with Katherine Stone's writing. She really is meant for a special breed of romance reader, the kind whose stomach can stand the roiling emotional tornado of words. From the depths of the lowest, nastiest lows (generally perpetrated against teenaged girls by villainous surrogate father figures) to the staggering Austen-like highs of double weddings and implied (never explicitly described) simultaneous orgasms, Stone's books inflict every last device on their unsuspecting readers. Suspecting readers with the guts to take her on will find more of the same carefully crafted manipulation and oh-so-shiny redemptive love.

One serving is enough at any given time. Once, I accidentally read two of her books in a row - mistake! I about vomited. The single serving dose of sugar-sweet prose is just fine, however, and - if you are suitably equipped to suppress any semblance of rational brain function for the duration of the reading process - you will be well-rewarded with that burst of energy. A sugar high. Too much, however, causes the aforementioned vomiting, like a kid on Halloween night.

Thief of Hearts does its job admirably. As manipulative and sensational as any soap opera - and with as many coincidences, twists of fate, and beautiful, fragile, stubborn people - the only fantastic thing this book has over its daytime TV counterparts is an invariably ecstatic happy ending. Soap operas have no such conclusions! So, after 24 hours struggling within this sugar-induced coma, I finished the darn thing and felt nearly as happy as Stone's pretty creations - happy to be free of its spell, that is.

Now on to Elizabeth Lowell, where at least the happy happy joy joy is interlaced with a little intrigue and a substantial amount of sex...

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