HelenKay: Romantic conflict. There are competing views on this issue. Some argue that a romance novel, by its very definition, requires an attraction between the hero and heroine as well as compelling reason to keep them apart – the something standing between the hero and heroine that prevents a happily ever after from being a foregone conclusion. Others say that a romantic conflict pulling the hero and heroine apart often feels trite or forced because we know how that part of the story will end. For these folks, something else can drive the plot without having the story suffer. Parallel Attraction should appeal to the latter group but will likely violate all the “rules” set out by the former.
Jared Bennett (real name: Jareshk) is an exiled king of the alien race known as Refarians. One of his non-human assets is his ability to shape-shift into many forms. He appears as a handsome dark-skinned human and as a ball of energy and light. He first meets Kelsey Wells in the Prologue when they are both teens. At this point, Jared is the future leader, one who is both young and impetuous. The demnds placed on him by his heritage already weigh him down. To escape his responsibiities for a short time, he slips away from all that formality and from his advisor, Councilor Aldorsk, and the rest of the elders watching over him. His route takes him to Yellowstone and into Kelsey’s path, where she finds him investigating soil and rocks.
Jared appears to Kelsey as a handsome young man and as that ball of energy. In their short – emphasis on short – time together, they experience their first kiss. Despite the oddity of their situation and the strangeness of their meeting, Kelsey takes it all in stride. Aldorsk, who knows his leader must follow his destiny and eventually (and quickly) produce an heir, wipes away the memory of the kiss from both Jared and Kelsey. Sort of…
Fast forward approximately fifteen years. Jared is now in exile in the Tetons. His years of fertility are running low. Kelsey is now a geologist and appears unconcerned by her fertility. Their paths cross a second time when Jared, escaping from the U.S. military, is forced to “store” information inside Kelsey to prevent it from falling into the military, and possibly enemy, hands. To do this, he bonds with her – seeing deep into her soul and private thoughts in an honored and significant ritual of his people. The move reunites the star-crossed lovers (future lovers, actually) and brings them back to each other once more. Together again, Jared takes Kelsey to his home where they quickly delcare their mutual love and discuss the bonding process.
All of this brings the reader up to approximately page 90 of the more than 300 page book. From here, Jared must deal with physical dangers, pressures to mate with his cousin Thea, and a visit by an adversary from the future. It’s tough being an exiled alien king at thirty.
The pace speeds along in this fantasy tale. The dialog is quick and smart. The action does not drag. The worldbuilding is full, to the point of overwhelming other aspects of the book – like the romance. The character development only skims the surface. Worse, the romantic tension is almost non-existent. Based on a teenage kiss and two short meetings, Jared and Kelsey build a life-long love. They skip over attraction, foreplay, intensity and passion, and move right to forever. The early resolution – to the extent it can be called resolution when no conflict existed before it – leads to a shallowness in the chacracters and a peripheral examination and understanding of their devotion to each other.
That is not to say Jared and Kelsey are charmless. Actually, they can be both sweet and intense, smart and interesting. Jared’s motivation in so far as being called to leadership is clearly defined here. What is missing is the drive between Jared and Kelsey – the push and pull that makes a reader cheer and hope for them to find a way to be together. There’s nothing to cheer for here. Being together isn’t the issue as that part is settled. The settling is what diminshes the otherwise strong pulse beneath the action portion of the story.
Parallel Attraction is unique in its ability to tell a story that hasn’t been told a hundred times before. This is a readable, but forgettable, fantasy marked by a rapid pace, generous world-building and, unfortunately, a flat romance.
Wendy: Speculative Fiction, in the broadest possible terms, is fiction that speculates on alternate realities, histories, and worlds. It is most often associated with Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Paranormal genres. Rarely, if ever, is the term applied to romance, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. In a “You say potato, I say pahtahtoe” scenario, what Romance delineates as Time Travel, Futuristic, and even some Paranormal fall very neatly into the realm of Speculative Fiction. The alternate realities possible in Speculative Fiction are particularly exciting when applied to romance. They offer stimulation and freshness to a genre well documented for its monotony. And, unlike paranormals that deal with vampires or other long established legends and folklores, there is no canon with which to compare a story set on an alternate earth, with alien characters, or with a history different from that which is found in textbooks. Whatever the author puts on the page is unique unto itself. Speculative Fiction can be a blank canvas on which to tell a story, and that’s exactly how debut author Deidre Knight uses the alternate reality genre for Parallel Attraction.
The Refarians call him King, but Jared Bennett calls himself a rebel leader. Forced from his planet by the Antousians, Jared and his military have based themselves—unknown to the general human population—in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons at Mirror Lake. It was there, years before, as a young teenager, that Jared encountered Kelsey Wells, a curious human he felt drawn to and fell in love with. But the two could not be together because not only is Jared King, he is the last of his line and the Elders (those who watch over and advise him) want Jared to secure the lineage with a fellow Refarian—specifically his cousin Thea—and so the teenagers were separated and their memories wiped clean of one another. Even without the specific memories both Kelsey and Jared spend their years apart unsatisfied and unwilling to form lasting relationships. When the two meet again, Jared once again happens upon Kelsey on the shores of Mirror Lake. This time, however, he’s injured and needs to safely store information vital to his military campaign. Without either recognizing the other, and without Kelsey’s awareness or permission, Jared bonds with her and embeds information in Kelsey’s mind. For Jared and his people, bonding is a serious, sacred undertaking — one that cannot be severed.
Jared’s plan is to retrieve the information and break the bond with Kelsey, but their ties are too strong. Despite his life long selfless existence wherein he has served his people and never considered himself, Kelsey invades Jared’s mind and heart in a way that only a destined lifemate ever could and for the first time, Jared wants something for himself. Bonds and lifemates are familiar concepts to romance, but in the alternate reality Parallel Attraction plays out in, the concepts do not feel staid or even out of place. This is aided by Knight, who, unlike some authors of romance, is not afraid to put physical and emotional distance between her hero and heroine, and is willing to break the reader’s heart. The result is a story that might well go in any direction and that makes for a read full of wonder.
At its simplest, Parallel Attraction is a three act play. The first act is devoted to the meeting of the hero and heroine and their bonding as Lifemates. The second act introduces not only conflict, but what is presumed to be the crux of the series, that the future can fold in on the present. The future and the conflict arrive in Kelsey and Jared’s present in the form of an interdimensional time traveler, Marco, a Refarian turncoat. Marco kidnaps Kelsey to lure Jared into a trap. By altering the events of his (Marco’s) past, he hopes to alter the events of his present. While Kelsey is with Marco her present day story with Jared ceases to move forward, but Marco reveals how Kelsey and Jared’s love story plays out in the future. Or how it might play out. Time travel is an interesting concept largely because it allows a traditional linear story to move in many directions, forward, backward, sideways even while always being in the “now”. But, it also establishes the precedent that what has already “happened,” even what is to happen, cannot be relied upon. What tragedy, for example, could ever befall Marty or Doc Brown from Back to the Future that a trip in the Delorean couldn’t rectify? Parallel Attraction falls victim to this in the worst possible way when the ending of the second act brings the forward momentum of the story to an end, only to allow an alternate present to play out. Kelsey and Jared go on to pursue their relationship and seek the Elders’ approval for their inter-species marriage. While that is enjoyable, ultimately the narrative cannot be trusted.
Parallel Attraction is ruled by plot and world building and devotes too little time to character development. Between the hero and heroine, Jared is the more nuanced of the two. This is perhaps because so much attention is focused on his world, his plight, his people. Jared is a King without a country—or in this case a without a planet—and, at thirty, is the product of constant war with the Antousians, and the constant attention of his own people. He is a paradox, an insecure leader, and a lonesome loner. By comparison, Kelsey’s development is nonexistent. She has a job, colleagues, studies she pursue, then Jared whisks her away and her prior life is wiped away as though it never existed. She loves Jared from the beginning and nothing changes her or her emotions. Parallel Attraction is Jared’s story with Kelsey included so he has a heroine.
In the end, Parallel Attraction seems destined to polarize readers of romance. There will surely be those who love and champion the book and the related series as well as those who are unmoved by the stories. What remains to be seen, however, is if the world Knight has created where the future can influence and change the present will push readers to an emotional precipice in future stories, or will they be unwilling to be fooled again?
HelenKay’s Question: Vampires, aliens, werewolves…lions, tigers and bears – we’re seeing all of those in romance these days. Okay, maybe not bears, but you get the point. The lure of the paranormal and fantasy appears to be as strong as ever. Have we reached the point of saturation (possibly oversaturation)? Are there new worlds left to conquer?
Wendy’s Response: Bears have not been overlooked. There was a werebear in Wolf At The Door (it was at least referred to, I don’t remember if it made an appearance on the page or not). As I said above, I think Parallel Attraction is more accurately labeled as Speculative Fiction and because there isn’t an established and specific mythology associated with alternate realities—they exist as the author creates them—the possible stories are endless. Whereas traditional paranormal is forever tied to the volumes and volumes of fiction that have come before. Because of that limitation, there exists a point when there’s simply nothing left to say about, well, take vampires for example. At this point, what vampire story haven’t we read? We’ve seen the all vampire world, vamps that walk in sunlight, vamps that don’t drink blood, vamps that are afraid of blood, vamps that are alive, vamps that don’t have…you get the point. What is left to say about these creatures?
Beyond the been-there-done-that issue with paranormal romance, there comes a point when, as a reader, I just want to read about a girl like me, set in a story not meant to dazzle with its otherworldliness but comfort by being relatable.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: Fast-paced but limited in depth.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: Parallel Attraction is compelling for its uniqueness but fatally stumbles with the plot.
You can visit Deidre here and purchase this book here and here.