I wasn't expecting a paranormal element to play a part in this book, but it was pretty much the first thing that hits you in the face with the prologue featuring Serena's mysterious grandmother (endearingly referred to as "G'mom" throughout by Serena of which I wasn't sure how to pronounce, so I went with a very crass sounding gee mom). The Book of the Learned as well as some mystic properties of Lisbeth Charters' family heritage is presented front and center. It's an interesting concept to incorporate the superstitions of old age that included magic and sorcery, then pass it down along generations of a line to be presented as a base premise in the modern day story line. Like I said, it wasn't what I was expecting, but then again, there was never a rule that said we couldn't mix genres.
In this case, the book read more like a paranormal/fantasy romance rather than a romantic suspense despite there being elements of suspense. It was just a bit more mellow than the typical romantic suspense novel I'm used to reading.
Serena Charters' grandmother is murdered because of The Book of the Learned, an ancient manuscript passed down through her family that many wish to possess. With only four leaves of this book and a cryptic message from her grandmother, Serena must find the rest of the book as well as dodge a killer. Erik North is an expert on medieval manuscripts, working for Rarities Unlimited as a consultant in appraising the worth of priceless works. He is sought out by Serena to determine the worth of her grandmother's pages.
As the book progresses, both she and Erik seem to be in possession of memories (or flashes, or visions) that may belong to the original creators of The Book of the Learned, Erik the Learned who wrote the book, and Serena of Silverfells whose line the book ends up passing down to each firstborn daughter.
While there was still that underlying murder mystery and a silently implied race against time to find this murderer, the feeling of urgency just wasn't very present. So as a crime thriller, the book wasn't exactly top rate. However, despite Elizabeth Lowell's admission that The Book of the Learned--used in the book as a major plot device--is not real, I still really enjoyed learning various details of medieval art forms (scattered as they were). While it is known that manuscripts and textiles can be priceless depending on their origin, it's just something you never really think about since we have mass produced literature and the like. Such common objects such as blankets, wall hangings, rugs... One never really stops and thinks that dependent on origin, certain items in this category could be appraised as being as precious as stones and gems.
I enjoy Ms. Lowell's insight into this type of information. While it doesn't take away from the story itself, it doesn't necessarily add much to it either, because I've noted that the book tended to meander in a lot of directions--whether or not those directions ended up being significant to the plot is questionable.
There was a lot of goings-on with the staff of Rarities Unlimited, and we even jump to explore an introductory of Risa Sheridan and Shane Tanehill, both of whom will be the stars of the next book with their own part of the story to be told. Of course, we only touch base briefly with each of the side and supporting characters; they were presented in a smooth enough manner that it didn't really bother me or make me wonder why it was important to mention certain scenarios.
Of course, that doesn't mean that there weren't insignificant tangents.
Specifically, there was the single, random chapter guest starring three of the Donovan siblings from her previous series Donovans. A pleasantly surprising appearance, but kind of out of the blue and inconsequential as to whether or not there was a reason for their presence aside from "just because the author can". I'm not so much complaining; it was just a strange, random segway. Because while I did enjoy reading about the Donovans, and I understand that some authors become attached to characters previously created, there comes a time when you really DO have to let go (unless some occasion in the current story line calls for their necessary appearance; this was not one of those occasions). Mention them in passing if you must, but giving them a full, insignificant chapter for no reason other than to give them a chance to make their presence... kind of unnecessary.
Nonetheless, I really did enjoy the book.
My only real quibble about it is the romance, which felt more or less forced. Not that the romance itself was forced between Serena and Erik; obviously the two of them are drawn to each other and do care about one another. But the fact that there is some sort of higher presence that seemed to be propelling their attraction makes it hard to determine whether they are acting as their own, present-day persons, or if it was that unexplainable "meant to be" phenomenon passed down from their historical namesakes at play.
I'm not big on the "fated" epic loves. This one was handled well, but it still seemed a little... well, hard to grasp.