Chosen By Desire (The Guardians of Destiny)
Kate Perry is a pretty kickass chick. Her childhood dream was to be a ninja, and she's now a seventh degree Kung Fu blackbelt. The serious study required in kung fu appears to have colored her novel, giving the 'paranormal' elements of this paranormal romance a more grounded feel than most Asian-inspired material written by Westerners.
Second in The Guardians of Destiny series, Chosen By Desire continues the modern legend of the Scrolls of Destiny, ancient writings that impart elemental powers on those who study them. Our heroine, Carrie, is a doctoral candidate looking for something to spice up her dissertation. On a tip, she travels to a Chinese monastery where her snooping uncovers exactly what she's looking for. Frantic not to get caught, she stuffs the scrolls in her bag to study later. To ease her conscience, she promises herself she will return them as soon as her paper is approved, and she's won a coveted position at her university.
But the legend is true and the current Guardians are onto her. Max, an American tapped to hold the power of Metal, follows her to California. Convinced that she is working with his rival to damage him, he invites Carrie into his home to translate the texts in his collection, giving him a chance to study her and learn her plans.
The book starts out well. Perry is good with scenes of action and tension (including sexual), but when times are good and everyone's relaxed she tends to lean on cliché. Max is the alpha male who is unable to trust, but I don't see why Carrie calls him arrogant, except that that's a stock description for that archetype. Due to the Power of Lourve, he makes an awfully fast switch from suspicion to loyalty. Then there is my least favorite Conflict Trope: everything could be resolved if people just talked to each other. Given, Perry does a much better job establishing why these people are close-lipped, but Carrie holds on to crucial information for way too long, even after she and Max are all but together.
Though I enjoyed the book for what it was (read: escapist fiction), I find myself dwelling more on its problems than its strengths. Carrie is a confused character. She has to be a Middle American Good Girl. Believably flawed, a serious doctoral candidate worthy of a professorship, and a sassy slang-slinging modern heroine all at once. Ultimately, she doesn't solve the mystery, save herself or anyone else's life, and she definitely doesn't find personal power (paranormal or otherwise). Things are just a little too easy for Carrie, sliding in and out of trouble without any lasting damage or lessons.
This is a shame, because Perry is not a terrible writer. I think she got caught up in what this sort of book is "supposed" to be like. She cut off her natural ability to render her characters as dynamic, interesting people. Writing romances is much more challenging than people think. I'm not going to give up on Perry, but I hope she gives herself the freedom to go a little wild and throw the formulas out.