Bookpushers Joint Review – Twisted Miracles (The Shadow Minds #1) by A.J. Larrieu

Twisted Miracles cover image
Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: 7 April
How we got this book: ARC from the author

Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.

Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.

When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina—Cass’s childhood friend—is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life.

This blurb came from the author’s website.

1. Thoughts on the Hero

Cass: When it comes to romances, there are only two basic set-ups I’m going to support:

  1. The characters have an extensive pre-book history, or

  2. The relationship develops slowly over several installments.

Anything else irks me as a ridiculous confluence of lust and love that is ultimately demeaning to the characters.

The author was smart to go with the Option A here as a means of justifying/explaining Cass’ decisions in a way that would have come across as irrational and manic-depressive had she been paired off with Jackson.

Shane managed the amazing PNR hero feat of not hitting a single one of my perp buttons. He loved his family, and supported Cass having a career and friends other than him. He intervened when Cass was exhibiting dangerously self-destructive behaviors, but otherwise respected her boundaries and wishes. Excellent!

My only complaint is how utterly pathetic he is at apologizing and owning up to his (massive) fuck-ups. Does no one understand my desperate need for catharsis?

Marlene: It probably not a good thing I’m next. Cass and I tend to egg each other on…

I’m SOOO happy this story didn’t go the insta-love route. The heroine Cass and Shane are way too up in each other’s business for this to work as anything but a “second chance” story. Too much of the romantic angst involves their past rather than their present.

And that past is a corker. While Shane is definitely a decent guy and not the alphahole that PNR heroes often turn out to be, there’s this one thing that drove me crazy about him. That he didn’t believe Cass when she knew that her powers had caused someone’s death. He seemed to prefer that she imagined it or became delusional or whatever, rather than believe and support the woman who was supposed to be the love of his life.

E:  Well I had issues with Shane but mine were of a slightly different sort.  Shane really didn’t strike me as extremely heroic.  He claimed to have never fallen out of love with Cass but only tracked her down when his twin sister was missing.  That told me he really wasn’t interested in fighting for her but he was extremely jealous of her co-worker.  He pushed and prodded Cass yet he also coddled her at times.  While he did play a key role in Cass’ realization that she could control her powers it only came after years of unintentionally crippling her.  I did feel for Shane because he seemed the protective sort but his very protectiveness created blind spots about those around him.  I saw him as more of a HFN instead of a HEA type of hero which was disappointing given the extensive backstory and previous connection between Cass and Shane.

2. Thoughts on the Heroine

Cass: I admit it. I primarily wanted to read this book because the heroine has my name. The last time I fell into this trap, I got stuck with Cassie Palmer (a series I most emphatically do NOT recommend.)

Though this is not as bad, Cass left me with an overwhelming feeling of “meh”. Her powers were interesting and developed well over the course of the book. Her relationships with her friends, love-interest, neighbors, and coworkers were well-rounded, and consistent.

But in the end, I am not a fan of passive heroines. Cass was sadly lacking in both spine and balls, which made her a blah protagonist. Lots of reaction. No initiative.

For example, when a protagonist discovers the truth behind the Big Bad, you generally want them to step up, whether it is to protect themselves (status, power, property, life) or others (family, friends, fuck-buddies, community). Not this Cass. She wants to run around and find other people to do it for her. Even after it is repeatedly made clear that there is no one else and she cannot expect help from outsiders, she’ll do everything she can to keep her not-so-lily-white hands clean. She had motive, means, and opportunity to handle the Big Bad,  and no real moral qualms about doing so. So why not act? Because.

YOU SHAME OUR SHARED NAME WITH YOUR INACTION.

Marlene: The Cass in this story should have been named Cleopatra, because DENIAL is not just a river in Egypt in her case. She denies her powers by practically drugging herself comatose for years. She’s also incredibly passive about learning how to use her powers, even before the old feces hit the oscillating device. So much of the angst in this story is because Cass didn’t know a whole bunch of stuff she should have about the shadowmind community as well as about herself.

Everyone in Cass’ life denied what she was, so I’ll admit that it was no wonder that Cass fell into the same trap. The powers she had were interesting, and the world of the shadowminds was kind of cool.

However, I’ll confess to complete suspension of disbelief that there was no Guardian in New Orleans. Really, the most weird and magickal place in the U.S. didn’t have anyone minding the woowoo store?

E: Rather interesting points there. I am mentioning the lack of Guardian later in my thoughts.  I do have to say Cass annoyed me! I understood she was traumatized by what happened in college on a couple of different levels but her way of dealing things was to self-medicate and run.  Given how she struggled to accept/gain control of her power initially I expected she would know better than to just ignore them and hope they went away.  But that was her fallback reaction each time.  She basically had to be forced into taking some sort of action and even then she tried really hard to get someone else to do the job instead of her.  When she finally accepted that if she didn’t do anything her friends and other innocents would continue to die, I did start to view her differently.  Based on the ending I have hopes that her character will continue to grow and mature in future stories because if not I feel sorry for the inhabitants of her region.

3. Favorite Scene

Cass: N/A. Absolutely nothing stuck with me.

Marlene: Kidnapping and mind-messing with the preacher who was faking the miracles was good for me. Obviously not romantic, but it was great to see somebody get the ass-whooping they deserved

E:  I think my favorite scene was the one when Cass finally anonymously confronts Cindy Cepello, someone she has been dreading the very mention of her name since the college incident.  I loved how Cass’ thoughts and opinions of her and what she was doing drastically changed.  I wish she had done so much earlier in the story because the follow-on effects probably would have made me like Cass as a heroine much more.  To me this scene showed how shadowminds could be a positive force not just used for parlor tricks or exploiting others.  As a result I gained some hope that Cass would start making things happen instead of letting them happen in future installments.

4. Dislike about book

Cass: INCONSISTENCIES. Cass’ background is revealed over the course of the book. She is (unsurprisingly) an orphan and spent time bouncing around the foster care system. However, the author clearly isn’t aware of how foster care actually works – and even manages to have Cass repeatedly contradict her own memories of her time in the state custody. Wtf? If you can’t get it straight, don’t bring it up. None of these contradicting memories added anything to the story. They were filler. An utterly failed attempt to try to make Cass tragic and add pathos to relationships where there should be none.

I also utterly hated how the handled the whole “Cindy Cepello” plot. Cass sweety, if you had a functioning brain cell in you head, you could have put a stop of this triggering bullshit years ago. I have some ideas I could share. Or is that too spoilery?

\Marlene: I did not care for the Cindy Cepello subplot AT ALL.I wanted her to also be a complete fake, but that would have been too much fakery. However, the way that Cass didn’t handle it was part and parcel of the way that she denied everything to do with her powers.

The way that everyone in her shadowmind community seems to know everything BUT her didn’t seem consistent. She wasn’t a child when she left, yet no one seems to have informed her about some of the important things in her world, such as the fact that guardians were real, and that the type of power that she thought she had really did exist. Where was the “guide to being a shadowmind for dummies” book when she needed it? Or as soon as her powers were confirmed?

E: Well…here we diverge a bit because my favorite scene as mentioned above included a subplot both Marlene and Cass disliked.  But I am also agreeing with some issues they both brought up earlier.  I really struggled liking both the hero and heroine in the roles they were cast.  I felt that their character development was uneven or nonexistent and what did occur was in the last quarter or so of the story so it felt rushed.  I also thought the strange circumstance of Cass’ home area not having a Guardian was a bit circumstantial especially since the neighboring Guardians knew of each other but nothing about what was happening in between.

5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade

Cass: In the end, there was nothing particularly original or engaging about Cass or her world. Correspondingly, there was nothing terribly offensive – as you can see above, all my gripes were relatively minor (and would have been overlooked in a more dynamic story). I am left with a large feeling of meh.

I give Twisted Miracles a C.It’s a perfectly serviceable run-of-the-mill borderline PNR/UF. One I’ll neither shun nor actively seek out in the future.

Marlene: A second helping of meh for me. Twisted Miracles wasn’t bad, but wasn’t as memorable as I had hoped. (I was hoping for another Trancehack (which I loved) but this didn’t even get close. Even the villain was meh.
I give Twisted Miracles a C.

E:  Twisted Miracles had a lot of promise.  The title certainly fit the story. Unfortunately I found the execution lacking.  Larrieu did leave me feeling positive about any sequels because of what Cass faced and her actions towards the very end.  I still have my doubts about Shane and his potential for a long-term romantic interest because he remained relatively static throughout the entire story.  I think he will need to start growing as well if he wants to remain effective in Cass’ life and not just ride the lingering waves of their childhood romance.
I give Twisted Miracles a C

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Comments

  1. Sadie Tate says

    This one looks ok, I might give it a look. If you want a good recommendation, at least in my opinion, check our Adrienne Giordano, adriennegiordano.com. She writes romantic suspense/thrillers and they are all fantastic. I just finished her latest one Stealing Justice and I couldn’t put it down. Well worth a look!

    ReplyReply
  2. says

    Thanks for the review ladies. I have to admit, all your descriptions of the heroine in particular makes me not want to read the book. Perhaps if the rest of the series improves over the years, but not now.

    ReplyReply
  3. Mandi says

    I really like this review. I just finished and had similar problems with the lack of ambition from the heroine. I wish she had not fled and tried to learn about her powers. I was also surprised New Orleans had such a lack of structure for their supernaturals. The romance also didn’t flow that well for me.

    But I liked the supporting characters and this author’s voice.

    ReplyReply

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