I missed a LOT of the nineties movies. Mostly, that’s because I have four kids: if a movie didn’t include an animated rodent, I probably didn’t see it. But I’ve been trying to catch up. One movie I watched recently was Practical Magic, the story of two sisters from a family of witches.
Someone asked me what genre it was, and I had to think about it. “It’s a supernatural comedy horror small-town fantasy romance about family. With you, know…curses.” In other words, genre-roulette—if you don’t like the current genre, wait one scene and it will be a new one. (Kind of appropriate for a decade that included the reunification of Germany, the Gulf War, the founding of Google, and Beavis and Butthead.)
This is not the same thing as genre mashups, which are true blends of genres and a great way to breathe life into established tropes. Genre mashing is fun: you pick a genre—any genre—and then mix with one or two more that have nothing to do with it. Two quick and easy ways to do it are to add zombies—
And/or do it in space—
—Western + Space = Firefly
But genre mashups are not the same thing as genre roulette, where you flip in dizzying progression from genre to genre. Examples might range from the sublime (Thomas Pynchon’s SciFi/Porn/Comedy/Thriller/Spy Caper/historical/war/romance/horror/ Gravity’s Rainbow) to Terry Pratchett’s hilariously subversive Discworld, to er…just about anything Terry Gilliam ever touched.
I was thinking about Genre Roulette as I read Sophia Grey’s new book, Lying in Shadows.
Event Horizon Series: It’s as much romance as it is suspense, set in a high-tech company where good people sometimes do bad things. Just like real life.
Marianne needs to find who’s leaking secrets from her company, before they lose another major contract. What she doesn’t need is an affair with her married boss. Even worse, to fall in love with him.
She discovers the security leak is more than a case of commercial espionage: someone is lying in the shadows, playing games with them. Now more than her heart and career are at stake–her life is on the line.
Review: Lying in Shadows by Sofia Grey (book 1 of Event Horizon series)
Lying in Shadows, the first book of her new Event Horizon series appears to be set before the events of Sofia Grey’s bestselling Talisman series, but many old book friends do appear.
Marianne is a fast-rising young executive who has just been put in charge of the elite team charged with uncovering the source and target of corporate espionage at her American-based company. She returns to London, where her new boss is Marcus. Marianne and Marcus have worked together in the past and never acknowledged their mutual attraction—Marcus because he has a wife and baby, and Marianne because she’s never gotten over her former lover, the rocker AJ who now heads up super band, Event Horizon.
The long hours and high stakes of their investigation take their toll on all members of the team. As admin Sylvie and forensic accountant Rico begin a tentative relationship, Marcus and Marianne become lovers. Meanwhile, Marianne’s old lover Alex (now AJ) is rescued from a suicidal depression when he meets his new neighbors and their houseguest, each of whom is related and/or married to someone on Marianne’s task force.
Meanwhile, a sinister and shadowy figure lurks in the background, twisting all these all these characters and their varied story threads toward his own malevolent ends.
As mentioned in my reviews of some of her earlier books, I admire author Grey’s command of character development, split-second thriller pacing, and especially her fearless approach to mashing genres and subverting tropes. In Addiction, for example, the usual Good Girl gets Bad Boy trope that’s powered everything from Georgette Heyer’s regency rakes to most of Hollywood is subverted when her Good Boy hero goes after the motorcycle-riding, addiction-dependent, leather-wearing Badass Girl.
In this new book, though, Sofia Grey moves past genre mashing through a breath-stealing parade of genres–rock star romance, marry-the-boss, star-crossed lovers, tragedy, thriller, corporate espionage, love triangle… no wait… love tetragon… or maybe love hendecagon…or big-friggin-love-mess-agon… where everyone has slept with everyone else at some point, all while being shot, stabbed, beaten up, kidnapped, and bitch-slapped.
And she nails it.
Each character is so well-drawn that the huge cast is memorable and three-dimensional. But in what I’m coming to see as author Sophia Grey’s trademark, each character is also fundamentally flawed—toting emotional baggage, scars, or still-open wounds. Their wounds also blind each in some basic way, leaving them unable to correctly interpret or even perceive the true feelings and motivations of those around them.
Lying in Shadows is not a perfect book. The villain, oddly, is so flatly malevolent that some of the suspense leading to the undoubtedly adrenaline-pumping climax is muted. But for me, the biggest problem is that I just didn’t like the main characters, Marianne and Marcus. She came across as emotionally dishonest and manipulative, while he was weak and whining. It was hard (okay, impossible) for me to root for these star-crossed lovers, when they seemed to have so little regard for the other lives—wife, child, lover, employee, friend—being smashed by their relationship.
But, as with all Sofia Grey novels, if you’re willing to take on a large cast of flawed characters who grow, love, suffer, and above all change during the course of the book, Lying in Shadows is a good choice. And if you’re looking for a book whose steady pace and world building hurls to a breath-stopping climax, Lying in Shadows makes a terrific start to a new series. As always, I can’t wait to see what Sofia Grey comes up with next.**I received this book for free from the publisher or author to facilitate an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**
- Book Title: Lying in Shadows (Event Horizon Series #1)
- Author: Sofia Grey
- Genre: Romantic thriller
- Publisher: Acelette Press (24 February, 2017)
- Pages: 366
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Marcus faced her. Now the night was ending, he felt more awake and alive than he had in a long time. “Yeah. It was good.” He spoke slowly and looked her in the eyes. “Thank you. For all of it.” He was transfixed by a puff of her breath on the freezing night air. Her perfume, sweet and woody at the same time, teased his senses. It suited her perfectly.
They were inches apart. He wouldn’t have to move far, to close the distance between them. He gazed at her lips, unable to tear himself away. Everything about Marianne called to him and always had. He’d allowed himself to become friends with her, knowing it was dangerous. Wanting Marianne was wrong. He had to think of Louisa.
Marianne ran a hand through her pixie-cut hair and leaned against him. “It’s so pretty here, but it’s freaking cold. What the hell was I thinking?”
Wrapping one arm around her shoulders was instinctive. His yearning to kiss her roared back into life, and he tried to ignore it. “It is pretty, but you’re beautiful.”
“Sweet talker,” she murmured. She made no move, and Marcus held her closer.
Jesus. Marianne filled all his senses. All his needs.
One taste—that was all he wanted. One hint of this beautiful, sassy woman. It would have to be enough. He couldn’t offer anything else.
He lifted his hand and cupped her cold cheek, brushing a pattern over the soft skin with his thumb. The air felt charged. He gazed into her eyes, waiting for a sign. Waiting for her to tell him to fuck off.
Did she want him? He had to know. Need coursed through his veins, and he dropped his head and brushed his lips over hers. His world shrank to the bench in Trafalgar Square.
She didn’t retreat, so he moved in again, with another fleeting kiss that grazed her lips. He was crazy to think one taste would be enough. He wanted to gorge on her.
Marianne pulled back, opening a cool space between them. “This is wrong.” Her voice was husky. “We shouldn’t be doing this. You’ll hate me and yourself.”
She was right. He was behaving like an ass, but he still didn’t want to stop.
It took a superhuman effort, but he disentangled himself from her and stood. He took a step away and turned to face the empty square. His heart raced, as if he’d run a marathon. He tried to get his body under control.
“I’m sorry,” he rasped, his mouth as dry as a gravel path. He couldn’t look at her. Didn’t dare to.
She huffed a breath behind him. “I can’t be your lover, Marcus, but I can be your friend.”
No. He wanted more, and that scared him. He had to fix things with Louisa, not get caught up in a flirtation going nowhere. He should be beating himself up with guilt right now, but he wasn’t. Instead, he felt panic at losing the chance of a stolen afternoon with Marianne. “Are we still going out tomorrow?”
Judith Barrow said:
Love cross-genres – life shouldn’t be about always being in a certain box. (hmm. not sure that sentence is syntax-ably (!!!) correct) Hey-ho, it is Monday and I am cross-eyed with editing. Great post as always, Barb.
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I completely agree. And I think that mixing them up gives the genre-specific tropes a new lease on life.
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Mary Smith said:
Love that Alan Moore quote – so true, though I can pass on the pornography
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Apparently I love it too—enough to put it in twice. (now fixed) Thanks so much!
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