I was quite surprised at first to see there was no comment posted on the British Amazon yet, but it makes sense. Most reader post a review, when they are really happy or particularly disappointed with a book. No one enjoys saying something negative about a favorite author, and my guess is, that a number of fans might be disappointed by this offering.
I usually enjoy Jayne Ann Krentz historic novels, written as Amanda Quick. The plot-line always seems to belong a bit to the Gothic Horror genre, especially when the paranormal is involved. It is usually the dose of humor and common sense that the author injects in her characters, that give those books a certain sparkle and make them a really enjoyable and fun read... and sadly that's exactly what is missing here.
One of the main comments I read in other reviews is true, the story seems recycled from her other books. From the mysterious garden, the half-siblings and mistrusting step-mama, the revenge plot against the heroine to the paranormal talents, we've read it before in some form or other. But here Jayne Ann Krentz is one of the authors that I happily forgive recycled plot-lines, because what I really enjoy is her writing style and the characters she creates: Scenes that suck you in and even in the darkest moments a sentence/thought/comment by the protagonists, that can make you laugh out loud. Strong heroines, even though they are naive damsels in distress, living at times when women's rights were more of an afterthought. Strong, brooding and dark heroes, that sometimes I wanted to smack on the head for being too arrogant, but that would come through for the heroine in the end.
Now in "Crystal Gardens" we are being told about the heroine's profession and hardships, suggesting her inner strength. But seeing her interacting with her friends, the hero and his family, all she seems to do is trying to please and appease them, while harboring a melodramatic attitude towards everything. While I expect a strong and arrogant hero, this one seems to be rather unstable in his outbursts. And not the "just found love and passion and does not know how to deal with it" kind of unstable, but the "lashes out at anyone close and scares even people that know and love him" kind. You don't want to smack him on the head and tell him to snap out of it, you want to get away before the "searing rage" does not just make him yell, but gets violent. This rage is provoked by little old ladies and villains alike, so beware. Usually the characters of the feisty, eccentric aunt and the rebellious but sensible sister are perfect to inject some humor in the situation and show the hero in a more friendly, indulgent light, different from how society perceives him. The actions and conversations of the secondary characters here rather deepen the gloomy mood. So considering that one of Jayne Ann Krentz's main talents is creating likeable main and lovable side characters, it says a lot that with the bunch here, I would not have been too disappointed, if all would have been eaten by the carnivorous plants of Crystal Gardens in a "tragic" ending.
So why do I still give 3 Stars? I have to admit it is more hope for the future, than based on this book. The book is the first part of a series and in those you always have the weaker and the stronger stories. So I hope that things are going to look up in the next installment. For readers that have not read any of her books before, better start with gems like "The Perfect Poison" (Amanda Quick) for a historic/paranormal, "White Lies" (Jayne Ann Krentz) as a contemporary/paranormal or "After Dark" (Jayne Castle) as a futuristic/paranormal.