If you're a fan of Jayne Ann Krentz and have been disappointed in her latest novels, pick up a copy of one of her reissues. First published 13 years ago, Witchcraft epitomizes the romantic strength of JAK's characters and the slightly offbeat plot complications in which they find themselves embroiled.
Kimberly Sawyer, a writer of detective novels with a gutsy female lead, reluctantly gives herself into the protective keeping of vineyard owner Darius Cavenaugh when she receives some engimantic threats. A rose with a needle embedded in it, followed up by a dagger-weilding cloaked figure in the dead of night, push Kimerly into Cavenaugh's fierce and and passionate protection.
Cavenaugh arrives on the scene because he is in Kimberly's debt for her part in rescuing his nephew from a band of quirky would-be witches two months previously. He's been biding his time before he comes after her to repay the debt and coax her into his life . But he moves like a steamroller when he finds out Kimberly is being threatened by the witchy kidnappers.
Female readers will silently applaud heroine Kimberly Sawyer because she is an independent lady who is quick with logical comebacks when the hero tries to railroad her emotions. Cavenaugh quickly reveals his vulnerability to the reader when he suddenly finds himself wanting to protect as well as bed Kimberly. But wariness and willpower are on her side as she asserts her independence in Cavenaugh's household where too many demanding family members are reminding her that she prefers a life without familial duties and demands.
This shying away from anything that smacks of family responsibility brings in the second conflict of the novel, and incidentally its strongest element, because it shows the emotional distance Cavenaugh and Kimberly must travel before they can understand as well as accept the compromises a union between the two of them will bring. The conflict has its roots in Kimberly's past. After arrogantly snooping through her mail, Cavenaugh learns that Kimberly is refusing to end the estrangement with the grandparents that cast of her mother and refused to acknowledge their only grandchild 28 years ago. Experience has taught Kimberly that duty to the family can be stronger than love so she's determined to find a lover as solitary and independent as she is. Cavenaugh does not fit the mold because he is committed to a heritage of vineyards and the extended family that depends on it. We like him the better as we watch him frustrated and floundering trying to impose his real-life passion on a woman who seems to find more statisfaction with a character she's created in her own novels.
Desire runs strong through the novel beginning with outrageously provocative statements by Cavenaugh about what he wants to do with Kimberly and coming to a quick culmination with a love scene in a deserted storage shed three days later. This offbeat setting for the first love scene foreshadows Krentz' delight in getting her lovers into the unlikeliest positions, both setting-wise and conjugal-wise. Later love scenes portray the escalation in Cavenaugh's determination to smother Kimberly's fears. Again the reader will applaud Kimberly's honesty and strength because she is the first to say I love you despite Cavenaugh's overbearing ways.
But Cavenaugh believes his elusive lady is still not ready to fully commit to him and arrogantly forces a confrontation with the grandparents Kimberly has steadfastly refused to meet. He believes he's only doing what's best for her by making her face the past.
Here is where Krentz is at her emotional best, showing with just a few words Kimberly's belief that Cavenaugh has betrayed her trust and her love, and his fear that he may have pushed her too far.
His fear turns to panicked desperation when Kimberly runs from him, unknowingly running into danger from the weird kidnappers that began the story.
Witchcraft may be limited in plumbing the depth of secondary characters and in the quickly resolved plot compared to Krentz' later and longer novels. But just like Cavenaugh wines, this is vintage Krentz to be savored over and over again, a fact which is proved by the tattered condition of my original copy. Now that Witchcraft has been reissued I'll definitely be replacing it before I lose the pages that have already fallen out.