I have to admit, I hadn’t ever really paid much attention to the romance genre before, and the fact that Selene Grace Silver’s The Binding of Adara is not only a romance novel, but can also be classified as belonging to the “paranormal” and “historical” sub-categories, I was a bit skeptical at first. Okay, a lot skeptical. But Adara was not without tricks up her sleeve, and I found quite a few pleasant surprises that worked to dispel my doubts and preconceived notions about the genre.
So, let’s take a stroll down Nostalgia Avenue, shall we? It’s really a groovy day. The Blackbyrds are “Walking in Rhythm” and John Travolta is “Staying Alive” – using his walk to tell us he’s a “woman’s man / no time to talk.” The mirrored ball overhead reflects the hopes and dreams of the bell-bottomed, halter-topped “disco” generation, and bra-burners across America are “raising consciousness” about women’s rights. Far out!
Yep, you guessed it. It’s the 1970’s. Like many young people at the time, all I wanted to do was strap a guitar over my back, stuff a few pairs of hot pants into a back pack, paint my thumb (for securing free transportation) and set out for Hollywood, California, USA so I could be “discovered.” How romantic! That is, of course, until your ride breaks down on the side of the road, someone steals your money or makes off with your back pack and cold, hard reality sets in. Bummer, man!
This is precisely where we first meet our heroine: the beautiful, innocent (and truth be told, a bit naïve) Adara Lane. She’s come to Los Angeles to seek her fortune, but ends up instead in a dive hotel in Hollywood, alongside a bunch of hard-partying Tom Waits wannabes, groupies, and has-beens. When her wallet gets stolen with the last of her money in it, Adara finds herself all alone in the big city, in something of a jam. Not one to depend on other people, or put them out, Adara finds herself wondering what, exactly, to do next.
Nevertheless, she is not defeated. She pulls herself together and thinks rationally about her predicament. Not many twenty-year-old women are self-possessed enough to approach their problems in this manner. Personally, I found a lot to relate to in Adara’s character. Although the card-carrying feminist in me also found a few of Adara’s subsequent decisions to be cringe-worthy, it’s apparent throughout the novel that it is Adara herself who remains in control of her fate. On the whole, she leaves us with the impression that she is a perfectly capable, though somewhat flawed female lead, which, I suspect, goes against the stereotypical heroines found in most conventional romance novels. While she meets the pre-requisites of being young and beautiful, she is neither perfect, nor so weak that she must depend on a “knight in shining armor” to continually rescue her. Rather, she is just awakening to her own sense of self, because until she winds up in Los Angeles, her burgeoning “powers” had been suppressed.
The “paranormal” aspects of the story also provide the bulk of the fast-paced action and chair-gripping suspense in The Binding of Adara, both of which serve to propel us through the narrative at a pretty good clip from beginning to end. There are at least three different sub-plots going on in the background as well, which add a depth and complexity to the narrative that, quite frankly, I had not expected to find in a romance novel. Firstly, picking up where we left off in the previous story, Brianna’s Bewitching, we have the romance between the witch, Brianna, and her cop boyfriend, Jack, who doesn’t yet know about Brianna’s, um, shall we say, “gifts”. Secondly, we have a centuries-old, over-arching conflict playing out between the community of witches and warlocks of Los Angeles and the “hammers” who hunt them. Finally, there’s a budding romance between Jack’s partner, Hanson, and another witch in the community, Carrie. On top of that, we must contend with the tormented backstory of the romantic male lead, Bowie Marsden, a warlock with commanding, albeit untapped powers who is also a Vietnam War veteran. Sounds like a lot to keep track of, right? Not at all – Ms. Silver adeptly weaves all these narrative threads together successfully by the end, however, ultimately crafting a tale that presents one of the most emotionally satisfying reads I’ve had in a very long time.
Overall, I think it takes courage and skill to write a romantic heroine who is, at her very core, a survivor, and in Adara, we have that. Strong-willed and determined, she catches on quickly and is able to adjust from her missteps, without losing her sweetness and guilelessness. As Adara learns first to “see”, then take responsibility for, and finally wield her own power with some authority, (even if it means flying in the face of the norms and conventions of her era) we are taken along for a most spellbinding ride. I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a convert, and find myself very much looking forward to the sequel.