Author: Ebony Olson
Publication date: 22 February 2016
Reviewer: Meghan Brewster
It’s been more than a year since Sydney-based writer, Ebony Olson, published Spectra, a steamy menage’a’quatre, paranormal romance. Since then, it has continued to divide audiences with mixed reviews accumulating online, from “this book seriously confused the fck outta me. But for some absurd reason I enjoyed it…” to “OMG! This book is wonderful.”
The title character, Spectra, is a young paranormal forger and hacker, entangled with the paranormal underworld. Her full abilities, for the most part, remain obscured as she slowly discovers who she really is and the strength of her powers. Her development forms a great deal of the action side of the novel. Romantically, Spectra is promised to the sorcerer Alexander, though the finer details of this are unclear even towards the end. Spectra is in love with Mercury though, the son of an archangel, who is the nicest towards her of the men in her life. But the book revolves around her relationship with the predator Bay Ryder.
Bay is your typical villain-hero, who we end up “rooting” for in the end. The sex is hot and explicit, and there’s heaps of it; but marriage is still the ultimate resolution. Spectra makes for a captivating pursued protagonist, as she struggles to stay out of harm’s way. She is special. And her unique powers make her desirable.
At times, though, she is too submissive. Spectra allows the men around her to control and negotiate the terms of her life. She is moved between their beds like a possession, (“Taking what should have been mine.”) which is at odds with the descriptions of her being a strong bad ass who protects women.
Olson does well to capture a sense of mystery and dread throughout the novel; a nod to the heart of gothic romance. There is always a feeling of something bigger coming. The writing is clear and simple which makes for a fast, hot read. Olson hasn’t shied away from shit happening right there on the page; fighting, chasing, dying, fucking—everything—but it never quite got to the level of conflict that was promised. The level of foreshadowing did not match the intensity of the climax and many mysteries are never addressed. At its close, many questions are left unanswered. Sequel?
The plot is confusing at times. A lot of that confusion comes from there being too many characters with too many plotlines, leaving no time to get to know everyone properly or understand their skills and limitations. It helped that many of the characters were drawn directly from classical gothic fiction; sorcerers, changelings, witches and beasts, ghosts, angels and archangels, but there was also a lot of assumed knowledge that left a few readers online wondering if they had in fact missed the first book in the series.
The romance pivots around themes of love, desire and destiny. The romance works and there is real chemistry between Spectra and Bay. Olson is successful in using their shared desire to further the plot and develop the characters—while having Spectra long for others made the relationship realistic and relatable. The conflict between life and death, represented between the humans and the predators, created intrigue but was a little vague. I wanted to know so much more about who Spectra was and how she came to be (Spoiler**) a ghost.
This book is a difficult one to summarise. It’s flawed, but readers love it and I must admit, I loved it too. There looms a great lesson in this novel; how overlooking minor flaws can make for an addictive narrative. There is so much creativity and life; it seems only fair that Olson writes more. I’m now eagerly anticipating the next in the series.