If I Were a Villain, I Wouldn’t Settle for Third
I found Amanda Quick‘s latest a breezy, amusing read. But for the uninitiated, The Third Circle might be all mystery and maybe even a little campy. The constant references to secret societies, paranormal powers, and a seemingly forward-thinking cast of main characters in a late Victorian setting might make the casual historical reader think she was thrown into a parallel universe. Well, as far as I’m concerned, the setting is a parallel universe. And if you’re familiar with Quick’s (a.k.a. Jayne Ann Krentz a.k.a. Jayne Castle) oeuvre, there are a lot of little things to pick up. This entry in the Arcane Society series isn’t so much as a romance or even a mystery as it is a connection to a larger story arc.
On her way to recover a family heirloom, the powerful aurora stone, from an ambitious antiquities collector, Leona Hewitt stumbles over Thaddeus Ware standing over a dead woman. Ware is also after the stone, on behalf of the Arcane Society which deems it too dangerous to be let loose. Despite having separate agendas, Leona and Ware realize that Delbridge the collector and his association with other villains is more formidable, forcing the two to work together.
I’m not sure I buy Leona and Ware’s relationship. One of Krentz/Quick/Castle’s major themes in her books is trust. And I think in this case, the characters were a little too, uh, quick to trust each other. From their suspicious first meeting and conflicting purposes to not entirely respectable backgrounds, I don’t see how even a little misunderstanding couldn’t be present. But that said, that doesn’t mean that the characters didn’t have their own individual funny quirks. True, the villains were stereotypical (archetypal almost–the author uses a number of handsome, blond-haired men as bad guys)–comically so–but they were smart enough to figure things out fairly early on. Now if only they had displayed some knowledge of the advantages of delayed gratification, they would have been rather formidable opponents for the main characters.
Another Krentz/Quick/Castle trademark character type is the hypnotist–who is usually either villainous or ineffective. However, in this book, the hypnotist is the hero which makes for an interesting reversal. Leona is another one of Quick’s optimistic heroines although I think she clings to her “think positive” mantras and her uncle’s advice a little too desperately. No, the most intriguing thing about Leona is her ability to work crystals. I don’t think the author just picked this out of thin air–instead, I think it’s a deliberate reference to the books she writes as Jayne Castle. Many of the characters in those futuristics use crystals or amber to focus their powers and with a reference to the Arcane Society in Silver Master, it is probably not a stretch to consider Leona an ancestor of those characters. Other links: Leona’s dog Fog who bears a remarkable resemblance to the dust bunnies in the Castle books. And there are hints, too, that the matchmaking madness in the author’s stories taking place in later times probably originated with a secondary character in this installment.
Hm. I probably said too much about this book. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the complicated occult network uncovered with The Third Circle is related to the cabal Krentz/Quick is revealing in the parallel story line in White Lies and Sizzle and Burn.