The Smoke Thief: The book equivalent of chocolate mousse

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Sometimes I don’t get myself. It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed an actual romance novel and to be perfectly frank, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy The Smoke Thief.

Joke’s on me there, I guess. Shana Abe‘s writing is so light and airy that reading it is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a breeze. It just floats by without effort, easy and evocative (and occasionally slightly purple, especially during love scenes, but no one is perfect and I don’t expect them to be). It’s easy to sink into, to just let the book sweep you away, and that makes it all the easier to enjoy.

Though it’s been a long time since I’ve cared for romance stories too much, especially the characters, I found that I liked Rue. The premise of a woman like that becoming a master thief in the way she does is utterly charming, teaming up with courtesans and thieves. She’s a strong character, with relatively little romance heroine stupidity and melodrama, and easy enough to empathize with. I was less sure of Kit at first, as he comes across as an arrogant, demanding jerk (which he kind of is) but he gentles a bit after a while.

Like any romance novel, the plot is largely centered on the development of the relationship, but the premise Abe uses here (catching a wayward diamond thief) is very well suited to the characters. If you’re looking for something complicated and full of threads, you won’t find it here, but the plot works well for the book. It’s good for the interaction of the characters, which is often witty and clever, and only occasionally misses the mark.

For me, The Smoke Thief was a surprising guilty pleasure. But one should never underestimate the value of a good guilty pleasure. The Smoke Thief is like the book equivalent of chocolate mousse: You couldn’t subsist on it, of course, but it makes dessert all the more fun. And props to Shana Abe, because I would never have thought I’d be able to buy anything off the romance shelves again. Joke’s on me there, too.

DrÁkon — (2005-2010) Publisher: For centuries they’ve lived in secret among northern England’s green and misted hills. Creatures of extraordinary beauty, power, and sensuality, they possess the ability to shape-shift from human to dragon and back again. Now their secret–and their survival–is threatened by a temptation that will break every boundary… Dubbed the Smoke Thief, a daring jewel thief is confounding the London police. His wealthy victims claim the master burglar can walk through walls and vanish into thin air. But Christoff, the charismatic Marquess of Langford, knows the truth: the thief is no ordinary human but a “runner” who’s fled Darkfrith without permission. As Alpha leader of the dra´kon, it’s Kit’s duty to capture the fugitive before the secrets of the tribe are revealed to mortals. But not even Kit suspects that the Smoke Thief could be a woman. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne knew her dangerous exploits would attract the attention of the dra´kon. But she didn’t expect Christoff himself to come to London, dangling the tribe’s most valuable jewel–the Langford Diamond–as bait. For as long as she could remember, Rue had lived the life of a halfling–half dra´kon, half mortal–and an outcast in both worlds. She’d always loved the handsome and willful Kit from the only place it was safe: from afar. But now she was no longer the shy, timid girl she’d once been. She was the first woman capable of making the Turn in four generations. So why did she still feel the same dizzying sense of vulnerability whenever he was near? From the moment he saw her, Kit knew that the alluring and powerful beauty was every bit his Alpha equal and destined to be his bride. And by the harsh laws of the dra´kon, Rue knew that she was the property of the marquess. But they will risk banishment and worse for a chance at something greater. For now Rue is his prisoner, the diamond has disappeared, and she’s made the kind of dangerous proposition a man like Kit cannot resist… In this bewitching novel, Shana Abé transports us into a world of exhilarating romance and magic.

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BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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