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Even though we're always told not to judge a book by them, I'm often taken in by striking covers. Sometimes you get a story that matches the beauty of the outside. Sometimes you get 666 Park Avenue.
That's not to say 666 Park Avenue is a bad book, just a stunningly uneven one. The first few chapters share more than a few similarities with a popular romance novel. A charming, handsome billionaire is so taken with a bumbling, ordinary girl that he must make love to her a hundred times a day and propose after knowing her less than a month, all while lavishing her with inappropriately expensive gifts. Ana Jane says yes and promptly quits her fabulous job, that she loves, and leaves her friends and home to move into his mom's house in NYC.
Fortunately, after leaving Paris, the plot does pick up. First, they must go to her grandmother's little town to tell her Jane's leaving. Sadly, she's dead, but fortunately she left Jane a hideous mirror that turns out to be hiding a magic ring and a letter that says, "Yer a wizard, Harry Jane." Jane takes the news rather well, probably because you can only go so many years blowing up electronics when you're angry before you start to suspect something else is going on.
After this tragedy brings them together, they arrive in New York and are immediately thrust into a party for all of Malcolm's extended family. The Doran clan is very old, tracing their lineage back to ancient Egypt on a massive family tree in the parlor, a very strange tree that only tracks women and next to Malcolm's name there is a dead sister and a space that is mysteriously too smooth, like a name was wiped out. Jane finds it very suspicious, but doesn't bother to ask or investigate at all. Which is a shame because it's hidingMalcolm's mentally handicap brother who is hiding in the attic and tries to rape her. Seriously. Lynne, Malcolm's mom, seems welcoming at first, but almost immediately does an about face.
This leads us to the next, largest portion of the book. Lynne v. Jane. For approximately 200 pages, Lynne does something extremely rude, thoughtless, and pushy and Jane takes it. As someone with overbearing women in her life, I was rooting for Jane to tell Lynne off, but it never comes. She doesn't stand up for herself, her relationship, her friends... So when it turns out that Lynne is a bad witch who wants to steal Jane's magic after Jane bears her a granddaughter, it should come as little surprise that Jane doesn't really do anything about that either.
There is only a smidgen of magic in the whole middle of the book. Jane gets angry, things go wrong. Lynne gets angry, people die. Suddenly I can see why Jane wasn't more assertive. Finally, Jane realizes that she needs to fight Lynne and starts learning magic with her new friends and her friend's hot brother. This is where the book hits its stride. The magic system isn't fleshed out at all, (Jane can use telepathy and telekenesis, but Lynne implies there are actually spells and magic words that we never find out about. She can also use force fields, create chains from mid-air, and dampen another witch's magic,) but what we do learn is actually interesting.
Spoilers for the final battle. Jane thinks if she marries Malcolm, they will run away from Lynne together. Unfortunately, at her reception, she decides to read Malcolm's mind for the first time all book. This reveals that he's the one who killed her grandmother. Jane faints and Lynne and her evil sisters lock Jane in the attic with the aforementioned crazy brother. Jane manages to avoid her fate by using her telepathy to bring up memories of Charles' hero worship for Malcolm, getting him to set her free in the process. She then starts to leave, but hears Malcolm's thoughts and realizes that he does love her, he's just been broken by his evil mommy. So she frees him, gets into a magic fight with Lynne, plunks Malcolm on a train to Anywhere, USA, telling him she forgives him, but she can't be with Grandma's killer, and then wanders off into the subway because Lynne won't think to look for her in NYC. Well gee wilikers, that actually sounds interesting and action driven! Shame that all takes place in literally the last 10% of the book. 4 short chapters following hundred of pages of arguments about caterers and wedding dresses.
I think it's pretty clear from the above summary, 666 Park Avenue has an identity crisis. Is it a paranormal mystery? A romance? A commentary on celebrity and socialites? Rather than weave these together into a cohesive novel, the author instead comments on each in turn, leaving the reader feeling disjointed. This, and much more, can be chalked up to poor writing. Despite the narrator telling us how different Paris and New York are, what we see of Paris is written the same in terms of culture and energy. Except for two brief sentences, everyone speaks perfect, fluent English. And then there's Malcolm, with his molten-gold voice and warm-champagne scent and just as bland and cardboard as can be. Lynne, (who I imagined as Victoria Greyson for the entire book,) wears peach lipstick that the author feels the need to describe every time she comes on scene. The book is filled with red-and-gold duvets and canary-colored Ralph Lauren skirts and créme-fleurrette crises. It gets to a point where you wonder if the author had a thesaurus or a color wheel.
All of the writing was very readable, making it seem for a younger audience than the relatively graphic sex suggests. I'd say a middle-schooler could easily understand most of the language, though with a masturbation scene that made me blush, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who can't see an R-rated movie.
Overall, I found 666 Park Avenue extremely disappointing. An enjoyable premise was marred by lack-luster writing, poor characterization, and a plot that took too long to get going. There was some to like, mostly in the last quarter, and the end did leave me wanting more. I may pick up the second if I notice it on sale, and I may even check out the new tv show, but it's not a series that I feel a real need to continue.