The heroine of Olivia Claire High's "The Crystal Angel" ($13.95 in paperback from Fireside Publications, www.FiresidePubs.com) is petite and stunningly beautiful. An interior designer based in Miami, Kemble Morgan might be called a "house whisperer": "I like to spend time in a house," she tells Archer Griffith, "to get the feel of each of the rooms before I know what they need."
Griffith is a 37-year-old millionaire who has hired Morgan to redecorate his modest vacation home in Barbados. But there's nothing modest in what happens; from their first unexpected encounter, their relationship is suffused with erotic tension. It isn't only a house that gets redecorated. High keeps the pages turning as the two strong-willed (read: "pigheaded") principals alternately find themselves in each other's face and then in each other's arms.
The Oroville author will be signing copies of her book during a gathering of local writers at Lyon Books in Chico this Saturday from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
A few years before meeting Archer, Kemble had surprised a thief in her apartment. And now "an anxiety . . . crippled her emotions whenever a man tried to touch her"; but did she even want to respond to his advances? Well, yes: "He was a study in pure animal magnetism; all lean hard muscle. . . . She stood staring at him like a hungry piranha ready for a feast." But, no: Wasn't Griffith a "narcissistic womanizer," a high-flying businessman used to throwing away things and people when he became bored with them?
Throughout the novel misunderstanding begets misunderstanding until Kemble and Archer have no idea who is friend or foe. Kemble's widowed mother, Ginger, and Archer's business associates play key roles in the story that involves an expensive crystal angel, mysterious goings-on at the house, a kidnaping, a romantic rival, desperate escapes, and even murder.
But what about love? "Their hearts beat against each other with a madness born of desperation amid a mounting excitement that carried them to passion's zenith and back again. . . ." Careful: "I'll admit you made me want you," Kemble tells Archer moments later, "but it was strictly physical and had nothing to do with my mind."
But the reader's instincts know the story is not yet over.