REVIEW: Once a Thief by Michele Hauf
Dear Ms. Hauf,
I’ve read your historical novels and enjoyed them, even though you do seem to always let your plots get away from you by the end. So I picked this one up and prepared myself for the inevitable. Well, let me say that the writing style is so totally different from what I’m used to that I almost wondered if it was really written by the same person. You keep your grip on the plot and to say it’s “kick-ass” is an understatement. That would be my first warning to readers about this book – the violence level is high. Really high. The heroine dishes out violence to equal what she gets but I will say that it’s never done in a smarmy, titillating style. For her career as a jewel thief, she’s been trained in martial arts and fighting and knows how to put a hurting on people.
You admit to having fantasized about being a jewel thief while growing up. Since I don’t know anything about cracking safes or being a cat burglar, I could just go along with the story and not worry about the technicalities. As you told me, the internet is an amazing place to learn things. There are two or three instances when I did wonder at things that the heroine did (which didn’t make good sense to me) but I guess the actions were needed to continue the story.
Rachel is a very interesting character. Physically she’s amazing and she blows off injuries that would have me in a corner whimpering. But her life with her mentor, Christian, has damaged her and left her deprived of the most basic human emotions and knowledge. She was never allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio, read any news sources or interact with others outside a limited world and she’s just beginning to crack that shell when the story starts. She’s not a virgin and has been taught to use sex as a weapon and tool to get what she wants from men. You use this in an interesting way and takes it in a direction that I’ve not seen in a romance story before. Brava for that.
The other main characters are all integral to the story. There is a love interest but I won’t spoil the outcome by telling who Rachel ends up with. The phrases “takes one to know one” and “honor among thieves” are major points to understanding Rachel and the others. Rachel has morals but you let her “push the envelope” beyond what I’m used to seeing in a romance book. I would also love to see what a psychiatrist would say about the way Rachel was raised and about the man who raised her. Sick, twisted bastard would be the way I’d describe him.
My second warning is more a stylistic one. The narrative is full of short sentences and sentence fragments. I guess this is a way to convey action and intensity but I know some readers are bothered by it. And again, I would warn any readers squeamish about violence to consider before reading it. I’m still debating a final grade but it’s at least a B.