Dear Ms. Shalvis,
I have a major problem with Animal Magnetism-’the heroine.
At its heart, Animal Magnetism is a story about the hero's emotional evolution, with the heroine and his foster brothers acting as the catalysts that jump-start that evolution.
Animal Magnetism opens with Lilah Young, animal rescuer, rear-ending the truck of Brady Miller, retired Army-Ranger turned freelance danger-zone pilot. This opening moment encapsulates the how rest of the story unfolds: Lilah draws Brandy into the events of her chaotic and busy life.
Lilah runs an animal boarding facility and is secretly trying to finish her degree so she can be a vet (I never really understood why Lilah felt the need to keep this a secret. Yes, it was explained. I still don't get it). Brady who has a successful career as a freelance pilot in dangerous places, is visiting his two foster brothers at their animal clinic and ranch home in Sunshine, Illinois. Brady agrees to stay in Sunshine for a month and help his brothers by repairing an old helicopter that they'll use to visit distant patients.
When Lilah rescues a starving little lap-dog named Twinkles she foists him onto Brady for care, thereby giving Brady someone to care about and helping him realize that emotional connections aren't so bad, and in fact, they are pretty darn nice. Between Lilah and the dog, Brady doesn't stand a chance.
Animal Magnetism is a sweet story with funny moments; hot, sweaty moments; angst for the hero; an accident that results in someone getting rushed to the hospital; and ultimately, a happy ending. So why am I dissatisfied?
My problem is with Lilah.
Lilah doesn’t develop during the course of the story-’she’s the same character all the way through. The events that have shaped her into the person she is took place before the book began and the reader is told what happened to shape her life.
Along that same line, Lilah doesn’t do much in the way of learning about herself. She’s sweetheart on page one and she stays that way thru book. She doesn't turn into a raging bitch, she doesn't get less sweet, and she never suffers (not really) during the course of the story. Everyone loves Lilah. I want Lilah to experience some angst-’more than the one night when she imagines that Brady has left her. A character's angst is how I empathize and come to care about what happens to them. Happy-happy-joy-joy is boring. I need something dark-’some emotional trauma-’to make me care. Lilah has no trauma (that I get to witness first-hand).
I never really came to care about Lilah. I don't hate her-’she's a sweetheart who rescues animals, is kind to kids and old people and everyone in between-’there's nothing to dislike, but I'm not particularly invested in whether or not she finds happiness, either.
The hero, on the other hand, does do a lot of learning about himself, develops emotionally, and I care about how Brady's life turns out and whether he finds happiness.
At the end of Animal Magnetism I began to wonder if all the time and energy in writing this story were put towards drawing Brady's character (and those of the other dudes in the book, whose stories were hinted at, making me think there are more Sunshine, Idaho books coming) and that girl in this one is just the mechanism for developing the hero.
Ms. Shalvis, I love your writing voice and in the past year you've become one of my "auto-buy" authors (I mean that figuratively, I don't use an auto-buy function from any bookstore); I will gladly pick up your next book, but Animal Magnetism fell flat. C.