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REVIEW: Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis

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 by Jill ShalvisAnimal 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.

Jaclyn

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The first book Jaclyn can recall reading all by herself was Cinderella (a pink Disney edition) and all these years later she remains an avid reader of fairy tales, myths, and historical romances. Jaclyn's TBR also overflows with science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, contemporary, thrillers, and mystery. During the workday she can be found navigating the digital transformation at a university press.

8 Comments

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  2. Jane
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 13:35:27

    I found this book to be quite dull for the very reasons you state. Lilah is virtually a nonentity in the book. She could have been a dog or some other pet for all the range of emotion she showed and she served as merely a foil for Brady’s fairly ordinary character arc. Everyone loved Lilah. She was so self sacrificing. She had no flaws. I think at one point she could have shit rainbows and I would have nodded and thought that was in keeping with her characterization.

    It’s not that I think all characters have to suffer, but there wasn’t any depth to her and thus she lacked interest.

    I really didn’t believe that she had been friends with Brady’s very hot “brothers” without one of them trying some kind of relationship out. That rang very false, but of course, she had to be the sister in their eyes in order for her to be pure enough for the hero.

    I might have graded this book even lower because as a romance, I never was convinced of a lasting relationship between Brady and Lilah.

  3. Mary G
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 00:02:45

    Hi Jaclyn
    Before I even finished your review I was asking myself, “Well, what’s wrong with Lilah having her shit together?” I was happy to read a story, for a change, where just the hero needed to evolve.

    I was just waiting to see the point where Brady would cave & stay and I wanted to know what Lilah would do or say (or not) that would make that difference.

    I have to confess to a preference for being in the hero’s head as much, if not more, than the heroine’s. Being a female, I already get that part, but the male mind is fascinating to me.

    Hot, sweaty, funny – it’s all good.

    Thanks for showing the other side to me.

  4. Karen
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 11:51:32

    I must say that on a personal note, I thought about reading the book just because it looks like (and probably is) a German Shepherd puppy on the cover and I have GSDs… But she gives him a lap dog? I should learn not to trust the covers and am glad the dog was mentioned in the review!

  5. Lada
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 14:25:28

    Thank you for the insightful review, Jaclyn. I’ve never read Jill Shalvis before and was going to pick up this one but there’s nothing that turns me off more than a Mary Sue heroine. Lilah sounds like the very epitome of that heroine type so I’ll have to pass on this one. I wonder if someone could recommend a better example of Ms. Shalvis’ work.

  6. Jaclyn
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 15:17:50

    @Lada

    I’ve read several of Ms. Shalvis’s books that I’ve liked very much. SLOW HEAT was my first Shalvis ever and I LOVED it (and gave it an A here on DA).

    I’ve also read and enjoyed Simply Irresistable, Instant Gratification, and Trouble with Paradise. Of these three, I think Instant Gratification was my fave, though it’s third in a series (I haven’t read the first two so can’t comment on them). Trouble in Paradise is set on yacht, if you like the boat/island setting (I do).

    I’m rationing Ms. Shalvis’s backlist. That is, I read one every couple months in between other books. :)

  7. Jaclyn
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 15:31:47

    *sigh* I typed too fast. It’s INSTANT TEMPTATION that I liked so well–the third in a series about three brothers who have an outdoor touring company. Instant Gratification is the Shalvis book presently on my TBR (and that’s why it’s on my mind).

  8. Jane
    Feb 01, 2011 @ 19:16:52

    @Lada: I agree. The Instant series is one of my favorite by Shalvis. I loved her characterizations of both the males and the females in the series.

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