These titles are part of a series (Arcane Society) being penned under two of the author’s pseudonyms and crossing between her historical and contemporary efforts. I read White Lies, a contemporary, first and loved it. Then backtracked to Second Sight, a historical, first in the series. Enjoyed that one as well.
White Lies by Jayne Ann Krentz
Petite, thirtysomething Clare Lancaster is a Level Ten para-sensitive—and a "human lie detector." Over the years, she's come to accept that someone with her extraordinary talents is likely to have trouble in the relationship department. And she's even resigned herself to the fact that everyone, to one degree or another, hides behind a facade. . . .
And now it seems that meeting the half sister and family whom she never knew until seven months ago was a mistake. Her father summons her from California to play a role in his business empire, and Clare doesn't intend on making the same mistake twice. But after meeting Jake Salter, Archer Lancaster's "financial consultant," Clare is convinced that things aren't what they seem. Salter's careful conversation seems to walk a delicate line between truth and deception, revealing and resisting. Something sparks and sizzles between them—something more than the usual electricity between a man and a woman.
Caught in a dizzying storm of secrets, lies, and half-truths, Jake and Clare will plunge into an investigation that demands every bit of their special gifts—together they must overcome their mutual distrust in order to unravel a web of conspiracy and murder.
Krentz/Quick writes with an economy that borders on dry. Difficult to put my finger on but I think it is because she expends little in the way of description. You’ll not find rich, eloquent passages on setting or deep introspection on character emotion here. But what she does provide is more than enough to draw the reader in and propel her forward. Both could qualify as well paced, no-nonsense reads.
In White Lies, the romance sizzled. The hero was perfectly alpha and the heroine comfortable in her own skin. Both belong to an organization comprised of folks with special powers—the paranormal element to this series—and both are enmeshed in a murder mystery that I’d call intelligent, not contrived. Overall, Krentz gave us the perfect balance between romance and mystery. A sizzling romance.
Second Sight by Amanda Quick
Financially straitened and on the path to spinsterhood, Venetia Milton thought her stay at the remote, ramshackle Arcane House would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engineer her own ravishment. She was there to photograph the artifacts collected by a highly secretive organization, founded two centuries earlier by an alchemist. And the alchemist's descendant - her employer, Gabriel Jones - had the eyes of a sorcerer…
But despite her intent to seduce the man and move on, she is shattered to return home and, just a week later, read of his violent demise in the press. She uses the sizable fee Mr. Jones paid and establishes a new life, opening a gallery in London. Of course, posing as a respectable widow makes it easier to do business, so - in a private tribute to her lost, only lover - she takes on the identity of “Mrs. Jones.” But her romantic whim will cause unexpected trouble.
For one thing, Mr. Jones is about to stride, living and breathing, back into her life. And the two share more than a memory of passion - indeed, they are bonded by a highly unusual sort of vision, one that goes far beyond Venetia's abilities as a photographer. They also have in common a terrible threat - for someone has stolen a centuries-old notebook from Arcane House, containing a formula believed to enhance psychic powers of the kind Gabriel and Venetia possess. And the thief wants to know more - even if he must kill the keeper of the Arcane Society's treasures, or photographer who catalogued them, to obtain such knowledge.
In Second Sight, the romance was there, but felt muted next to the mystery. The heroine is an independent photographer—a challenge in historical England—supporting two siblings and an elderly aunt. Add the threats to her life and you have a woman this side of preoccupied. Too preoccupied to fall in lust and love as easily as the hero and reader might wish. The romance was there, but where Krentz let it flow through and within the mystery in White Lies, Quick limited it to an undercurrent in Second Sight, secondary to the resolution of the mystery.
So overall, I liked Second Sight, but thought the romance less satisfying. I also found the sparseness or economy that I liked so well in White Lies less effective in the historical. It may simply be that I require more descriptive narrative in a historical. Without it, I felt as though I was watching the story unfold from a bleacher seat instead of front row over the dugout. Still a good story, just not the vantage point I prefer.
I'll be watching for subsequent installments of this series.