On her new website, Jaime Rush offers readers her Naples post office box address. A series of photos marks her striking resemblance to Naples author Tina Wainscott. Indeed, the copyright page in the advance uncorrected proof for her book, A Perfect Darkness, reveals that Wainscott is the copyright holder. Often, publishers and agents recommend the nom de plume gambit when a writer veers off in a new direction. They fear confusing the existing fan base. My own guess is that the new series by “Jaime Rush” will draw readers who never heard of Tina Wainscott, and that Wainscott readers will have no trouble enjoying the Jaime Rush offerings.
Tina Wainscott is a Naples girl. In her youth, the future novelist made up stories to tell her friends and relatives. She would also, with her friends, script and act out what she calls “mini-movies.” At nineteen, a couple of years out of Lely High School (class of 1983) and taking business courses at Edison Community College, Wainscott (her last name was Ritter until marriage) became more serious about a writing career. She took an adult education course in creative writing, and then she took it several more times. The course, led by Betzi Abram, got Wainscott more focused: she had to turn something in every week, and the criticism helped her develop the tough skin one needs as a writer. Her first novel, On the Way to Heaven, was published in 1995. She has been going nonstop ever since. Several of her novels have Florida settings.
Wainscott/Rush crafted paranormal romances earlier in her career, while romantic thrillers have been more frequent in recent years. With the series launched by A Perfect Darkness, this prolific author for the first time envisions a multi-novel saga.
The term “paranormal” connects with “supernatural” – with an emphasis on unusual psychic powers. The characters in A Perfect Darkness have an arsenal of shared as well as unique abilities. One of them can see ten seconds into the future, another can converse with the dead, yet another can image the future and release the vision in eerie paintings. And one can set fires through psychic energy. The paranormal characters in this novel are particularly sensitive to one another and can communicate – and more – across time and space. This is because they are connected as the children of an extended family: in part biological, in part the collective result of experiments that have produced or altered them.
They are known as The Offspring, and their common goal is to trace their origins, master their special gifts, and discover – perhaps to defeat – the ends for which they were engineered.
We meet them as adults, some of whom have been long aware of their special gifts and others who are just discovering them. The novel’s central character, computer repair genius Amy Shane, is in danger, and what threatens her brings her into contact with some of her para-siblings. They mine their shared memories, putting some of the pieces together.
The reader discovers, along with the characters, that some kind of rogue government project has brought them into being. Like so many projects of super-patriots, The Offspring were designed to serve the national interest – but something has gone wrong. They pose a threat to those who would be their controllers, and The Offspring themselves seem to have divided into potentially adversarial groups. The controllers strive to exploit the supernatural abilities of The Offspring, conduct further experiments, and destroy those whom they cannot manage.
Sorting this all at will take Jaime Rush several novels, but she is off to a strong start, balancing revelations with new questions that keep readers guessing and turning pages.
The hook for romance readers is – believe it or not – paranormal sexual intimacy. A romance between Amy Shane and Lucas Vanderwyck – the artist and leader of the Offspring – develops in their interactive dreams, and in these shared dreams they know sensual rapture and emotional bliss. The lurking question: will it be this good when it’s not a dream? An intriguing question that interacts with many other questions in the novel.
Jaime Rush has set A Perfect Darkness in Annapolis, Maryland. This setting, a relatively small town not far from Washington, DC, seems a good choice for evoking the corridors of power without getting bogged down in iconic urban landscapes. While more could be done with the setting (state capital, sailing and seafood mecca, home of U. S. Naval Academy), the important aspects of setting and environment in this genre are the extensions of the what-if premise. And on these Rush is masterful, as she is in developing a cast of intriguing characters defined through vivid dialogue and action.
Aside from Amy Shane, whose talents include sensing and interpreting the emotional “glows” that emanate from people, the author provides readers with Eric and Petra Aruda – strikingly attractive twin Offspring whose psychic powers complicate their all too normal jealousies and frustrations. There is the mysterious Rand, whom the team must attempt to rescue late in the novel. And there is a host of villains, most notably Gerald Darkwell, over whom The Offspring must prevail. There is also an old friend of Amy’s father, a man from whom she seeks protection and guidance. But “Uncle” Cyrus seems to have compromised loyalties and uncertain motives. Which side is he on? Riddle follows riddle.
Jaime Rush sums up the appeal of the series as “X-Files meets Friends.” She’s on target here, and it’s a potent combination. A Perfect Darkness is due from Avon Books in late January.
BEFORE JAIME’S BIRTH, Tina Wainscott was doing just fine. You can find several Book Beat Columns about Tina, and also, more recently, a brief review on another title by Jamie Rush. Run the names in the web site search box, right sidebar.