1/28/08

"Like a Thief in the Night" (2008)

Like a Thief in the Night by Bettie Sharpe
By Bettie Sharpe

Death comes like a thief in the night. For reclusive thief Sevastien Aniketos, death comes in the form of slinky assassin Arden Black. But Aniketos has a surprise for his would-be assassin—he is immortal. And he is about to turn the tables on the pragmatic femme fatale.

Arden finds more than she bargained for when she sneaks through the window of Aniketos's glass penthouse to take his life. The immortal thief is no victim; he's a clever strategist who has set his sights on capturing the lethal lady and making her his own.

Trapped with a man she cannot kill, Arden slowly succumbs to Aniketos's scheme of seduction, ceding her secrets, her loyalty, and eventually her heart. But when Arden's wicked past catches up with her, Aniketos is faced with a choice: An endless life without Arden, or a paltry mortal lifespan with the woman he is increasingly sure he cannot live without.
Ha ha! I get to say "I knew her when," coz one day Bettie's gonna walk all over New York, take it by the scruff, and become a superstar. My enjoyment of her work is in no way a happy reply to her love of mine. It's just nice to be in good company.

"LaTitN" is a super-charged funfest of sex and violence. No holds barred, baby. And while my admiration does not make me an incoherently happy squee-girl like Sherry Thomas--who was apparently lobotomized by her appreciation of Bettie's work--I do share her love for Arden. Rarely do we in Romancelandia find truly nasty ass bitches who can satisfy the tricky emotional demands of an HEA. Often the hero steals the show, his daring and demeanor inadvertently detracting from the heroine.

Not so here. Arden is the star, a take-charge bitch with fantastic resources and a blasé sense of humor. The sex is hot and dangerous, the tension between them remains palpable despite many rounds of both sex and violence, and the conclusion is a neat twist--an homage to Bettie's professed love of fairy tales. I love the mythological feel that ran throughout. Makes me think my next read will be "Ember," her Cinderella redux. (Yes, I bought "LaTinN" BEFORE reading her free ebook. I iz silly.)

My only problem with this short story comes with the territory: it's short. I wanted more of the daring-do finale, and the character of Drake--he's a WHAT? Wait, go back! I would've preferred to get deeper into the mechanism that made Arden who she was and present her with more challenges outside of her sparring with Aniketos.

But oh, some of the language was just brilliant. I adored this: "He was a thief. It was his nature to take things--chances, risks, liberties." Elegant and powerful, economical and sharp, her prose makes extraordinary characters into something delicious.

UPDATE: I read "Ember" too, which was even better. Here Sharpe had a surer grasp of her subject matter and the confines of a short story. Nowhere did is seem rushed or tesious. The clever twists on convention are just, well, fantastic. For example, I was wondering how she'd fit in the hacked off toes--ha! Good job, Bettie. This one's a new classic.

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