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March 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Not So Innocent by Laura Lee Guhrke  
Pocket Books/Sonnet Paperback; ISBN: 0671023691 PubDate Nov 02
Review by Victoria McManus 
384 pages List Price: $6.99
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Not So Innocent is Laura Lee Guhrke's first paranormal romance, and her first historical set outside the United States. Her novel Breathless was set in the state of Georgia circa 1900, and The Charade in 1775 Boston. Not So Innocent occurs in 1897 London; the paranormal element is small but essential.

The heroine, spinster Sophie Haversham, doesn't have enough money to move in society, and lives in her kleptomaniac aunt's boarding house with an assortment of spiritualists, a medical student, and a retired military man. Sophie can sometimes read minds, and often dreams future events, among other minor abilities, but cannot make prediction that will lead to advantage for her. Her aunt and some of her housemates see nothing horrifying in her abilities. When she dreams a murder, Sophie cannot in good conscience do anything but try and report it to Scotland Yard. The hero, Inspector Mick Dunbar, does not take her seriously, but does take her statement, in which he learns that the man Sophie saw being murdered is him.

That night, an attempt is made on Mick's life exactly as Sophie had described, and he promptly decides that she had some connection to the murder; if she isn't the murderer herself, she is protecting someone. He then makes the unconventional choice and moves into Aunt Violet's boarding house. Though Sophie is unable to prove to him that she has psychic powers--Mick believes only what he can see--when another murder occurs, Mick is Sophie's alibi. He remains convinced, however, that she is protecting someone until he is present when she experiences another vision. Gradually, he becomes persuaded that she is telling the truth.

Guhrke does a wonderful job of showing the sexual tension between the two characters and keeping it going until towards the end of the book. When the relationship is at last consummated, the tension does not plummet; in fact, the story intensifies because Mick and Sophie now have more to lose. Part of the tension arises from Sophie's unhappy past; she was left at the altar because she told her fiancée the truth about her psychic abilities, and he could not handle it. Sophie fears Mick will be the same, even after they have been intimate. Though she can sometimes read his mind and know that he feels lust for her, she does not know everything, and what she knows can sometimes be misinterpreted. In the end, despite all her knowledge, their feelings for each other must be hashed out verbally. It's an interesting extrapolation of some of the drawbacks of telepathy.

Though 19th century spiritualism is a factor in the plot, it isn't a large one; one thing I missed in the book was how the characters interpreted Sophie's abilities in light of contemporary thought, particularly since some of the boarding house inhabitants believe in spiritualism. This might have detracted from the forward movement of the plot, but would have been interesting historical detail.

Overall, I enjoyed Not So Innocent as light romance, enhanced yet not overwhelmed by its paranormal element.

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