Starving Review: The Mine (Northwest Passage Book 1) by John A. Heldt

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The Mine by John A. Heldt (Amazon)

Just like you can find yourself sitting down to a good-looking meal with every want to like it only to find it unfufilling, you can just as easily find yourself sitting down to a vaguely unappetizing plate, coaxed on to eat by your friends, wanting to just say ‘Look, I’ll just go get a cheeseburger’.  Despite that desire though, you begrudgingly give in to that external pressure and go ahead and take a bite.  That first bite isn’t great, but there’s an intriguing hint of flavor.  You dig in and, the deeper you go, the more the flavors mix and blend and, by the end, you’re plowing through the meal and ready to praise the chef.

Welcome to my reading experience with The Mine.  As always, two reminders:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre.
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible.

The Mine is, at its core, a time-travel based romance story.  The time-travel itself, I mean the mechanism of it, is the only paranormal aspect of the book and, honestly, its least explored aspect.  That is both good and bad.  Good in that making the time travel center stage might have been a distraction to the actual romance and bad in that, well, something that is so vital to the tale that remains so unexplored makes that aspect of it seem more like a handwave to facilitate the story that Mr. Heldt wants to tell.  Still, that being said, I will give a nod where it is due: though mainly glossed over, the time-travel mechanism does exactly follow the few rules that are laid out for it and that bit of internal consistency is a characteristic feature of the entire book and that is a Good Thing ™.

Of course, the real core of this story is the romance.  Now, I think the best way to give some insight as to my feelings about it would be to provide a Dramatic Diner’s Reenactment as I gorged myself on the last few chapters of the book:

  • NO!  No, don’t … ARGH!  You jerk!
  • AHA!  Thank God you’re getting what you deserve for that poor decision!
  • Oh, wait, remorse?  Sadness?  I … why don’t I feel that lustful sense of justice? ARGH! Sympathy!
  • Glimmer of foreshadowed hope!  Joy!
  • Oh, wait, no, NO!  Ironic twist!  Tragedy looms!  Well-written but I CRY!
  • Wait, yes!  YES!  The twist twists!  Victory!  HAPPY!  *fistpumps*

I must apologize to Hokie, my 5-year old nephew’s guinea pig, for disrupting his sleep in the middle of the night when I finished this book, because I said all of those things.  More or less.

The takeaway from that Reenactment is that this book made me FEEL, both good and ill, for the main protagonists.  That, above all things, is vital to this genre of book.  The reader MUST invest in the hero and heroine (or hero and hero or heroine and heroine, depending on the sexual orientations involved in the romance) or else they will never find the romance believable OR take joy or sorrow in the course of said romance.  In this, Mr. Heldt succeeds in spades.

In another nice turn, the dramatic resolution of the tale is affected not by the male lead but by several of the major female characters.  It is always refreshing to see the women save the day from time to time, especially in a genre often dominated by the male love interest.

Now, on the flip side, this isn’t a perfect book.  Again, while I know that romance books don’t follow the same intense pacing of an action piece, the first act of the book does progress very slowly, though this evens out nicely in the second act.  There are times (again in the early, weaker parts of the book) that the main male protagonist seems a bit too good and a bit too lucky.  In the end, though, it was interesting to see several of what were originally pros turn into cons.  I actually railed against the main male character several times during the book, but in the way you would shout at a friend making mistakes, not a hated book character.

Ultimately, though, what does prevent this, for me personally, from attaining 5 star status is one particular bit that could have produced excellent drama regarding a relationship status (I hope that is vague enough to save me from the Spoiler Cops) was essentially brushed over and ignored.  Not quite forgotten, but for something that was played up earlier in the book as being an important point of dramatic tension, it was too neatly resolved with minimal, well, NO, repercussions that it made a conflict point go completely flat.

Still, though, those flaws aside, The Mine remains a very well-crafted and surprisingly enjoyable romance book.  If a romance book (I’m no stranger to these … I’m a Romantic eater at heart) can make me shout both in reproach and ultimately joy in the middle of the night in my sister’s house, it has done it’s job to a T.  Despite my initial bleh at munching through another paranormal/timetravel/a wizard did it romantic dinner, I got a rather delightful surprise that would make me ask for more, especially if the chef could get that work that lumpy bit with no payoff better into the rest of the flavor mix.

FINAL VERDICT – **** (A bit bland at the start with a few lumps, but by the end, the flavors will make you swing and shout!)

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