I first read Clean Sweep when it began as a free on-line serial story. It was entertaining, but seemed to be taking a paranormal romance direction in the second book, Sweep in Peace, so I stopped following the series. Peace was recently released as a Kindle book with an accompanying deal on its predecessor. In the spirit of curiosity, as well as escapism at the end of a long week, I decided to give it a re-read.
The plot centers around a young woman, Dina, who owns a mystical Inn. The neighborhood is being troubled by a particularly nasty predator, and the resident werewolf, Sean, seems disinclined to do anything except mark his territory. Needless to say, events escalate.
Characterization is, as always, stellar, particularly those characters that tend to drop in, whether it is Mr. Byrne discovering his dog, or the sardonically amoral Caldenia, who offers advice on finding an object: “I boiled him, my dear. It is still the only sure way to separate hard bits from all that flesh. And you have the added advantage of your captive being already dead, so there will be none of those annoying screams to alert the neighborhood. Good luck.“
Dina is so relentlessly cheerful, positive and good, that I confess I find Caldenia’s willingness toward theoretically violence a welcome relief. I love the Inn, which takes on the personality of a loved object, and Dina’s Shih Tzu, Beast.
World-building is interesting. I love the idea of the Inn, which puts me in mind of Way Station. It went an unexpected direction, which I would have liked better if it didn’t entail so much describing. Exploring might have been a better way to do, but again–limitations of the form
There are tentative steps in the romance direction, including the requisite multiple potential love interests who are all amazingly beautiful and very hawt. Personally, I find the trope more than a little eye-rolling, but then, I’m not a romance reader.
I think the Andrews are accomplished writers who spend a great deal of time and effort sweating over their works. Unfortunately, Clean Sweep lacks the finesse their more polished (and planned) works. Normally world-building is reasonably well-integrated into their storytelling, but in this case, there’s a great deal of telling the reader through the voice of Dina. It became quite noticeable by chapter three: “trying to phone him would be useless–no innkeeper would respond to a phone inquiry,” and “Most innkeepers in my position would’ve left XX to die on the street.” It’s quite possible that this is to help the reader recall the setting/premise as the story unfolded over a period of weeks. However, as well as giving background, the information frequently serves to explain to the reader why a particular course of action will/won’t work. I felt like it was likely a reflection of the short form, as well as possible over-awareness of readers asking questions on why a particular even did/n’t occur.
I mean, really–I can see where authors may want to just write and leave social media alone. According to Andrews’ blog, they’ll often get comments on “why didn’t X do Y,” and “why didn’t Z end up with A?” A serial seems particularly open to that kind of feedback. On the positive side, authors should be flattered their creations are so real. On the negative side, I think they end up carrying some mental burden of expectation from their fan base. At least, that’s what I guess from Andrews’ more frustrated posts. Personally, I’d likely say ‘take it or leave it’ and block like crazy. But I have limited tolerance that way.
On a final note: portraits are included as we meet some of the central characters (but not the ugly ones). It didn’t work quite so well on the Paperwhite. The artwork seems decent, but reminds me a bit of pastel-drawn elves on a new-age calendar.
Don’t get me wrong: even on a bad day, the Andrews write better than most out there. I’m not unhappy I bought it. An interesting world that could be fun if they continue to play in it. I found the next installment a definite improvement.