Night Mares in the Hamptons
is the second book in Celia Jerome's Willow Tate
urban fantasy series. Unlike many urban fantasies, this series is much light-hearted in nature, without that dark atmosphere, and while the characters are fun, it does still have a serious slant to it (so it isn't all about humor). There's also a strong, significant element of romance.
The premise of this book is that night mares have crossed over from the other side (after a breach in the first book) and they are affecting the inhabitants of Paumanok Harbor, driving them to suicide, homicide, and madness. It's up to Willow Tate--for no reason that she can see--to figure out why the mares aren't returning home. Grant, her love interest from the first book, isn't available, so Ty Farraday, a world-famous horse-whisperer, is sent to help her out. Willow has to handle crazed residents of the harbor, enigmatic warnings from her father, Ty's rather blatant advances, and snakes in her attempts to figure out what's going on.
I enjoyed this novel more than the first, mostly because the first had some "first novel" problems. The plot there wasn't as focused, the writing not as smooth, etc. I'm happy to report that nearly all of those issues have been resolved. This book is much smoother and has much better flow than the first. And the plot is much more focused. I enjoyed the mystery aspects and the fantasy elements of the book, thought the characters were fun. Willow Tate comes across as real and believable and her family issues and the situations she gets herself in are very grounded in the real world, even though she's dealing with fantastical problems.
I do have one issue with the fantasy elements here. I don't really understand Willow's power. She's supposed to be a Visualizer, someone who draws images of creatures from Faerie, possibly "drawing" them from their world to ours. That's what happened in the first book . . . sort of. Here, it's not clear how what she's drawn in her current project has brought the mares to our world, or how what she's drawing changes events, or even if they do change events at all. She does seem to have a connection to everything, since elements of what she's drawn do appear, but there are other elements that she hasn't drawn that are significant. Overall, I'm just not clear on exactly what her power is. I had this problem with the first book as well. I don't understand what its limitations are, what it does exactly, etc. It's just not clear.
My other issue--and I admit that this is totally a personal preference thing--is that I'm not interested in the heavy romance elements of the plot. I don't read romance, and that is a significant part of the plot here. Because I don't read it, I can't really tell how well it was done here, but fair warning to those fantasy readers out there--the romance is a significant aspect of the novel, I'd say at least half of the book is devoted to this.
So a good, light urban fantasy with some strong romance elements. I enjoyed the fantasy elements of the book (and wish there was more of this), read over the romance elements (but I'm sure there are a ton of romance fans who'd love it). I'll continue reading the series, but do hope that Celia Jerome gives us a few more ground rules on how Willow Tate's magic works. Joshua Palmatier