I was rather surprised to find that Larion Wills is the pen name for writer Larriane Wills,
a new but prolific author in three genres: romance, sci-fi, and fantasy. Since the change in
name is only in the spelling, but not the pronunciation, of her first name and because she
writes a great story, I wondered why the author would choose to write under two very similar
names. She writes romance exclusively as Larion.
I dipped into Thirteen Souls, one of her romance novels, and was treated to a great
contemporary adventure story full of ghosts and buried treasure. The tale is told from two
points of view in three sections.
The first is from what the reader comes to know as a con woman assuming the identity of
socialite / anthropologist Heather Winstrobe, who is brought in by Gene DuBois to analyze some
artifacts found on a small tract of property he owns on a Louisiana plantation before he can
continue to develop the land. She finds the artifacts inconsequential but brings in a team to
quickly dig through what appears to be a dump, so that construction continues. The reader soon
finds that, not only does she have another agenda, meaning locating some buried 18th century
marauder loot, but she has a deep attraction to Gene. When the fake Heather begins to have
episodes when she’s with Gene, where she appears to be in contact with the spirit of a slave
who’d lived on the plantation, and which bring to light some very disturbing DuBois history,
the reader isn't sure if she's faking as part of the con or if she really is having paranormal
episodes. But the growing belief, for both Gene and the reader, is that these episodes are real.
The second and third parts are written from Gene's point of view as more of the story unfolds.
Gene's brother Harlan, who has always been jealous of him, shoots him with a tazer and begins
to subject him to unspeakable torture for Harlan's own pleasure and to find out where the old
marauder treasure is located. Gene finds many answers to age old questions in the rest of the
book, new friends, and even discovers who the fake Heather really is.
The unfolding of the family history and the archaeological aspects were especially exciting
to me since I've done some archaeological work before. The author has done her homework well.
Even the paranormal elements, with ghosts and mediumship, along with some clairsentience (the
ability to "read" objects by touching them), were well done. And I loved the characters! Even
the icky, evil ones were so easy to despise, even though you understood why they behaved the
way they did.
I did find the concept of socialite / anthropologist odd. I once went to two major
anthropological conferences in one year and made some observations: the convention for physical
anthropologists had everyone (presenters and attendees) dressed in dark suits, even the women,
and the men were all clean cut and close shaven. They all used high tech presentations, stressing
science. I felt as if I were at an FBI or NASA conference. The one for archaeologists showed
everyone, even with Ivy League educations, dressed in suede and flannel and some even in t-shirts
with slogans. And there was an overabundance of long hair and beards! One archaeologist even
knuckle-walked down an aisle to take his place at the podium! So, the idea of a prissy socialite
being an archaeologist harkens back to Victorian England with the explorers clubs that were so
prominent then. Yet there seems to be a reason for the author's choice.
In addition, I felt that the romance was way over the top. There were at least nine very detailed,
steamy sex scenes within the first 100 pages, which took place within the first two or three days
Gene and the fake Heather knew each other! I did realize that there probably had been a reason
for that as the rest of the book unfolded, but still it seemed a bit excessive. However, as most
of you know, I don't review romance very much. Though steamy encounters between characters is often
the main attraction for romance readers, this story could have stood alone as a great contemporary
thriller with fewer of the romantic scenes and still had a solid enough story to keep readers
turning pages. That being said, I really enjoyed Thirteen Souls.