Shannon C. told me I should read Jennifer Estep when I admitted to be a comics sort of girl. I believe I now owe her, because Karma Girl is fabulous and impossible for me not to like. Estep knows comics and it makes her novel that much more joyful. It might be impossible to not be happy when reading Karma Girl, because the author obviously had fun when writing it.
Estep draws upon that base to create a familiar feel for the novel, but her heroine and plot feel fresh. Flimsy cover stories and skimpy masks have kept the identities of heroes and villains successfully under wraps. Estep plays well with that familiar conceit. Her heroine Carmen Cole uses her brains to uncover these identities and her status as a reporter to make them public. She’s fueled by vengeance, after discovering her superhero fiancé and ubervillain best friend sleeping together on her wedding day. But her righteousness is shattered when her actions lead to the death of the Tornado, a member of the Fearless Five. Now she’s at the mercy of the Terrible Trio.
As Carmen works to discover Striker’s identity to free herself from the ubervillains’ grasp, she falls for the enigmatic hero. The two have incredible chemistry, which pulls the book through its slow sections. Carmen takes too long to discover the identities of the heroes and villains. Much like in a graphic novel, the secret identities are apparent to the reader before the characters in the novel. In comics it’s a clever visual joke; in a textual novel it falls flat.
However, the pluses outweigh the few faults by a large margin. Perhaps the biggest plus of all is the characterization. Estep’s portrayal of Carmen’s emotions, from anger at being betrayed to the guilt of contributing to a hero’s death, is spot on. She also populates the scene with strong secondary and tertiary characters. Even the B-list joke superheroes get some character development.
Karma Girl pulls the reader along, quick, light, and often quite funny. Comic fans will enjoy what Estep does with familiar territory. (Perhaps not Vertigo fans. Bigtime resembles Metropolis more than Gotham City.) Other romance readers should enjoy it as well because of the strength of the central couple. Carmen and Striker are a believable couple and likeable characters. Striker’s alpha without being a jerk, Carmen makes some mistakes but usually behaves like an intelligent grown woman. Karma Girl is fun, refreshing, and-best of all-has a sequel that doesn’t disappoint.
Someone has to pay for what happened to Carmen Cole …
Bigtime, New York is not big enough for both Carmen Cole and the superheroes and ubervillains who walk its streets. An intrepid reporter, Carmen’s dedicated her life to unmasking the spandex wearers, all because her fiancé turned out to be a superhero, and a cheating one at that – sleeping with none other than his nubile nemesis.
Exposing the true identities of the nation’s caped crusaders and their archenemies has catapulted Carmen from her sleep southern hometown to the front pages of one of the country’s biggest newspapers, The Exposé. Hobnobbing with modelizing millionaires and famished fashionistas is all in a day’s work for the woman hot on the trail of the Fearless Five and Terrible Triad. But when Carmen gets the scoop of her career, her life comes crashing down around her. And even Bigtime’s sexiest superhero, Striker, may not be able to save her …
Read an excerpt
Read Lawson’s review