Back in the seventeenth century, the Jones family and the Winters families share parapsychic powers in common. But when they tried to augment their psychic gifts, each turned to a different method in which to do so. The head of the Jones family, Sylvester, used Chemistry in his search for the ultimate means of enhancing his gifts, but the head of the Winters family, Nicholas, turned to his own specialty- engineering. He built a lamp with strange powers, enhancing it through means of stones he created.
But something went wrong with both methods- Sylvester Jones's formula caused madness, and the lamp belonging to the Winters caused an unusual twist in their DNA, on that also slowly drove them mad. But Winters found a powerful wielder of Dreamlight to help him work the lamp and save himself, after which he created another stone, and wrote a prophecy for his own descendants with certain claims about the lamp. Without the lamp and a dreamlight wielder, they would suffer blackouts and slowly grow insane.
In the modern day, Jack Winters is the scion of the Winters family, and the latest to inherit the family curse. Already he's suffered major blackouts where he cannot remember what happened. The last time, he has hazy memories of saving a woman from someone attacking her. He needs to find a dreamlight wielder to use the lamp- but first he needs to find the lamp, as it is missing from his family home.
He turns to Chloe Harper, who is both a dreamlight wielder and a Private investigator, and asks her to help him find the lamp, then use it to save his life. She is willing to take on his case, even if his family's name isn't exactly well-liked in the Arcane Society. He wonders how she can find the lamp, which was apparently either stolen from his home or lost in the move his parents made when he was young.
But Chloe finds that the lamp is among the possessions of Drake Stone, a washed-up rocker that now makes a living doing three shows a night in Las Vegas. But before they can get there to retrieve it, Chloe and Jack must deal with fall-out from an earlier case of hers.
Chloe is so used to having bad luck in love that she decided to have an affair with one of the local professors in college. She already knew that he had an affair with one female student every semester- a different student. But somehow her plan went awry when he became more insistent about talking about her personality problems and inability to commit- as if he didn't have any. She's now decided on celibacy as a valid option.
But the student he had a romance with last semester is stalking him, not realizing his pattern, and he's relying on Claire to catch her stalking him. But when Claire goes to see him, she brings Jack along... and suddenly must deal with a house fire when the student decides that if she can't have him, nobody can, and sets the house on fire. Claire and Jack must work together to knock her out and get the professor out of his house, and afterwards, she realizes how attracted she is to him, and he to her.
Soon after, they fly to Vegas and retrieve the Lamp from Drake Stone. The twist in Jack's DNA allows him to use two different parapsychic powers, and he hopes that Claire can use her dreamlight talents to take away the second talent and stop him from getting a third, which would be sure to drive him insane. Claire is certainly able to manipulate the lamp, and she works to fix what is wrong with Jack, but he is startled to find that it doesn't remove the second power, it merely stabilizes it.
Claire, on the other hand, is of the opinion that his new power isn't really a second power, but a more mature, powerful form of his first power- and that the third power, which he had all along by virtue of his heritage, is to use the lamp as a weapon.
But someone is out after both Jack and Claire, and won't stop until they are imprisoned. But as Claire is kidnapped by these new, dangerous foes, she discovers a secret that she and Jack share, and which can set those imprisoned by the formula originally developed by Sylvester Jones free from their dependence on it. But when she is injected with the formula, can she save herself from its mind-twisting effect? And can she save Jack from those who would exploit him and his connection with the lamp?
I picked up this book at the same time I picked up "Running Hot" and "White Lies". Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle/Amanda Quick has moved to tying her Arcane Society series together more explicitly, and now with this book, part of her new "Dreamlight" Trilogy, she shows us how the other half lives. Sylvester Jones and Nicholas Winters started out as friends, but were soon estranged for each other. Each, however, contributed something lasting in their researches.
Sylvester Jones had his potion/elixir, which was a pretty epic failure. Yes, it increases psychic powers, but it also eventually drives you mad. And so much of his research was known, that others today still try to recreate and improve the formula, creating a constant threat that the detective agency started by one of Sylvester's descendants and his wife, must track down and deal with.
Nicholas Winters, by contrast, had something that was just as much of an epic failure, but at least it only affects his descendants. Still, sucks to be them. You could easily spend time arguing which made the worse failure, but at least in Winters' defense, his failure affects less people. And there's another pretty hefty price in that a high-level Dreamlight Talent has to help a Winters or they die.
But this book in particular makes me question some of the claimed side effects- the blackouts may come from another source, and Claire thinks that the second talent Jack manifested was merely an outgrowth of one he already had.
This book brings up a lot of questions for me, considering that now the Arcane Society history stretches from the 1800s to the far future of Harmony. And while this new book and the future Harmony book focusses on the Winters family, it also brings up the question for me- given the fact that they have discovered a cure for the madness inflicted by the person not taking the elixir any longer, have they managed to wipe it out in the future? Or will we find that the elixir is still a danger, not only on Harmony, but elsewhere as well?
I'd be interested in seeing this be answered in the future third book in the trilogy, because it ties up so much that is germane to both this series and the Amanda Quick Historical Arcane Society books.
I have to say that while I enjoyed the previous modern-day Arcane Society books, this one was my favorite of all. And not just because it so explicitly ties the three series together. I liked seeing the problems of the Winters family, since all the characters so far have been inclined to the side of the Jones family. I especially liked that the families may have found a way to bury the hatchet in the modern day, and liked speculating on what that means for Harmony.
The couple in this one is also very good, and I liked the way they interacted, and the way Claire's dreamlight talent worked as it was described. The subtle tension racheted up throughout the story as to who wanted Jack, and later, Claire. And I have to say, I liked what happened to the villains. It's nice to see that some people in Nightshade are finally wising up, even if it's against the rules of the organization.
Not only did I love this book, but I think it is the best book in the modern-day Arcane Society series so far. I was a little concerned that what is the middle story in terms of timeline was written first, but I can also see the reasons for that- we hear rumors about the past of the lamp, and then we find out the truth. I am also looking forward to the portion of the story set on Harmony. I think this book has re-invigorated the series. Highly recommended.