Review of Resurrected by S. M. Schmitz
“Paranormal romance” is not my normal genre, so I’m not qualified to advise voracious readers of that genre. Coming at it from the outside, though, I was pleasantly surprised by Resurrected. It did build a mood of romantic melancholia, with attractive young lovers beset by obstacles, which I presume is the standard furniture of the genre, but was also nicely filled with descriptive subtlety and philosophical nuance.
Attention the detail makes things memorable from the outset, from the arrangement of freckles on Lottie’s back to the simple but haunting image of the coffin – “a smooth, blue rectangle with silver bars running along the sides” (11). The plot arc of lovers trying to thwart the blocking figures and unite is conventional enough, but the manner in which Schmitz builds suspense gives rise to philosophical observations. In a perfectly contextualized musing on the problem of evil, Dietrich opines: “It wasn’t that people tended to defer to authority as much as people have an ability to turn off this moral code they only think defines them” (188). The idea that “moralism” is “an ambiguous and fluid concept” (189), whether you agree with it or not, is an intriguing part of the novel’s dynamic. It is a tribute to how far Schmitz stretches the genre that I’m still not sure whether I’m comfortable with the moral implications of some of the novel’s scenes.
Moral knots aside, the novel does well at recreating the psychological haze of one in trauma or the twists and turns and little tricks the mind plays on itself while under pressure. The characters have their own little neuroses and defensive mechanisms accumulated over years. Dietrich must revisit his habit of “judging too quickly, assuming people were so one-dimensional” (132), as well as his long-cultivated if unconscious “belief that a person had to be perfect in order to be loved” (123). Lottie’s struggle to “decide who I am” (154) might sound like a clichéd phrase from the self-help bookshelf, but Schmitz deploys it into a context that makes it much more interesting, psychologically and philosophically. As the present conflict flushes out those hidden psychological mechanisms, the symbolic value of “resurrection” acquires more and more meanings, like ripples from a pebble dropped.
This psychological realism we get through the reflections and remembrances inside of these characters makes the flashes of wit and absurd humor, which might otherwise break the double mood of romantic longing and physical threat, quite natural. From grim jests as a response to tragedy (“I don’t think Hallmark makes a card for that,” 10) to Louisiana cookouts where the protagonists are “stuffed with barbecued meats from every mammal on the planet” (201), the humor fits in effortlessly, even if some of the male bonding humor falls flat.
Overall, if you’re absolutely averse to the conventions of romance, this may not be the book for you. If you’re accustomed to other genres – “literary fiction” or “action” or “paranormal/sci fi” – and willing to give romance a try, this seems to me an excellent choice with a wide appeal.