Miriam has had enough of her abusive veteran boyfriend Ben, but he hasn’t had enough of her. After one particularly bad beating on the street, Jack comes to the rescue and enters Miriam’s life, suggesting that she might have another chance at happiness. But when she tries to leave Ben, his aggression only gets worse—for everyone. This in itself is enough plot for most romances, but Wilder adds a few more twists to make this book unique. First, there’s the mystical djinn element and Miriam’s struggle to understand and control her newfound powers. Her new boyfriend Jack has a power of his own, adding to the suggestion that he and Miriam are right for each other. This book could be called “paranormal lite”—much like Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux use magic and legends, so it’s a good started for anyone who isn’t wholly sold on this kind of book. And then there’s a suspense element: Miriam’s narrative is interspersed with Carson’s, an inspector investigating Ben’s inexplicable death.
Jack and Jasinda Wilder are a husband/wife indie book-writing team who have found enough success to garner mainstream Big Five publishing offers, so they’re worth watching if only for that reason. Something about their books strike a chord with readers, and I'm pretty sure it’s not their line-by-line writing. The phrasing is bland and cliché, the dialogue doesn’t do much more than add plot, and the book reads like it needs a good line edit… which makes this book even more interesting for the reading writer. If the Wilder team’s writing isn’t what’s drawing in readers, what is?
The reading writer thinks it’s construction of the plot and the plot tension they maintain. This particular book crosses three currently popular sub-genres, contemporary/New Adult, paranormal and romance suspense, and it’s interesting to see how the Wilders weave the layers together. The entire suspense device—the investigator’s perspective, forward in time from Miriam’s chronological story, isn’t strictly necessary, but the reading writer noted how much it added to the tension. In fact, the Wilders could have used it even more. At times Carson simply rehashes information the reader already has, but those places could have been better used to add more depth to the information, possibly information that Miriam doesn’t have.
Romance as a genre is at the forefront of a movement from multicultural literature as a separate sub-genre to incorporating books with characters of all backgrounds into the mainstream. Jack and Djinn is an interesting study of this development. Miriam is first generation Iraqi and her last name is al-Mansur, but we don’t find that out until we’ve already gotten a fairly good sense of her character—on purpose, I think. It’s worth paying attention to how the Wilders navigate possible stereotypes.