BooksThe Cat’s Out of the Bag with Tabby’s Hidden Passions

Where soap opera meets soft porn and enchantment twines with entrapment; where passions run high, and the supernatural is only a closet away; a wicked witch holds sway. With fiendish glee, she brings disharmony to Harmony and not-so-quality entertainment to NBC daytime.

Anyone who can’t get enough of the goings-on of Harmony and its inhabitants, or who wants the inside scoop on the scandals and shockers of this quaint little town, will find Hidden Passions a God-send. Or rather a witch-send, as it’s the record of resident sorceress Tabitha Lenox’s centuries of mischief-making.

So what does one say about a book that is supposedly penned by a character on a daytime drama, featuring people and places that presumably exist only on the TV screen? Let’s start with the “advance praise” quotes on the back cover…attributed to Nostradamus, Hecuba, and Nero. Not only are these voices from the past good for a chuckle, but their presence is a reassuring sign that Hidden Passions will not be taking itself too seriously.

The premise of Hidden Passions is this: over the course of her long (long, long, long) life, Tabitha (a.k.a. Tabby; a.k.a. Princess) has amassed quite a bit of dirt on the good families of Harmony, and she has meticulously set down her observations and deductions, not to mention her own magical meddlings, in her diary. Her sidekick, a living doll named Timmy, has convinced her to publish these memoirs, and she has agreed, but only under the condition that they are presented as fiction. So the reader gets chapter upon chapter of straight narration, interspersed with “diary entries” (written in an annoying cursive font), and frequently interrupted by Timmy’s asides and smart remarks.

If you’ve been watching the show over the past few weeks, nothing in Hidden Passions will be much of a surprise. In the same vein, if you’ve read the book, the “revelations” and dénouements on the show will lose much of their punch. Basically, this little joke-fest is useful if you’re interested in the backstory of the Harmony crowd. You’ll find out why Ivy is so obsessed with Sam, why Eve has been so intent on keeping the secret of her sordid past from her adoring husband, and why the Grace-Faith-Charity contingent is such a magnet for Tabitha’s ire. As a bonus, you’ll get to meet the older generation (Alistair Crane and his wife, Ivy Winthrop Crane’s parents, and Sam Bennett’s father, especially) and gain some insight into where their offspring got those lovely personality quirks.

Of course, there are the standard soap opera suspense-builders. A typical moment is when a newly amnesiac Grace asks Sam to start fresh with her, putting the past behind them and looking only to the future.

“‘After all, some woman from your past might very well walk back into your life someday! Don’t you see, we both have to let those doubts go. It’s our only chance.’”

Ah, the irony! Even if we weren’t aware of Ivy’s determination to get her lost love back, we would be sure that heartache awaits this sweet little couple.

Some would say that the TV version of Passions has one redeemable quality: the plethora of supernatural shindigs that terrorize the little community. Hidden Passions has none of these. No walls bleed, no demons drag pure little girls into Hell, and nobody has to be anointed to fight off evil. Profoundly disappointing, since these episodes leaven the rest of the show and would make a nice change in the book from the endless string of deceit, betrayal, and sex-on-the-beach bits. Really, there are only so many times that one can hear about “dewy folds” or the “throbbing” that demands release.

Passions: Too Hot for TV?” Maybe this full disclosure thing wasn’t such a good idea. Some passions might need to stay hidden.