The Challenge: A new to you author. The names tend to blur, but I figured I’d remember this author if I’d tried her before.
Why I had this one: I bought it because it was only a quarter and it’s from the same line as one of my favorite Anne Stuart categories, Housebound. (Though as it turned out, both were reprints from other Harlequin lines.)
What tickled me: Good sister/bad sister story! And almost astonishingly open minded.
What ticked me off: Piles on the drama unnecessarily at the end.
Who might like it: Fans of quieter categories that still pack some emotional punch.
I’ve long felt that the 80’s were the Golden Age of Harlequin Presents: there’s so much variety in the types of characters and stories, but they don’t have the strong emphasis on virginity, fear of sexual feelings, and coercion of the 70’s books, and weirdly, are much less conservative in general than the later books. Since I mostly read Presents, I don’t know if the other lines are generally less conservative, but I get the feeling the 80’s were good all around. This certainly is.
Genie’s a struggling actress, and she can’t resist the money her successful writer sister Valerie offers if she’ll impersonate her for a week long television interview. Genie has no idea that Valerie’s real motive is to avoid being interviewed by Pierce Stanton, brother to a woman whose husband she once had an affair with. She also has no idea she’ll find Pierce extremely attractive.
Pierce gives a grueling interview designed to humiliate “Valerie” but Genie holds her own (giving a heartfelt defense of the romance genre in the bargain.) But it’s hard for him to keep going with his plan, because he’s also very attracted to Genie, and can’t help feeling that she’s not as black as she’s painted. One thing she definitely is though, is married.
This had a nice dollop of angst, but it’s not over the top. Pierce isn’t a jerk for very long; he’s mostly an honorable guy trying to do the right thing. (With some intimacy issues kind of thrown in.) Genie feels bad about lying to him, but she’s in a tight spot too. She can’t pay her sister back, and there’s a desperation to their relationship — they keep losing and then finding each other — that makes it hard for her to spill the beans.
I liked the recognition that there are other kinds of relationships besides strictly monogamous ones. Pierce wonders whether Valerie has an open marriage, without judgement. His thoughts on the whole issue are never that fully formed — having realized he can’t live without her, he goes for it without making plans about what will or should happen. (Only when he — he thinks — sees her with her husband does he get jealous and demanding.)
The ending goes slightly weird and gives Pierce some issues which I thought pretty much unnecessary, and there are a few plot holes. Genie’s age isn’t mentioned, but from context she must be fairly young. Valerie is 37 — surely prepared interviewer Pierce would know this. She’s also extremely pregnant, though supposedly this has been kept quiet. And Genie never seems to consider how this impersonation might affect her career, even after she gets a big part on a soap and is interviewed as herself on television.
But the emotional appeal of the romance is top notch, and I’ll definitely try this NTM author again.
P.S. Oh… my. The only Minger story my library has is this.
P.P.S. I downloaded the library book and it is so whackadoodle, stupid, narrow-minded, and offensive, I’m starting to doubt this review. :-( On the other hand, it was published in 1995…