A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Element of Risk by Robyn Donald

When it comes to Robyn Donald, my motto is always “go old skool or go home.” She overdoes the alphole sometimes, sure, but her books with kinder, gentler heroes are so boring. This one hit the sweet spot nicely, as well as being an amazing trainwreck of a story.

Perdita, a stunning model on the verge of retirement, gets a call she’s been waiting for for a very long time — the twin girls she gave up at birth eleven years ago have finally been located. But that’s not all… to her shock, Perdita discovers they were adopted by her beloved cousin Natalie and Natalie’s husband Luke… who is, in fact, their biological father.

I’m not sure I want to say much more about the plot, which only gets wilder from there. Perdita has to square off with Luke to get a chance to see the children (Natalie has conveniently died) and she’s just about perfect at it — intelligent, committed, truly wanting what’s best for them. Meanwhile, Luke is bitter and accusatory and just a step away from serious violence. He might be unbearable if she wasn’t so capable of holding her own.

(One not-so old skool element about this book I really liked, is that Natalie is treated respectfully as the girls’s mother. There’s none of the “now they have their REAL family” crap I’ve seen in other books. It might even be a little too good to be true, but I don’t care.)

The classic bleak moment, when it comes, is rather unusual — though precipitated by an event so over-the-top that I imagined Charlotte Lamb calling to tell Donald to tone it down a bit.  There’s a lot about the past that Perdita has to sort through and understand, before she can have a happy ending.

I don’t always enjoy Harlequin Presents like I used to, these hard days, but this was a fun trip back to when I loved them, the wackier the better.

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A Love Untamed by Karen van der Zee

What tickled my fancy: Strong, independent heroine

What ticked me off: I seem to be having a run of bad endings, but this was the Worst. Ending. Ever.

Who might like it: After that ending, I dunno.

She scraped and sanded and painted and cried. She installed a new back door, replaced a cracked pain of glass in one of the windows and kept on crying. She laid Mexican tiles in the sun-room and wept. She rented a sander and sanded all the wooden floors, dripping tears on the raw wood, making dark stains.

You can usually count on a van der Zee book to have a good heroine — it’s just a shame that the competent and resourceful Livia spends so much of the book utterly miserable.  Actually, I didn’t mind that at all, because I love me some angst. I just mind that there’s no good payoff for all that misery.

Livia is restoring a house she just bought when Clint Bracamonte appears, claiming ownership. As they work out the issue, they grow close, although Clint warns her that he’ll be returning to his work in the rain forests of Indonesia soon. Livia isn’t too concerned — she’s always been a traveler and even speaks Indonesian. But Clint is aghast when he discovers her dreams — he has no intention of continuing their affair.

Livia tries to get on with her life and get over it, but then Clint’s life once again intersects with hers in a complicated way, requiring her to go off to find him after all.

Although the plot is kind of episodic, I mostly enjoyed this. The characters are believable and mature and the writing about other cultures is pretty respectful, barring one cringe-worthy moment when Livia thinks, regarding the heavy earrings weighing down the ears of the Indonesian women, “if you grew up with the things you wouldn’t know any better.” The chemistry between Clint and Livia is very strong, making her anguish all the more compelling.

But Clint just holds out forever. After everything he put her through, the ending cried out for something big to happen; an “I’m sorry, please marry me” did not cut it. It was one of the least satisfying endings I’ve ever read and simply spoiled the book for me.

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