A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

The Probably-Not-So-Big Harlequin Presents Read #148

I’m hopelessly out of order at this point, but oh well. I keep getting stuck on The Hawk and the Dove, which will never download from Open Library for me. (I’ve checked it out at least 3 times.) But a lot of ancient Anne Mather books have now been digitized, so I may backtrack.

Harlequin Presents #148 – For the Love of Sara by Anne Mather

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I kind of love this cover. The heroine looks like she has a terrible headache, and by God, she deserves one.

Best Line:

“Where’s Greece?”

“Sara, I told you. It’s a long, long way away, where the sun shines all the time.”

“I don’t want the sun to shine all the time.”

For the Love of Sara was published about 3 years after the first Harlequin Presents but it’s like another world. Virginity is still a hot button — heh — and sex is only in the past, but the whole tone of the story is different. It actually starts off with the hero’s point of view, though it does drop it later to keep things suspenseful (a trick that still happens in some HPs.)

Mather tended to be an envelope pusher, which is great in theory but in practice often ends up being fairly icky. This definitely scores high on the ick scale, with the heroine engaged to the father of her former lover and the grandfather of her child. Talk about bad parents — apparently that’s how much dear old dad wanted to score off his son. Another way in which this book is different is that the hero’s father is considerably worse than the Evil Other Woman, who actually isn’t all that bad. And there’s a well drawn, far from angelic child character.

The book on the whole is thoughtful and intriguing, which perhaps makes it worse that the heroine stunk up the whole thing.  I was seriously tempted to change my “heroine needs a kick in the pants” tag to “heroine needs to be thrown through a plate-glass window.” However, this is a very tense time in our lives, so I’ll try to keep it sane.

But seriously, what an awful, dislikable person Rachel is. I’m not generally upset by secret baby stories, but Rachel is so obviously at fault here, and so damn stubborn for so long.

*Spoilers*

— She kept her pregnancy secret from Joel, and continues to distrust him and try to push him away, despite his interest in getting to know his child.

— Rachel is marrying James because he’s promised to donate a kidney to Sara. She assumes that if the operation is not successful, she won’t have to go through with the marriage. (Hey, dude still gave up his kidney!) Later when he asks if she was thinking about changing her mind about marriage after the operation, she’s indignant to be asked.

— After Rachel has an old skool fall — from running away from Joel while refusing to listen to what he’s actually saying — and requires surgery, her main freak out is about her head being shaved.

Joel is no saint, mind you, especially when he mocks Rachel for insisting that just because she was a virgin when they had sex, he should marry her. Though it is fairly mockworthy, for 1975. But he takes responsibility for his behavior, which is more than Rachel ever does.

So — not a bad book, but I kind of wish Joel had just sued for custody and never had to deal with Rachel again.

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Review: Tropical Storm by Stefanie Graham

reviewed from an e-arc

What tickled my fancy: Good angsty beginning

What ticked me off: Pretty much everything else.

Who might like it: I can’t answer this in a sincere way.

I would like to be kind to this book, because I’ve been in a dreadful reading slump and it not only sparked my interest but even held it for awhile, despite some flawed prose. But eventually the sheer ridiculosity of the characters’ behavior overwhelmed everything else.

Jessica, known as Storm, and her new husband Cairo Kane have only one interrupted night together, when she’s dragged back home by her wealthy, snobbish parents. When Cairo follows to fetch her, Storm has already been convinced to reject him for his own good. Although she regrets it immediately — even more so when she realizes she’s pregnant — it takes her  seven years to track him down.

So… having gotten the information that her husband is now a hotelier in Jamaica, does Storm contact him, explain the situation, and ask if they can try again?  Oh, good one! No, of course she takes her son there — having gotten up his adorable expectations that Cairo will be his new daddy! — and tries to seduce Cairo with her maternally-unhampered hotness, while letting him believe that she actually married someone else and had a son with him, for some neurotic reason of her own. That’s only the start of Storm’s tsunami of lying, which just gets more ludicrous by the chapter. One stupid fear-induced lie per romance novel I can live with, but when you’re caught by the person you’re trying to have a meaningful relationship with, and you then just keep on lying to him til you’re blue in the mouth, I call foul on a happy ending.

The Jamaican paradise setting made me uncomfortable too, especially given that Cairo is white and all the narrative support staff in his life is black. I’m sure this was well intentioned, but it inadvertently plays a lot into racist culture. The narrative flaws were along these lines:

Seemingly unaffected by Shane’s weight, Storm watched as strong purposeful strides brought Cairo closer.

Can you tell who is doing what in that sentence? I bet your guess is wrong. *

Cairo is a pretty typical “disappointed in love so cynical” hero/”you must marry me” secret-baby daddy. Then we got to him meeting with his erstwhile mother-in-law and demonstrating how little power she has over him now by pressing his thigh next to hers and playing with her hair. Gag!

The fake conflicts just get worse and worse; I literally only finished this because I felt I had to for grading purposes, and my reward was that it ended with an angry rape. (Okay, that answers the grading question.) That’s followed by this conversation:

“Ever since you got here all that you have done is tell a series of lies.”

“I never lied to you, Cairo.” Storm argued.

Even Captain Picard doesn’t have a facepalm big enough for that.

 

* Answer: Cairo is carrying Shane.

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Review: To Love, Honor, and Betray by Jennie Lucas

What tickled my fancy: Better ending than usual.

What ticked me off: Worse beginning than usual.

Who might like it: Fans of Harlequin Presents who can deal with an awful hero.

I started this and then realized I had previously DNF’d it with extreme prejudice. For some reason it was going down easier this time, and once past the bickerfest beginning, which made me want to flush both main characters down the toilet, it was perfectly readable. By the end, I quite liked it.

Extremely pregnant Callie is about to marry her best friend, when Eduardo — her former boss, and the father — turns up. The past history between them is so nasty, it makes it hard to blame Callie for deciding she and the baby would be better off without this guy. Eduardo continues to fail to endear himself to me by kidnapping Callie, forcing her to marry him, and then completely cutting her off from her family — even covertly suppressing her letters to and from them.

***SPOILER FOR THE END****
Read the rest of this entry »

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