I was a bit obsessed with reading this weekend, just decided to have a read and read and read. So I read three books, but two were romances. the other one was the science one from Richard Dawkins.
These two romance books were both written in the same year, 2004, by accomplished authors. They are very different. One of them I liked, the other one I didn't.
A Loving Scoundrel by Johanna Lindsey and The Waitress by Melissa Nathan. I read The Waitress first, it's about a group of Londoners who all have messed up love lives and struggle to get by in a modern world. Our heroine, Katie, is working as a waitress is a dull cafe that caters to the commuter crowd. It's dead end until she can figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. She is 24 at this point. The story starts at the engagement party of one her pals where she meets Dan, the ex of one of her friends. They are tipsy and have lots of in-depth drink induced chat that leads to a fabulous kiss. Oh yes, a kiss, a kiss to beat all kisses, a kiss that makes Buttercup and Wesley look like snogging teens: A Glittery Tongue Tangle as opposed to a Glittery Hoo-ha. I mean it was so good, he didn't even have to cop a feel to make her toes curl. Cor, that be some top tongue action going on between those lips.
They have a disaterous first date where she has a panic attack and walks out of the restaurant while he's in the toilet. Later, he and his partner buy out the owner of her cafe and Lo! Dan is her new boss. He's a bit bitter about the mid-date dump, especially after the GTT.
It's at this point I started to feel a bit let down in the story, a great build up and I wanted some top dialouge and reparte that lead to a passionate reunion, but what I got treated to was an exercise in "How to write Beta Heroes and their friends" where suddenly everyone became soppy, self-involved and over-emotional. I mean all the men cry, and not even over something serious like someone's death but over stress and being dumped. Big sobbing boo-hoos. the women all seem bitter and decidedly bitchy (except the family members) scheming and not ever to be trusted; even the best friend. It becomes such a tangle in inner-city "Mememe!" isms that I was flipping pages to skim to the dialogue muttering to myself "Get to the point, love." but it all got a bit washed out. Problem was: Too many people who didn't have a good reason to exist, too many subplots that didn't have anything to do with the main couple. It was too much like having lunch with a pal hopped up amphetamines intent on gossiping about people you've never met.
There is a HEE, which is fine. But all we ever get in one more drunken kiss. Yes they only seem able to have the GTT when drink is introduced. But the ending isn't any kind of permanent commitment, it's more: We're free to date now! I kept up with it for 500 pages so they could date freely. I just kept wanting a bit more Alpha in both of them.
Which is where I scored with my Lindsey. I've always loved Johanna Lindsey novels, and have read many. This is another installment of the Malory saga, here we've got Jeremy Malory, the son of James the Gentleman Pirate. He needs to help his pal Percy recover some jewelry he lost in a bet so they decided they'll need to steal the items and the best way to do that is to find a top thief. Which they catch, a young boy who sneaks into their room and tries to nick Percy's wallet. Yet, like his dad, Jeremy can tell this "boy" is nothing of the sort. It's of course, our heroine, Danny.
There's a lot of excellent banter between these two, a touch of Eliza Doolittle and there's the passion. Now, Lindsey shows us how you can have sex and passion in a romance novel without it becoming lewd and distracting. It's all about the saucy talk, the knowing glances, the averted eyes, and blushes; there's a lot of blushing in this one, Danny should just tell people she's sunburned.
Where this one also has too many characters, it's not a problem, because each of them actually help propel the plot and enrich the story. Not merely because it's full of cameos from the previous Malory stories, but even as a stand alone book, it works. The story isn't overworked with too many subplots and they all have a very a, b, c easy resolution.
My only concern was that it was easy to figure out whodunnit, and it did rely heavily on coincidence. I also found the constant reassertion that Danny was The Most Beautiful in the World Ever a bit much, and likewise, Jeremy was just The Most Handsome. Honestly, I could figure that out myself, I didn't need reminding every three pages.
Neither book is exactly what you call challenging, but fall into the category of fun quick reads. I was able to walk to work and read at the same time, and finished both in a day and a half. I think it's obvious I preferred the Lindsey and it's just that the characters are more my kind of people; strong of mind, word and spirit. I get enough of whimpering betas in real life to last me a lifetime.
(To alleviate my guilt about giving a negative review of Melissa's book, as she sadly died in 2006 of cancer, I've donated a wee bit to Cancer Research)