OK, so I just now read Fallen From Grace by Laura Leone.
Yes, I did buy it brand new back in 2003 - and yes, it's been sitting in my TBR for the last 2 years. I have a sickness, and I'm willing to admit that.
But back to the book - man was this good. And I mean really good. Most of the discussion I've heard on this book centers around the unconventional love story, but I was struck by something more. I'm getting ahead of myself though.
Sara Diamond is a former mystery author in a pinch. She's just been dumped by her publisher and her agent (shades of Leone's career me thinks), so she opts to sell her condo, move into a dumpy apartment and work on a new book idea. Still, she's a mite depresssed.
Then she meets her next door neighbor. Ryan Kinsmore would perk up any woman - he's 9 years younger than Sara, funny, charming, sweet (he rescues stray animals!), and he's warm for her form. The problem? Oh, turns out he's a male prostitute working for a high-priced escort service. Minor detail that.
Ryan is almost too good to be true. It's hard to believe a former street kid turned hooker being this fantastically dreamy - but hell, this is a romance novel so who am I to quibble? Sarah is also great, and she gives the author a forum to rant about the world of publishing. Their love story unfolds slowly, and is rather endearing. I did think the book ended a little quickly, but Leone wraps up all her loose ends - even ones I didn't see as critical.
But you know what was really great about this book? The dialouge. Admittedly I'm a dialouge whore, and by the second chapter of this book I was in love. Leone really outdoes herself, especially where Sara and her sister Miriam are concerned. These women talk like sisters. They interact like sisters. They're damn near perfect.
It will probably surprise some (OK, readers who won't go near this book with a 50 foot pole) that this book really isn't about sex. Yes, Ryan is a prostitute - but sex really plays a minor role in this story. He and Sara aren't going at it like horny squirrels. They're falling in love in a rather traditional way - thanks to chemistry, communication and friendship first. Still, Ryan does have sex for a living, so references to his (how should I put this?) unconventional sexual experiences might send traditional romance readers into a tail-spin. But heck, if you read romantica, these mere passing references probably won't even register.
I really, really, really enjoyed this book. Leone seems to be working primarily on fantasy these days. Pity, since her romance voice is so strong. However, even 2 years after this book was published by small press Five Star, I still think books of this type have a tendency to scare the hell out of the romance reading public, publishers and agents more than it excites them.
Merely an observation from my side of the fence. I say, keep 'em coming.