Thursday, July 5, 2007

Still With The Harlequins

I'm a total sucker for first person narration, which is why I had Meeting At Midnight by Eileen Wilks gathering dust in the TBR. It's part of Silhouette Desire's "Man Talk" series - books told entirely in the hero's point of view. Unfortunately this one didn't work for me as well as it should have.

Ben McClain is in a serious auto accident that leaves him near death. Crawling through the snow he sees an angel, then the next thing he knows he's lying in the hospital ER. The angel in question turns out to be Seely Jones, an out of work waitress, hippie child and free spirit. She also used to be a paramedic, and Ben hires her as his personal nurse while he's recuperating at home.

So what doesn't work here? Well, Meeting At Midnight is part of a series featuring the McClain family, and while Wilks does a wonderful job keeping readers up to speed I found the inclusion of these secondary characters intrusive. Hey, this is only a 180 page book - I want the hero and heroine. I don't really care about the hero's brother, Duncan, his wife, Gwen, or his pregnant little sister, Annie. Also, there's back story that involves Gwen. Ben knocked her up, she married his brother - which frankly skeeves me out. So Ben has naturally been pining for Gwen and is a little resentful of Duncan's relationship with little Zach. Also, there's some woo-woo in this story - which really annoyed me since I was reading an SD novel. Hello?! Category is the last bastion of contemporary romance. It's the one place where I should be able to find a nice, contemporary story without getting blind-sided by paranormal crap or serial killers. Too be fair, this was published in 2004 (well before my burn out of all things paranormal) - but the back cover copy from Harlequin doesn't exactly scream "woo-woo."

This makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the story. I did - but only when the author dumped the other stuff and concentrated on why I picked this book up in the first place - the hero and heroine. I also liked the first person narrative quite a bit, although during a love scene the hero tells the heroine that she "feels like rose petals." I'm sorry, no guy (not even a gay one) on the planet would ever say that. Final Grade = C

Now this is more like it. The Wrong Man For Her by Kathryn Shay is a sequel to an earlier Harlequin SuperRomance, Tell Me No Lies, but this one stands alone very well. This one follows my Shay pattern - I really love her heroines. But because of this, when her heroes do something stupid (and they usually do) that hurts the heroine that I like so much - well I spend the whole novel wanting to kick him in an uncomfortable area.

Nick Logan has been lugging around some serious baggage. His father was sent to prison for embezzling from his bank job, then his mother literally kicked him out of the house at 16 because she couldn't handle him. Bad stuff happened to Nick on the streets, but he eventually turned himself around and is now a teen counselor. He moves back to Rockford, New York to take a job at the Rockford Crime Victims' Center under his old mentor - only to discover his mentor isn't the boss anymore. Dr. Madelyn Walsh is.

Maddie and Nick used to work together and had a relationship. She has baggage too (she was raped), but it's Nick who broke it off when things got too "heavy" between them. The fact that he dumped her after a pregnancy scare doesn't exactly endear him to me. Maddie's a smart girl though and knows that while she loved (OK, loves) Nick, trying to have a healthy relationship with him is a train to Nowhere-ville. He is unwilling to deal with his past. Maddie (rightly so) knows that until Nick deals with that past he'll be incapable of having any sort of normal, healthy, romantic relationship. So they spend a lot of time trying to keep it professional and naturally fail miserably.

Weaved into the story is Nick and Maddie's work with a group of troubled teens, all of whom have been victimized in one form or another. There were some moments that felt a little preachy to me, but generally speaking it's easy to see that Shay is quite passionate about Victim's Rights. I also really liked the fact that Maddie called Nick on most of his BS. Nick hurt her, a lot, and she's not about to let him steamroll her. This is no shrinking violet that runs to the bathroom to "cry" when her ex says something hurtful to her. She dishes it right back at him.

Not my favorite Shay, but a good, strong emotional read. Final Grade = B

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