Wednesday, August 17, 2011

TBR Challenge 2011: Wendy's Deep Dark Secret

The Book: Beyond Desire by Thea Devine

The Particulars: Historical erotic romance, Zebra, 1993, Out of Print.  Reprinted by Kensington Brava, 2003, edition still appears to be in print.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Only Rosie seems to "get it" (OK, Lisabea too...), but I have mad, insane, crazy love for Thea Devine

The Review:  I need to be upfront about this: I cannot be objective when talking about a Thea Devine book.  I just can't.  Yes, I know her writing style is...uh, colorful.  Yes, I'm well aware her plots are beyond convoluted and tend to cause brain bleeds.  Yes, I see all this, and you know what?  I don't give a good golly gosh darn.  The reason?  This woman saved my life.  Back in 2001, after a string of lackluster romances featuring heroines I wanted to run over with a bus, I read my first Thea Devine.  It was also the first book I ever read that could be construed as erotic romance.  People, it was like the clouds parted, sunshine rained down on me, and a heavenly choir started singing. 

Beyond Desire is vintage Devine, which is to say if I had discovered this book as a teenager (which I was in 1993), it would have warped my fragile lil' mind.  Our fair heroine, Alexandra deLisle has buried both her archaeologist father and her shrew of a mother.  Daddy left behind many secrets, including a mysterious pair of stone bracelets.  Her dippy sister, Allegra, has taken to sleep-walking around their house, searching for something...possibly these bracelets.  Why?  Because she's fallen under the spell of our dastardly villain, Dzmura.

Our hero, Ryder Culhane (!), is another archaeologist of dubious reputation who also appears on the scene looking for those bracelets, but also to take down the villainous Dzmura.  For some added WTFBBQ spice, he also has some sort of sixth sense that smacks more of plot-shortcutting.  When Allegra goes missing, presumably kidnapped by Dzmura, he finds his path blocked by Alexandra who has hidden the bracelets and tells Ryder he must take her along on this merry chase.

See,'s convoluted.  On top of that, Devine hasn't met a set of italics or ellipses she didn't love.  I have a hard time recommending her to anyone who doesn't already have a fascination with her books (hence, when Rosie and I meet over lunch?  We talk about Devine....uh, a lot).

So you're probably wondering, if I can see the flaws, if I can pick apart her books like a cotton ball - why exactly do I love her?  The short answer?  The heroines.  What I love, love, love about Devine is that there are no separate rules for heroine and hero.  Her heroines are allowed to be just as conniving, manipulative, sneaky and mysterious as her heroes.  And when I discovered her books back in 2001, after a string of vapid, insipid books featuring brain-dead ninnies passing themselves off as heroines?

Yeah, you get something like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally:

I'm in it for the soap opera more so than the romance (because honestly, it's a rare book by Devine that works for me at the romance level).  However, I'm also in it for gems like these:
"'Never,' she shot back, 'but of course you are very used to grabbing women in the dark and having them curtsy and say thank you very much."
"You know nothing about manners, Mr. Culhane, nothing at all."

"I know enough to let you precede me out the door."

"Oh  We need not stand on any kind of protocol here, Culhane.  I would infinitely prefer not to have you at my back."
::double swoon::
"She wanted to cut him up into little pieces and stamp on them.  'You have it all wrong Culhane,' she said finally when she had some control over her hostility.  'You were the one yearning all night for that.  And I know it was worth the wait.'"
I wonder if this heroine will marry me?
"'May I say neither do you?' he said acidly.  'But you don't need to think to obey the terms of a bargain.'

"'Thank you, but we've done that already,' she muttered, struggling against him.

'But I prefer you wide awake and willing.'

'And I prefer you far away and disinclined.'

'You win,' he said, dropping his arm abruptly."
And that's why I love me some Ms. Devine. 

I have a devil of a time assigning grades to Devine books - because I know I can't be objective.  Still, even overlooking what I tend to overlook, I had major issues with this one.  Ryder is a bit of a jackass, even by Devine standards.  Alexandra gives as good as she gets for a while, but in the end I'm thinking the path she's chosen isn't all that different from what her precious snowflake sister wanted - and we're to believe the sister is massively warped?  Also, I'll be honest - I love Devine, but her straight-up historicals without any half-cocked paranormal woo-woo just work infinitely better for me on the Guilty Pleasure scale.    So yeah, no desire to horde this one among my stash of Devine keepers.  Although now I want to reread Desired....

Final Grade = C


Kwana said...

Oh this was a fun review. I know I have me some Thea on my shelf to pull off.Thanks.
So sorry I totally missed the boat on the TBR this month :-(

nath said...

LOL Wendy :) We all have our guilty pleasures :)

Hannah said...

I missed the boat on the TBR Challenge this month too but I'm trying to comment on others' reviews to spread the love :)

Okay, part of the problem might be that for me, the really steamy titles don't stay in the "unread" pile for long *blush*

Anyhow, I want to check out Thea Devine. I wonder if any of her historical like this one are available in digital, or will be soon.

Samanthadelayed said...

I don't read a lot of steamy stuff so the closest I could get was a Blaze...and to me, it was quite steamy! Will post my short review on Goodreads

Leslie said...

I don't think I've ever read Ms. Devine but I did read some Zebra romances back in the day. Now you've got me curious. :)

Wendy said...

Kwana: I need to get my reading mojo back in order, or else I'm going to miss the boat on next month's challenge! I'm backlogged....AGAIN!

Nath: She is SUCH a guilty pleasure for me. Others read J.R. Ward, I read Thea Devine :)

Hannah: Her more recent books should be available in digital - but her older titles? Not so much. I looked for this one in e, and struck out....

Samantha: Blazes TOTALLY count!

Leslie: By today's standards, this one is pretty tame - but holy smokes! Considering it was published in 1993? Hot, hot, hot stuff!