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.
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, seriously...it'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."::swoon::
"You know nothing about manners, Mr. Culhane, nothing at all."::double swoon::
"I know enough to let you precede me out the door."
"Oh no...no. We need not stand on any kind of protocol here, Culhane. I would infinitely prefer not to have you at my back."
"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.'And that's why I love me some Ms. Devine.
"'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."
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