Friday, October 28, 2011

Show Me How You Burlesque

When I was at RWA this summer, living it up as Librarian of the Year (maybe you heard about that?) one of the publisher signings I went to was for Kensington.  Logan Belle was there signing copies of Blue Angel.  I hadn't heard of this book, didn't know a darn thing about it in fact, but I took one look at that cover and had to have it.  Never underestimate the power of a good book cover.

Mallory Dale burns the candle at both ends working for a prestigious law firm in Manhattan.  It's what she's always wanted, and with two lawyer parents, she figured it was her destiny to practice law.  Unfortunately, her first round with the bar exam has left her down for the count.  She's still working insane hours, she's still stung by the fact that she failed the bar first go-around, and now her journalist boyfriend is dragging her into a burlesque club for her 25th birthday.  She is not amused, but decides to suck it up to please Alec.  What she gets is a sexual awakening and identity shift for herself.

It's while she's at the club that night that she meets the headliner, Bette Noir.  Bette is a girl with big ambitions, and when she sees Alec with his boss (a trust fund baby who runs a men's magazine), she sees it as her way to the top.  And to get what she wants?  She's going to sink her claws into Mallory, who may look like a mousy little thing, but is up for some adventures, in and out of the bedroom.

This is a book that starts out in one direction, and then takes a sharp U-turn.  Alec comes off as a major dill-hole in the early chapters.  Besides dragging Mallory around to further his career, he's pressuring her to have a three-some, which she is extremely hesitant about.  When Bette enters into the picture, it sends things topsy-turvy.  Bette is fame-hungry and will do just about anything to become a "somebody."  So she starts to manipulate Mallory to further her own ambitions.

But then, something happens - the story shifts.  Mallory starts hanging out with Bette, blowing off her job, getting entranced by burlesque, and not being remotely truthful with Alec.  Gosh, she just doesn't understand why he's so upset.  I mean, she's only doing a complete 180, and then when they have a fight she runs over to Bette's for a sympathetic ear that quickly turns into something else.  Even though I started out really disliking him, for the bulk of the second half, I kinda thought Alec had a point, and Mallory comes off like a hypocritical rhymes with witch.

What we have here is a good old-fashioned sudsy soap opera plot with some naughty times tossed in the mix.  The downside to that is that I really didn't care about the characters.  Mallory is a hypocrite, Alec is a jerk, and Bette's greatest ambition in life is to be a Kardashian sister (::shudder::).  Now that said, soap opera plots work because they're....soapy.  You keep reading just to see what will happen next.  Oh, and to get to the steaminess, which is well-done here.  The author doesn't make the mistake of skimping on plot, keeps it moving forward, and doesn't get derailed by padding her story with sexual encounters (although have no fear pervs, there's still plenty to go around).

What this book has is good world-building, which no should never just be limited to science fiction, fantasy and paranormal.  The author creates this whole world inside the Blue Angel club.  She populates it with secondary characters that operate on the fringe of the story, and ultimately work to push Mallory towards her awakening.  It's good stuff.

What I'm left with is an enjoyable "world," a soap opera plot that makes my Melrose Place lovin' heart go squee!, but characters that I had a hard time wrapping my arms around.  However it is a page-turner, and I've already started the second book in the Mallory Dale saga, Fallen Angel.

Final Grade = C+

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