Wednesday, January 17, 2018

#TBRChallenge 2018: Flower in the Desert
The Book: Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker

The Particulars: Hot Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Novella, 2014, Digital-Only

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: Oh, it's probably been a couple of years now, but a bunch of bloggers did a read-along, book-club-like thingy with this novella.  What ended up tipping me over the edge though was that author Jill Sorenson liked it.  Jill is one of a handful of authors that when she recommends something, I tend to like it.  Plus it was reasonably priced to the point where I had no qualms about taking a chance on an unknown-to-me author.

The Review: I try to concentrate on my print TBR for the Challenge but after DNF'ing three Harlequins in a row, I felt like my print TBR could no longer be trusted.  So I went to my Kindle and dug up this novella.  Which, like all things in my TBR, I meant to read ages ago.

Ruby Lucas is having a really bad day.  She regains consciousness to discover she's trapped in the trunk of a car.  She's boiling hot, thirsty, and disoriented.  She's a romance heroine, so naturally she gets herself free only to discover she was locked in the trunk of her car and driven out to the middle of the Grand Canyon.  Oh, and whomever tried to kill her took her car keys.  Because, of course.

Ruby's ex-husband has reported her missing.  Since Ruby lives in Las Vegas and she disappeared in the Grand Canyon - the FBI is on the case.  They end up calling in Jase Rivers, a civilian contractor and experienced tracker who knows the area like the back of his hand.  He takes one look at Ruby's photograph and is a goner.  Given the details of the case he firmly believes she's dead and he's being brought in to recover a body and make a case for murder (likely against her ex-husband because that dude just smells wrong).  Imagine his surprise when he finds her alive.  Barely.  But she's alive.

First things first, I was expecting a darker story, but this is pretty much straight-up hot contemporary.  The sex is what I would classify as "what erotic romance read like 10 years ago" which is to say what people are calling "hot contemporary" these days (Cripes, I'm feeling old).  Anyway, I really liked both of these characters.  Ruby is like your best friend, or the woman you don't mind seeing at play dates (she has two young children with her ex).  Jase is your standard loner hero, and with a huge sigh of relief, even though he is part-Native American, there's none of the mystical noble savage mumbo jumbo that has plagued Native romance heroes for too many years to count.  Once they're out of the Grand Canyon the main driving conflict is their difference in lifestyles.  Ruby lives in Las Vegas (and likes it) and Jase is a loner who prefers to live in the middle of nowhere (literally).

Where this story doesn't quite work is when you start squinting in between the lines.  When Jase sets out to find Ruby he's carrying an FBI issued radio.  When he finds Ruby does he use said radio to alert them he's found her?  No, of course not.  Yes, Ruby is near death and he's dealing with that - but a quick "Hey I found her, we're at these coordinates" doesn't seem like it would take that much effort and/or time.  OK, it is raining rather hard when he finds her so maybe the signal is crap.  But we'll never know because our hero doesn't even bother to check.  He doesn't think about the radio in his backpack until, naturally, "something happens" to where he loses said radio and they're stranded with limited supplies and no immediate help on the horizon.

Does it juice some more suspense into the narrative?  Yes.  Does the hero come off looking incompetent when he's supposedly "an experience tracker?"  Yes.

Also, a reminder to those reading this post that I like short reads.  After all, I'm the girl who can't say no to a Harlequin.  But I feel like the author tried to do a little too much with this story in a novella format.  Ruby is abducted, rescued from the Grand Canyon, the Bad Guy is caught, there's a trial, there's some totally reasonable drama with her kids, and oh yeah....THERE'S A ROMANCE!  There's leaps ahead in time, and a healthy amount of Insta-Lust/Insta-Love.  I kind of wonder what this story could have been had the author fleshed it out to single title length.  I think it could have been a really great survival romance with lots of action-packed twists and turns. 

As it is?  I liked this but wasn't wow'ed by it.  It's a good, solid read and it kept me engaged - which after DNF'ing my first three attempts for this Challenge is a minor miracle.  I feel like this is hovering somewhere between a high C+ and a low B- and well, I like to round up.

Final Grade = B-


Dorine said...

Glad you finally found one. Yikes -- 3 DNFs, I think I would have given up. Good for you on the perseverance. I love survival stories - this one sounds pretty good.

TAM said...

Speaking of Jill Sorenson, I’m sad her social media/publishing presence hasn’t been very active this year - I’m a big fan.

Jill said...

I'm here, I'm here ;-)

I feel like I'm all out of whack, because I picked "The Brightest Day", an anthology based around Juneteenth (a day commemorating the end of slavery) So, you know, I should be r reading it in June or maybe saving it for the "holiday challenge," but nope, read it now.

There are four stories, following four different Black heroines in different eras going from right after the Civil War to Freedom Riders in the 60s. The authors were Kianna Alexander, Piper Hughley, Lena Hart,and Alyssa Cole.

And yes, "Let It Shine",the Alyssa Cole story, was my favorite. Sofie, A young woman who is still finding her way out of her shell, meets up with her childhood friend, Ivan, at SNCC meeting. Ivan is sweet, a totally buff boxer, but also, white and Jewish. And they're living in Virginia in the early 60s, so you know it's not going to be an easy road. Alyssa Cole ends it in a satisfying way.

I did get something out of all the stories, but most strongly recommend the Alyssa Cole as an A read. Also, like all holiday anthologies, some had stories had a stronger connection to the holiday than others, but I still learned more about Juneteenth and got to try some new authors.

Carole Rae said...

Mhm I expected this would a hair darker after reading the summary. But yayy! I'm glad it wasn't another DNF. I just had my first one of the year. UGH!

Wendy said...

Dorine: Yeah, 3 DNFs were not good. I impulse grab a lot with Harlequin and over time my tastes have changed. All three of these DNFs were tropes that I just didn't care for or the writing style wasn't clicking for some reason.

TAM: Me too! I think she got a day job, but I miss her so much. I'm hoping she's still writing because I really like her books!

Jill: Ugh, I have had that anthology in my TBR for a while now. So many books... Glad to hear you liked it!

Carole: Yeah, I was expecting a darker read too and was surprised when it really wasn't.