So over the holiday vacation, I plowed through several older romance anthologies — I could read shorter novellas in between other activities.
Hot and Bothered by Laura Bradley, Gayle Callen, Lori Foster, Victoria Marquez
Originally published in print in 2001; now available in ebook
Four novellas: three contemporaries and an historical. One excellent, one average, one that needed more work and space, and one that was very bad.
Luring Lucy by Lori Foster
Four years ago, Lucy caught her husband in bed with another woman; the marriage hadn’t been good for a while, and that was the final straw. Officially though, she is a widow–her husband died in a car accident before the divorce was final. Even after all this time, she doesn’t think she wants another relationship, but she knows she really misses the closeness and touching and sex. So she decides to spend a week at the summer house and have a fling with the lawn maintenance guy or someone. Her two teenagers can stay with ‘Uncle Bram’, the man who had been their father’s best friend, remained loyal and supportive to Lucy, had often given the kids more attention than they got from their father when he was still alive. What Lucy doesn’t know is that Bram has had the hots for her for twenty years. He was too honorable to make a play for his friend’s wife, but now she is free and considering other men–if she’s going to bed any other man, he’s determined it will be only him. And he’s going to explain that to her in very clear terms, then spend the week showing her how much she will enjoy sex, and hopefully the rest of her life, with him.
I loved this story–it was worth the price of the book. Lucy is 39, has two teenage children, worries about extra weight on her hips and thighs, and covers up the silver in her hair. A heroine I can identify with! And Bram is absolutely yummy–gorgeous and very alpha, but also honest and forthright, caring and considerate. He doesn’t play games. He loves Lucy for her intelligence, determination, strength, loyalty, and backbone. Yes!! My kind of man! The build-up of sexual tension in the story is incredible, almost as incredible as the first sizzling sex scene. I want to be Lucy! I want Bram!
Truth or Dare by Laura Bradley
Fatal and near-fatal accidents have dogged the recent shows of the World Bullriding Professionals Tour. Some people are beginning to question whether they were really ‘accidents’, although no one can say why anyone would want to sabotage the tour or hurt the competitors. P.I. Shay McIntyre is hired by an old friend of her father to go undercover as a reporter and investigate everyone associated with the events. Unfortunately, she is distracted by the fact that the main suspect, top-winner bullrider Luke Wilder, is also the most tempting and irresistible man she’s ever met.
The atmosphere of the professional bull riding world is realistically portrayed. There, I knew I could find a good thing to say about this story. But that’s it–just one. I found the hero and heroine unlikeable, nasty and remarkably stupid. Tortured hero Luke goes around being reckless and angry because he feels his life is ruined and his family hates him. Why? Because his rich daddy wouldn’t continue to pay him if he wasn’t working. Gee, how awful, he might actually have to support himself on what he earns doing what he loves, riding bulls. And Shay is supposedly a private detective, but demonstrates absolutely no abilities or knowledge about that profession. Everyone else has to tell her what to do, what she should be investigating, where to go and what to say. Throughout the story we are told she is independent and assertive–but she keeps doing stupid things and needing to be rescued by the hero. She spends all her time drooling over the Luke and making childish bets with him. The height of their relationship is playing Truth or Dare, a game popular with immature teenagers where the goal is to make people admit humiliating things or perform embarrassing acts. I won’t describe all the idiocies of Luke and Shay’s behavior or the absurdities of the plot–the list would be longer than the story. Give it a pass–not worth any of your reading time.
Compromised by Gayle Callen
Historical; set in London. Lady Elizabeth wants to make Lord Wyndham jealous so that he will finally ask for her hand in marriage. So she takes a moonlit stroll in the garden with a man she’d never seen before this ball. However, they get a bit carried away and are observed in a very compromising position. Elizabeth ends up married to the unknown John Malory, whom she assumes is a poor country squire willing to wed her only for her dowry and family name. She wanted a wealthy, sophisticated, fashionable, oh-so-snooty man like Lord Wyndham. Can she see who is actually the better man?
This is one of those stories that I think could have been much better as a full-length book rather than a novella. The plot line and characters have a lot of potential, just needed the space to be better developed. It was all a bit rushed–things happened too quickly to be believable. Would a young noblewoman of that era really have let a man she’d met ten minutes ago, whose name she didn’t even know, put his hands absolutely everywhere on her body? More time for interaction between hero and heroine would have made that development plus her eventual enlightenment of a man’s true value more interesting and believable.
Treading Dangerous Waters by Victoria Marquez
James is determined to protect his elderly father from the fortune-hunting bimbos who try to trap him. And James assumes that Daniel’s new girlfriend is young and beautiful Sofia, not Sofia’s widowed Aunt Lucita. Sofia really wants to help her beloved aunt marry Daniel; if that means playing up to the obnoxious James during a summer cruise, so be it.
An amusing and light story, a good summer read. The details of the happy ending could be predicted from the beginning, but it was fun getting there.