First the hit:
Romantic Notions, by Roz Denny (Harlequin Romance No. 3122)
Synopsis: When Sam Court came raging into Brynn Powell’s lingerie shop, Romantic Notions, to return the frivolous undies his thirteen-year-old daughter had bought, he was shocked to find himself attracted to the proprietor.
Sam disapproved of female vanity. Disapproved of women like his glamorous and unreliable ex-wife...a category that included former fashion models who “hawked filmy underwear.”
But despite appearances, Brynn was really a sensible home-and-hearth person. And she had to wonder if a one-time hockey great with a few too many bruises and an ex-model with far too many responsibilities could ever make a match of it.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 1991; 187 pages; purchased at a library book sale in February 2011.
My thoughts: At one of the annual library sales we go to they always have sealed boxes of books for sale, and I try to get at least one romance box. Some of the books will be good, some will so so, and some will be little gems, like this one. I'd never read a Roz Denny book until now, and what a wonderful introduction to a new to me author.
Brynn was a successful underwear model before coming home to care for her younger brother, who at age 15 needs a kidney transplant, after their parents passed away. But her real passion was design, and in addition to taking over the running of her late mother's shop, she sells her own line of lingerie. Before leaving New York, she had her heart broken by a man who she thought she was in love with at the time, and her focus in life now is to work and take care of her brother and the mounting medical bills. She's not interested in dating or being in a relationship.
Sam Court is a very well known hockey player who has left California (I think that's where he came from) in the hopes of providing a more wholesome life for his 13 year old daughter. He's a little older than the rest of the players on his hockey team, and starting to feel his aches and pains. His ex-wife was consumed by her looks and trying to become famous, and he overcompensates now by being too strict with his daughter.
Brynn and Sam clash from the moment they meet, which is standard fare for these older Harlequins, and which I have come to love and expect. The relationship builds up slowly, tentatively, almost grudgingly. It's a sweet story with wonderfully written characters, including the kids who are integral to the story and not just plot devices (see next review for example). Roz Denny, also known as Roz Denny Fox, is definitely on my radar now and I'll be snatching up everything of hers I can find.
And now the miss:
Wanted: Bodyguard, by Carla Cassidy (Bodyguard of the Month/Harlequin Intrigue Large Print, No. 1221)
Synopsis: Special Agency Riley Kincaid was fearless when it came to hunting ruthless criminals. But he was clueless when it came to marriage. Even a pretend one. Now, faced with a gorgeous single mother who needed protection from the killer next door, Riley was forced to play the doting husband and loving father...then walk away when the danger had passed. Too bad nobody warned him that Lana Tyler and her little girl could stir up feelings Riley had firmly avoided all his life. Claiming the key to everyone's survival meant having razor-sharp focus on the mission, Riley did everything he could not to be alone with his temporary wife. Which was turning out to be his toughest assignment yet...
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2010; 280 pages; purchased at a library book sale in February 2011.
My thoughts: In that same box of books I mentioned above came this dud. Lana is a widow, her policeman husband having been killed two years ago. She lives alone with her young daughter, Haley, and makes a living designing jewelry, which she sells at jewelry shows and online. One day two agents come knocking on her door and announce that they need her help. They believe her next door neighbor is a serial killer, and they want to put an undercover agent in her home for clandestine surveillance so they can hopefully gather enough evidence to make an arrest. The undercover agent will pose as her new husband, with a flimsy cover story of having corresponded online for several months before meeting in person and getting married in Vegas. And they give Lana about thirty minutes notice before her fake husband moves in and sets up his camera equipment in her guest room.
Lana is likeable enough. She loves her daughter and someday she would like to marry again, but she is determined not to marry another man like her husband, who everyone revered but who had his flaws, which are revealed to us slowly over the course of the book. Riley is also likeable enough. He's something of a playboy, going from casual encounter to casual encounter, never getting emotionally involved with a woman. Lana is completely not his type, so of course he's surprised to realize he's attracted to her. His banter with Lana is often amusing, making me laugh at times even as I'm thinking what a sleaze he is.
My biggest issue was the child, Haley. She is constantly described as a toddler, but she does not talk or act like one, and I was often distracted by wondering how old she actually is. She's very precocious, but not amusingly so. From the minute Haley meets Riley she begins calling him Daddy, even after Lana reminds her he is not her daddy. When Lana and Riley share their first kiss, they are interrupted by Haley coming into the room:
“Mommy. Daddy. Stop kissing and talk to me.” (pg 79)
Riley tries to get Haley to call him by his first name, and she compromises by thereafter calling him “Daddy Riley”, which, gag.
Later Lana and Riley go to a weekend jewelry show, leaving Haley with one of Lana's friends, who has a daughter named Kim who we are told is five years old. When Lana says goodbye to Haley:
“Mommy, go,” Haley said as she squirmed to get free of Lana's embrace. “Me and Kim have stuff to do.” (pg 171)
Now, seriously, do any toddlers really talk like that? No, really, I'm seriously asking you. I haven't been around many toddlers since my own children were that age. Right now I only know one toddler personally, a little girl of about 2 1/2, and I can guarantee she does not talk like Haley. Maybe Haley is actually Kim's age, 5 or so? But then she wouldn't be a toddler, right? Aren't toddlers generally between, like, one and three? Anyway, Haley came off to me as a caricature of a cartoon child. The first time she approaches Riley and lifts her arms to be picked up, he shoots a panicked look at Lana, having had zero experience with children. But after that point he seems to be a seasoned pro at child rearing. I like romances with children involved in the story, but this child is strictly a plot device.