Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TBR Tuesday (+1) -- It's a Far Far Better Book I Read

Sorry that this is a day late.  I'm still working through the books recommended to me as part of the Keeper Contemporary Challenge.  But I was late getting to today's book, The Passion of Patrick MacNeill by Virginia Kantra, because of the deep, rich bittersweet chocolate that reading Joanna Bourne's The Forbidden Rose turned out to be.  The Bourne book, a prequel to The Spymaster's Lady and My Lord and Spymaster, is rather sad despite the requisite HEA.  Not sad in a bad way, in fact I think it's sad in just the way a spy novel set during the events of the French Revolution should be.

Here's where I confess that I did not read A Tale of Two Cities in high school.  I sat in the back of my English class and knit, a la Madame Defarge.  I just didn't bother to read the book.  (Bad me.)  But I asked Brit Hub 2.0, a Dickens aficionado, how sad AToTC is and he said a 7 or 8 out of 10.  Sounds about right to me.  I would say The Forbidden Rose was maybe a 4 out of 10 -- but if you think about it, that's pretty high for a romance novel.  Angstiness resolved by the HEA is very different from the lingering sadness caused by the upheaval and loss suffered by the protagonists, even if they make it out alive and together.  (It is still a great book; I am not damning it with faint praise, really.)

But that's not really the point of the title to this post.  I went to the library on Monday.  As we all know, library books are at the top of the hierarchy of any TBR pile because of that famous Anglo-American judicial axiom: You snooze you lose.  Either the book goes back or money flows in the form of fines.  But when I went to the library to collect the latest Lee Child thriller (mmm, Jack Reacher!) I picked three other books: a series romance by Nalini Singh, the latest Elizabeth George, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssen.  None of those is a quick read, with the exception of the Nalini Singh. 

As a consequence, I'm going to be reading some non-romance novels for a while.  I'll report in, though, just so you know I am still reading.

However, before I dig into those library treasures, I wanted to get one of the KCC books read.  Patrick MacNeill was published in 1999, but I'm counting it for the KC Challenge because Kantra is primarily a 2000s author.  Patrick's brothers, Con and Sean, also have their romances, both published in the 2000s.  The three brothers grew up in a tight-knit Boston Irish family.  Patrick dated his high school sweetheart, Holly, married her around the time he was in the Marines, and started a family.  But when his son, Jack, was four months old, Holly's car was hit by a drunk driver.  Holly was killed and the baby was badly burned.  Dr. Kate Sinclair was in the hospital when the baby was brought in, but four years go by before she's back at that particular hospital's burn unit.  Jack isn't her patient, only he is, and so she runs into the dad a lot.

The rest of the book is a rather slow but steady progression through the development of their relationship.  There's no one reason why they shouldn't date, assuming the fact that Jack is technically not Kate's patient takes care of any professional conduct issues.  I don't know what the rules are for doctors, but lawyers aren't allowed to date their clients.  If there's any parallel between the two professions, then Jack is Kate's patient no matter what the chart says, and she probably shouldn't be dating the dad.  Enh, not that important an issue.

What struck me as important is that with that one ethical issue off the table, there's sod all reason for these two not to date.  Which means that more than half the book really makes no sense.  Get `em in a relationship -- there's still tension there.  Instead, all blood in the protagonists' heads pools in their groins and they stop thinking.  Alas, this made the ending particularly bloodless.  For me, at least.

So the book is going right back into my "TBS" (to be swapped) pile.  Not a bad book, but not nearly special enough.  And that made me think: what would be special enough?  Well, take the basic elements of a contemporary romance:
  • Hero
  • Heroine
  • Set-up
  • Story arc (for each of them and for their relationship)
  • Conflict and/or tension
  • Emotional dip as they think it might not work
  • Happy ever after ending
Some or all of those have to be special for me to think, "Wow, I'm not letting go of this book."  I fully admit I was more generous back then about what a book had to be like to be a keeper.  But a lot of the books I kept I would still keep.  I could write up specific books by Barbara Delinsky back when she wrote for Harlequin, or for Candace Camp (writing as Kristin James) when she wrote for Silhouette, but I have already done it for two other contemporary authors: Glenda Sanders and Beverly Sommers.  I'm not sure if Beverly Sommers would be a keeper author today the way she was 20 years ago, but the Glenda Sanders books were even better upon rereading.  (We lost an awesome talent the day she stopped writing.)

So I know there can be a series contemporary romance worth keeping.  It could be that some of those other books you recommended are going to be keepers, so keep checking back.  I will read them all, I promise.  And the prize is still on the table!


  1. I just went to the library today - got a crap ton of books. That's a library rule - nothing, nothing, nothing, EVERYTHING on your hold list shows up... panic to read it all before returning is required. lol :)

  2. Oh my, you read a Kantra: they are on my keeper but this is where author adoration steps in: she is a lovely, lovely lady. Erudite, thoughtful, no drama but human. So now someone else will enjoy it!

    The French Revolution: that's like books set at the time of Culloden: so hard for me to read because there was such misery and heartache :(

    ... so when I read lotsa heartache and tugging at heartstrings, I'm not so sure! You know I didn't keep most recent Bourne and now I wish I had ... bad me!!


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