Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TBR Tuesday - Sorry, But He Didn't Steal My Heart

I'm still looking for that keeper contemporary series novel, and still not having a lot of luck.  But I'm learning more every time about what I would like to see.

This week's entrant is Nancy Warren's Too Hot to Handle, in which beautiful jewelry designer Lexy Drake stumbles across Charles (Charlie) Pendegraff III burgling her safe.  The rest of the plot involves murder & mayhem, so I'll stop there lest I drift into SPOILER-infested waters.  Let's just say I neither loved nor hated the suspense elements of this book, and I don't think they added to or detracted much from the main plot.

No, what I minded was that I started with four intriguing characters (there's a sub-plot -- unusual in a series contemporary -- involving Charlie's chauffeur and Lexy's assistant) who never got more interesting than they were in the first third of the book.  Not long after I started it, I realized I was excited to get back to it, and I thought, "Ooh, this could be the one!"  Alas, it was not to be.

Here's what was missing for me:  romance.  It's a Harlequin Blaze, so there was sex.  (You'll learn what the Lyons Stagecoach position is -- for more information go here but this is definitely NSFW.)  But apart from the implication that a) our heroine has tried different sex positions, b) knows them by name, and c) tells her assistant about her favorites in such specificity that the answer can be used to verify the heroine's identity, nothing's very sexy about this book.

I can live without the sexiness, and I could even -- in a pinch -- live without the romance.  (No, I don't mean the HEA.  That was there.  I mean there was no satisfying sigh at the end as you close the book happy in the knowledge these two people have found each other -- the reader's HEA, if you will.)  But a book without sex and romance had really deliver the emotion.

Lexy and Charlie maybe score a combined 6 on the emotion scale.  Lexy has a momentary qualm about being in the presence of a criminal (which Charlie is -- the statute of limitations may have run on some of his, shall we say, more egregious crimes, but his activities in the present have dubious legal status; let's just say I'd have preferred to prosecute him than defend him).  Charlie has no qualms about anything, and I'm not sure that Ms. Warren, his creator, does either.  Which makes this a surprisingly morally loose book, but we romance readers are sturdy enough to deal with assassin heroes, highwaymen heroes, etc. . . . in fact, everything but heroes who cheat on their True Loves.  (Some crimes are unforgivable...)

I'm willing to believe they fell in love because I was told they fell in love.  Next week, who knows if they're still in love.  Maybe next week Charlie steals someone else's heart.  Maybe Lexy meets a cute guy who hands her his heart . . . in the form of some blood red rubies.  Any of those scenarios seem about as likely as the one we get, namely that these two people can and will make a life together.

Okay, so I'm building my checklist of the perfect series contemporary.  The following things are optional:
  • Super-rich heroes
  • Super-sexy and/or super-virginal heroines
  • Super-exotic locales
  • Super-unusual occupations
  • Super-sexy meet-cutes
  • Super sex
At least one of the following things are mandatory:
  • Emotion
  • Romance
And, as always, good writing and smart characters -- which Too Hot to Handle had, by the way -- but then I expect that of all the books I read.  (Explains a lot about why I'm a cranky reader, doesn't it?)

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