by Anna Campbell
Hmm, perhaps I should start this review by admitting I've gone to Blazes.
Harlequin Blazes, that is!
I'm a fairly recent convert to this particular line in Harlequin. I read a few of the first ones out - hey, it's a hot, sensual line of romances, of COURSE I tried them! But sadly, they weren't really me.
Then a couple of years ago, I met wonderful Bandita Tawny Weber and fell in love with her writing. Then a good friend (Sharon Archer, an Aussie Medical Romance writer who's great!) recommended Sarah Mayberry's books to me. Add Kathleen O'Reilly to that mix (my Second Helping review of her wonderful LONG SUMMER NIGHTS is here) and you've basically got three of my favorite contemporary authors. And they all write for Blaze!
Recentlly I handed a book in and as my reward, I pulled Tawny and Sarah's latest off the tottering TBR pile. And found to my surprise that the two books shared a common theme, one I always love in a romance - the nerdy Plain Jane who discovers her inner siren under the influence of the passion she finds in the arms of a gorgeous stranger. Who almost always ends up being more than the sexy drifter he appears on the outside.
I think there's a couple of themes most of us find irresistible. One is the bad guy who falls for the 'good' girl and in the process finds redemption (think of all those Regency rake heroes!). Another is the 'good' girl who casts away her inhibitions and finds a completely new side of herself when she surrenders to the wild boy.
One of the lovely parts of the 'good girl' romance is that often it becomes clear that the guy she falls in loves with learns to love her in all her nerdy glory too. There's a deeper connection than suddenly wearing a skimpy bikini or drinking too much and dancing on the tables would immediately suggest.
In HOT ISLAND NIGHTS, Sarah Mayberry's latest, repressed upper-crust English girl (she's not a maiden but she may as well be!) Elizabeth Morgan suddenly discovers the existence of a father she never knew she had and she abandons her restricted life in search of him. This means cancelling her wedding to her boring fiance and flying across the world to Phillip Island in Australia. Actually I had to giggle here! HOT ISLAND NIGHTS conjures up the image of the Barrier Reef or somewhere equally tropical. Phillip Island is south of Melbourne and is so cold, penguins nest there!
However, in spite of this adverse weather report, Elizabeth's island nights become very hot indeed when she starts a reluctant flirtation with handsome drifter Nathan Jones while she waits for her father to get back from preparing for a major yacht race in Sydney. It's not long before she sees beneath Nathan's sham facade of casual, easygoing layabout who is interested in nothing but surfing. And then the real trouble starts!
This book lures you in with its tale of a woman learning to let herself go and you're enmeshed by the time it delves the depths of human emotion. I found myself laughing a few times but at other times, I found myself with tears in my eyes, especially as we discover more about Nathan's past. I'm in awe that Sarah manages to pack such a profound variety of human experience into 215 pages. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Tawny's book RIDING THE WAVES also starts with our nerdy heroine deciding to take a holiday, this time to Mexico. Where you guessed it, she meets a guy she assumes is a toyboy interested purely in sex and surfing (surfing seems to be the new black!). Believing that what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, she embarks on a wild fling that she intends to leave behind when she returns to her real life.
But what happens when her fling follows her home and turns out to be her new colleague?
As you can imagine, sparks fly!
Drucilla is an astronomer (great career for a romance heroine!) who has submerged her sexuality in her career. Her relationships with nerdy fellow scientists never go anywhere and the only place she sees stars is when she's looking through a telescope. All that changes when she meets the gorgeous Alex in Mexico. Little does she know the man she's selected for an unforgettable week of passion followed by a final good-bye is A.A. Maddow, hotshot darling of the astronomy set.
When Alex and Dru meet up again in her lab, he's eager to pursue the relationship. He's glimpsed more than just physical passion in his interactions with Dru. So has she and she's terrified out of her brain! So we're set up for a delicious push-pull between these two smart-mouthed characters. In the process, both Alex and Dru will discover they each have much more to offer than they've ever believed possible.
Like Sarah's, Tawny's books have a surface glitter of wit and humor and sexy fun, but they deal with questions deeply important to all of us. How can we be our best? Can we let go of the past to trust love? How much fun can we have in bed? Yeah, I know, but honestly, they're Blazes after all!
Again, RIDING THE WAVES is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
So do you have a favorite good girl gone bad romance? Is it a theme you enjoy?