Tag Archives: category

SBD: is HP gouging readers?

Today’s thought for SBD:  where is the line between innovation and gouging readers?

The Marriage Betrayal by Lynne Graham

(c) August 2011, Harlequin Presents, also published by Mills & Boon as part of their Modern line, June 2011.  Part of a mini-series, The Volakis Vow.

Careless passion, pregnancy surprise…

Sander Volakis goes his own way. He’s forged his reputation in business, rather than relying on the family fortune, and indulges his darkly passionate, wild streak. He has no intention of marrying…

He doesn’t do country weekends, either. Pitching up at Westgrave Manor is a favor to his father and a bore…until he sees Tally Spencer, so pretty and voluptuous that he can’t resist her. Sander’s looking forward to casually seducing her, not knowing that one night with the innocent Tally could end his playboy existence…

Sander and Tally’s story continues next month in Bride for Real.

TMB was…fairly typical for a Presents book.  Virgin heroine, utterly put-upon and in love with a Greek billionaire.  Said Greek billionaire prizes Tally because she’s so different and not of his normal millieu; what he doesn’t know (until too late) is that she’s the illegitimate daughter of a member of his business/social circle.  Add in a surprise pregnancy resulting from ignorance about birth control + two towering egos + latent doormat syndrome = The Marriage Betrayal.  The only slight difference was that both hero and heroine were relatively young, 25 and 20.  In terms of plot and characterization, there was nothing original here and the execution was fairly uninspired.

I suppose I would feel less cranky about this book if it wasn’t for the excerpt of the next book of the series that was included at the end.  TMB got to the end and the h/h were, in theory, happy and in love, expecting a child.  And yet in the excerpt of next month’s book, we fast forward at least a year and learn that the infant was either stillborn or died very young and the h/h are separated.  So readers get to pay for the pleasure of reading about a second attempt at an HFN or HEA for the very same h/h.  How convenient for HP and the author!  Tell the same story twice!

Okay, marriage in trouble is a legitimate trope in Romancelandia in general and in HP’s in particularly.  Normally, the early part of the marriage, with some happiness, is recounted but is not seen on the page, only the trouble and the reconciliation.  What irks me here is that what is essentially a very long category (or soapy single title) has been split in two.  Readers get to pay to read one ostensible HEA and then are told “oops, no, buy the next book to see if the h/h really are going to be HEA.”

Is this innovation?  The migration of the omnipresent sequel bait of single titles into categories?  Or something less benign?  Being a cynic, I see it as something less benign:  as the publisher reaching into the reader’s pocket.  The publisher’s goal is, of course, for the readers to buy their books.  But this is just cheap, and as a semi-regular HP reader it feels like a money grab.  No sale for me, and I’ll be careful about what HPs I buy in the future.

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M&B: Katrakis’s Last Mistress by Caitlin Crews

A while back Jane at Dear Author blogged that she often bought Mills & Boon Modern releases, and specifically mentioned Caitlin Crews’ Katrakis’s Last Mistress. It will be re-issued by Harlequin as a Presents in 2011, but I ordered a copy from Book Depository (love the free shipping!).

It arrived last week and languished on my coffee table until today.

Payback . . . delivered on a silver platter

Notorious Nikos Katrakis was looking for a new mistress when, out of the blue, heiress Tristanne Barbery offered herself to him. Could satisfaction and revenge really be that easy to obtain?

Tristanne knew better than to play games with a man of such devastatingly lethal charisma as Nikos. But, though she had a good idea of the kind of sacrifice she was offering, she had no choice.

To Nikos’s surprise, Tristanne was not the weak, biddable good-time girl he’d expected . . . and soon his plans for vengeance came crumbling down around him.

The cover art: Quite appropriate in this case – I am impressed! There is a scene in the book in which the heroine wears a scanty red dress while the hero is in formal attire, and while this dress looks longer than the dress described in that scene, it comes pretty close.

The book opens with Tristanne joining a party on Nikos’s yacht and asking him for a kiss, then following that up with an offer to be his new mistress. They’ve never met before or even been introduced, but each is aware of who the other is: Tristanne saw Nikos once ten years before and never forgot him, struck by his air and looks, while Nikos has been plotting revenge against the Barbery family because Tristanne’s brother, Peter, ruined his sister and nearly toppled the family business. Underlying Tristanne’s proposition is Peter’s blackmail: he won’t release her trust fund or pay for her mother’s medical treatment unless she more or less whores herself out for his business interests. Tristanne sees Nikos as an attractive target who will please her sleazy brother but has no intention of there being any sex involved. [Yeah, I’m not sure what mistressing entails other than sex, but the no sex part didn’t seem realistic to me. :shrug:]

Anyway, after some verbal fencing and internal bemusement, they eventually succumb to their attraction and have loads of hot sex while vacationing on the Mediterranean. The hot sex is followed by the successful execution of Nikos’s plan to humiliate and ruin the Barbery family, which breaks Tristanne’s heart but also leaves him feeling empty and blighted. Since this is a category romance, there must be a happily ever after, so after drowning his regrets in whiskey and feeling sorry for himself, Nikos hunts Tristanne down and grovels appropriately, apologizing for his revenge and ruination of their relationship. Et voila, all is well again.

KLM has many of the standard HP tropes, but is better than most, I think. I really liked that Tristanne stood up to Nikos and didn’t let him walk all over her during their relationship. Their banter and debates worked really well to demonstrate how their minds matched. Also liked that the hero really did seem to recognize the wrong he was doing, even as he did it, and regretted it later: so often the alpha heroes of romance novels blunder over things and never apologize for the damage they do.

The only things that really made me roll my eyes were: 1) the utter sleaze of the bad guy of the book, Tristanne’s half brother, Peter; and 2) the weak use/excuse of Tristanne’s mother. Her illness (and I’m not really clear on what the illness is or why she doesn’t qualify for government subsidized medicine, since she seems to live in Europe) is what is forcing the entire plot, yet Tristanne spends zero time with her and she has no page space. Further, she apparently let Tristanne essentially be disowned as a teenager but now is expecting her to provide for her care?

This was a quick, fun read, and I look forward to reading more from Ms. Crews.

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SBD: another Robyn Donald category

I’ve gotten out of the habit of scanning category releases. Too many virgins, mistresses, billionaires, greeks, sheikhs and secret babies. But while browsing at B&N last week (or the week before? it all blurs together), I saw that Robyn Donald, perhaps my favorite Harlequin Presents author, had a new book out. Even better, it is set in New Zealand; I’ve harped on this before, but I think one of the best things about Donald’s books is the way setting is almost a character itself. Princes from made up European countries? Meh.

Title: Powerful Greek, Housekeeper Wife (There still had to be a Greek billionaire in the mix somewhere, of course!)

Cover art: fairly standard HP stuff. Somewhat relevant, since as housekeeper/nanny, Iona does spend time in a swimsuit.

The blurb: With the body of a Greek god, a tycoon’s wealth and all the emotion of cold, hard marble, Luke Michelakis is an enigma. Intimidated and out of her depth in his glamorous world, Iona Guthrie has consigned their brief passionate affair to the recesses of her secret memories.

But two years later the powerful Greek and the housekeeper find themselves together again under the same roof, and Luke has a startling proposition: he’s looking for a wife and, as he discovered once before, Iona meets all his requirements….

As usual, not entirely accurate. Iona and Luke had a vacation fling on Tahiti, and Iona basically dumped Luke when he asked her to go back to Europe with him. [He asked her to go, she said no, then he said he’d "look after her" and was looking forward to making her change her mind. Yeah, at that point, the arrogant ass factor was pretty high.] Anyway, they meet again years later when she is organizing the guest apartment he’ll be staying in, helping her sister out with her housekeeping business. Iona herself is a nursery school teacher. [Seriously, housekeeper and nursery school teacher? Could there be any more traditionally gendered jobs for a heroine?]

Luke’s adopted daughter (actually his half-sister) is in need of care, as her nanny has a family emergency, and Luke more or less blackmails Iona into the job. Following that, they end up in a marriage of convenience for purposes of strengthening Luke’s case for custody of his sister/daughter. Add in some comments about women being naturally treacherous, and being unable to speak to other men without being accused of flirting and making promises with her smile, and you have their dysfunctional romance.

I spent the entire time I was reading the book rolling my eyes at the hero’s jerky behavior, which is only slightly mitigated by the fact that readers get snippets of Luke’s POV, and see how much he wants -and loves- Iona. He admits the love part early on, which is a relative rarity.

As an HP, this was slightly better than average. But I probably would not recommend it as an intro to the subgenre for readers new to HPs.

One thing that always perplexes me about HPs is the mistressing. What makes a mistress? Is it being unmarried and having an on-going sexual relationship? Must money change hands? It makes sense to me as a historical construct but loses something in modern relationships for me. Beyond that, I found Luke’s musing that he wasn’t foolish enough to tall in love with his mistresses to be confusing because Iona was never his mistress. Vacation fling /= mistress. When offered the role, she declined. Then employee (nanny, without sex involved). Where then was the mistressing?

Semi-related: Donald’s backlist is gradually being digitized and sold over at eHarlequin. There are several new/old books out this month and next, including…[sorry, meant to put a list here but got sidetracked.]

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Belated TBR: The Bellini Bride by Michelle Reid

This past Wednesday was TBR Challenge day.  I’ve been negligent about the TBR Challenge lately, but I did pull a book off the TBR this month, so here’s my belated report.

Title:  The Bellini Bride
Author:  Michelle Reid
(c)2001 Harlequin/Mills & Boon

Why this book?  I bought a bunch of used Harlequin Presents a while back, part of the backlist of my favorite HP authors:  Robyn Donald, Michelle Reid, Helen Bianchin. Reading them in bulk is a bad idea, though, because too much of a particular trope (rich Greeks! vengeful Spaniards! secret babies and virgin mistresses!) wears out fast.  So a bunch of these were languishing on my bookshelves until Jane at Dear Author reviewed The Bellini Bride and reminded me of what was sitting there.

Wanted: a suitable bride…

Marco Bellini thinks he has it all: success, wealth…and Antonia — his beautiful, sensual mistress.Then his father becomes ill, and Marco feels bound to marry and produce an heir to the famous Bellini fortune.

But who should Marco choose as a bride? Antonia isn’t suitable, but she’s the only woman he wants in his life and his bed. Dare he take his mistress to be his lawful wedded wife?

What do I think about the cover art?  It’s pretty standard Harlequin Presents cover art fare.  More interesting to me is the title: although it has bride, at least it doesn’t include virgin, lover or mistress.  Which sort of makes sense, because I believe they became much more common title elements after 2001.
 

What did I think of the book?  It was pretty good on the Presents scale.  Set among the uber wealthy, with an emphasis on social class and the propriety of place that seems alien and kind of ridiculous to me but is nevertheless the standard European HP milieu.  Secrets and failure to communicate.  But the heroine wasn’t a doormat: she recognized when the hero was being an asshat and called him on it.  Often HP heroes never really apologize for their asshatery, but in this case he did and he acknowledged it in public.

Would I read this author again? Sure.  I’ve read her books before, I’m sure I’ll read more in the future.

Keep or pass on?  Eh, I don’t know.  Although I enjoyed it, I’m probably not going to read it again, so in an effort to reduce clutter, I’ll probably donate it in my next big UBS/PBS/GoodWill purge.

 

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Belated TBR Challenge for February

The date for posting about your February read for Avid Reader’s TBR Challenge was last Wednesday, but I missed it.   Better late than never, right?

The proposed theme for February was virgin heroes, but I couldn’t find one on my TBR shelves.  It’s possible that he could’ve been hiding there, but I didn’t feel like making a huge effort to find one.  Instead, I pulled Kathleen O’Reilly’s August 2009 Harlequin Blaze Hot Under Pressure from the shelf.

She hates flying… Until he gives her a reason not to!

Boutique owner Ashley Taylor hates flying.  Especially when there’s a sugar-fueled little hellion on board.  But then David McLean (sexy!) sits next to her, and suddenly Ashley finds herself hoping the delay will last forever — and that 

David won’t notice her comfy pink bunny slippers (sadly, the opposite of sexy).

David does notice Ashley, and when the flight is delayed overnight, they can’t get to the airport hotel fast enough.  Off with the slippers and in with the zing!  Fortunately, America is filled with cities — L.A., New York, Miami — and nothing says "smoking-hot passion" like an intercontinental affair.

Why this book?  Because I have read and enjoyed a couple of O’Reilly’s earlier Blazes.

What did I think of this book?  Only the fact that I was reading it while on a plane kept it from being a wallbanger.  Seriously, if the entertainment choices offered by the airline had been better, I would’ve abandoned this book.  But I was a captive audience.  The problem wasn’t the writing, it was the characters and the set up.  I thought the heroine was a spineless enabler, and long before I knew what her sister’s problem was I despised them both.  The hero…I liked him only marginally better. 

Also, in what world do khakis and a white shirt equal copier repair guy?  I’ve spent my entire adult life working in offices and I have NEVER seen a copier repair guy in khakis and a white shirt.  Ever.

SPOILER:  

And for the love all of all things fraternal, would contemporary authors PLEASE stop having characters hook up with the siblings of their partners!?!  Dumping your fiancee for her sister?  Not on.  Being friends with benefits with your dead husband’s brother?  Also not on.  Sleeping with your husband’s brother and then divorcing him to marry the brother?  That’s family wrecking, and it belongs in lit fiction, not category genre romance, please.

Three times in the span of a month just pushes all of my squick buttons.  

The only thing I really appreciated about the book was the easter egg of seeing Jamie and Andrew Brooks from an earlier book.

 

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Ugh, don’t remind me of my reading taste as a teenager

I’ve broken down and fallen back on an uninspired but reliable topic for tomorrow’s Readers Gab post: holiday reading.

Of course, I haven’t been inspired for a while. I struggle to write something timely and interesting when my spot on the calendar comes around, but I feel a bit stale. I just don’t have anything new or different to say about Romanceland. Half the time I just want to shrug when a new kerfluffle comes along. It’s not so much that I don’t care as feeling there’s nothing new I can contribute to the dialogue.

Anyway, as I thought about my favorite holiday reads, I was reminded of a holiday-themed category (or maybe novella in an anthology) I read years ago. Have long since forgot the title or even the line, although it seems like it would appropriate for a Harlequin Superromance. All I remember is that the heroine was named Carole Chapman. An orphan, she was a strictly business kind of woman, successful and (I think) happily childless. Enter a baby abandoned on her doorstep as Christmas approached, and a foster father for the baby — I think he may have been the detective to work on the case, too — who wants her to be his new baby mama. I remember loving this story when I read it (hey, I was a teenager!) but I think today I would be offended by the implicit message that Carole’s life was incomplete without children.

Reminded again how conservative category romance is in some ways, and how pro-baby/family it is.

ETA: I googled “Carole Chapman” and found it! Silhouette Christmas Stories 1989, “A Christmas for Carole” by Bay Matthews. OOP but available here. Dear Gravity, but I would absolutely NOT pick up that book today. However, when I check for other Bay Matthews books, it looks like she isn’t writing any longer, at least not under that name. She does have a book in her backlist titled Amarillo by Morning which I would like to read by virtue of the name alone, because I love the George Strait song of the same name.

ETA again: Well, maybe not. I just read the blurb and am not thrilled by it, because it seems to contain another romance trope that I hate: country living embodies all that is good about American life, and city life is BAD! The heroine will, of course, be convinced of this by living on a ranch for a week!

Chasing big-city dreams, Amarillo Corbett had tried to forget rough-and-tumble rodeo man Russ Wheeler. But their paths kept crossing… and proximity always led to passion. Amy feared she’d never get over Russ – unless she finally married another.

Enraged at Amy’s sudden engagement, Russ stormed her slick Dallas digs to strike a deal. He’d dust off his dungarees and spend seven days in her world if she’d while away a week on the range. Once and for all he’d prove they could make it. Russ may have been thrown before, but this time he was holding on – forever.

Also, slick digs? And dungarees? Very dated. I’m not sure I could get over that, even knowing that the book was published 21 years ago.

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SBD: honorable mentions

Yes, I’m still stuck on the Top 16 Winsor lists, and will post on the top yet again for SBD.

If you check out all of the lists and links that accumulated at Racy Romance Reviews, you’ll find a preponderance of historicals.  Which isn’t a huge surprise, given some of the posters.  [I’m looking at you in particular, KristieJ, SuperWendy and Maili.]  The names Heyer, Chase, Gabaldon, Balogh, Kinsale, Gaffney, Ivory, and James appear repeatedly.

You know what didn’t appear?  Category romances.  Even though thousands of category romances are sold every month, and categories are both a gateway drug for romance readers and a feeder route for a lot of authors, they don’t seem to be memorable for a lot of readers.

As my list narrowed, a few memorable categories were scratched off.  Here they are as honorable mentions:

Bad For Each Other by Kate Hathaway.  This is an older Silhouette Intimate Moments by an author who seems to have stopped writing.  (Or perhaps just stopped being published?)  It includes a secret baby, reunited lovers, and a heroine whose bag of sexual issues make me want to scream.  Yet I still love this book.

A Forbidden Desire by Robyn Donald.  My first Robyn Donald book, this one hooked me with the description of the heroine, likening her to Flaming June, one of my favorite paintings (see icon above, pls).

Reckless Conduct by Susan Napier.  Napier’s early Harlequin Presents are peopled by alpha men and distinctive women.  Her later ones (picked up after a hiatus due to family issues, I’ve heard) don’t thrill me, but this one has a comedic feel that I enjoyed.  Check out Rosario’s review.

Marriage Meltdown by Emma Darcy.  Marriage in trouble!  In a Harlequin Presents, no less!  I liked that the heroine confronted her marital problems head on.  The hero…well, his grovel was fairly good, as was his lightbulb moment about the dishonesty of what he was *thinking* about doing.

Ultimate Betrayal by Michelle Reid.  Another marriage in trouble.  The heroine begins as a bit of a doormat but grows a spine during the course of the book. 

Night Shield by Nora Roberts.  This was a belated addition to Roberts’ early Night Tale series, being the story of the next generation.  Unlike a couple of the original Night Tale books, there was no paranormal here, just a straight-up romance between a detective and a nightclub owner.  On the surface, that sounds a little like Eve/Roarke compressed to category-length, but it’s not.
 

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SBD: Savage Dragon

As I mentioned yesterday, I downloaded several ebooks based on people I met or chatted with at RWA.  I read one of them today, a Silhouette Nocturne Bite, Savage Dragon by Anna Hackett.

They call him the Savage Dragon: Rordan Sarkany, knight of the Order of the Dragon, charged with tracking and destroying those who let their dragon blood turn them into beasts. In the wilds of Hungary, Rordan hunts one such creature—along with fellow warrior Kira Bethlen.

Both Rordan and his inner dragon desire Kira…and she can’t resist Rordan’s dangerous allure. But even if she succumbs to their attraction, can she ever forgive him for slaying her beloved brother?

 

This is the first Nocturne Bite that I’ve read; I can’t tell how it compares to others in terms of pacing and content. 

What did I like about this book?  Well, it’s got dragons in it.  How could I not like it?  .

What was the downside of this book?  The fact that it is a novella.  It felt like there was a lot of backstory and worldbuilding that just didn’t fit within the word count. Based on the info at Hackett’s website, it looks like more books and/or stories will be coming, and the backstory may eventually be filled in.  But in this first installment, a lot of the relationship development was skipped; in order to get around it, the hero and heroine have a backstory, physical attraction, and a fated mates thing. 

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SBD: side-tracked

Monday again.  Ho hum.  Beth has rung the bell on SBD.  She’s reading more of the Twilight series.  After her post last week, I went hunting for my copy of Twilight and pulled it out for this month’s TBR Challenge.  Sadly, I haven’t cracked the book open yet.  Instead, I’ve read other stuff.  Such as…

I read Erin McCarthy’s Hard and Fast last week. It wasn’t bad. The pacing was a little uneven if you compare the first half and second halves, but still, not bad at all. The hero and heroine had great chemistry, and their dialogue sparkled. (It’s such a cliché, but it really did.  They clearly enjoyed talking to each other and listening to each other, and playing some word games.) The Big Conflict was not a huge surprise, but I though the heroine really stuck her foot in her mouth. In fact, I thought she needed to grovel, and that never really happened. SPOILER: see, the hero is dyslexic and she’s Smart and Educated, and when he reveals his disability, she immediately announces how she’s going to help him. What the hell? He’s been successful at helping himself; frankly, the way she wanted to “help” him (fix him, really) struck me as a little patronizing and judgmental, and outright ignorant in terms of the treatment, if that’s the right word, of dyslexia. Still, they apologized to each other and went off to live happily ever after.  

As I read, I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering what the heroine was doing as an academic, and what she did, if anything, before becoming at teaching assistant in North Carolina. She works for another character, who was an instructor of some sort at the local university. I say instructor because the other character has “only” a Master’s Degree, and I believe “professor” is reserved for those with Ph.D.’s, no? There’s such a variety of labels in academia: lecturer, instructor, adjunct, assistant, professor. I know there’s a hierarchy applied to them, but I’m not entirely sure how both education, longevity, employer/employee relationship with the university, etc., apply.  Anyhow, the heroine is an assistant to this instructor. She talks about her thesis project, but her work is also referred to as a dissertation project and/or doctoral research.  I thought thesis = Masters, dissertation = Ph.D. Yes? No? Despite the confusion in terminology, it becomes clear that the heroine is working on her M.A. in Sociology.  Which leads back to my original question:  she’s twenty eight years old and has been presented as a career academic, studying in New York; what has she been doing for 6 years that she is only working on her thesis now? That seems like an awfully long time for a dedicated student to still be M.A.-less. Was she working, and this is a return to academia? Was she working on a degree in some other field of study? Inquiring minds want to know.

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book; really I did.   I’m just distracted by a detail.

Unrelated sidenote: my copy of Joseph McAleer’s Passion’s Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon has arrived at last – only took a month and a half! The cover is gorgeous, composed of the cover art of old M&B books. I’m going to have to look for copies to read, based entirely on the art and titles.  There’s even another book cover on the back cover, Roberta Leigh’s Too Young To Love.

And the back cover copy: 

The fascinating story behind Mills & Boon, the household name for romantic fiction, and twentieth century cultural phenomenon.

An animated account of the establishment and development of the company, exposing the personalities who played a part in Mills & Boon’s often dramatic past.

Draws upon a long-lost archive of over 50,000 remarkable letters to reveal the intimate relationship between editorial policy, sales and morality.

An entertaining look at the famous Mills & Boon ‘formula’, and a lively investigation into the ingredients which make the novels so addictive.

Right now I’m reading L. Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, but Passion’s Fortune is next on the TBR, along with Dru Pagliassotti’s Clockwork Heart.

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Hopping into the way back machine

While on vacation, I finally read the second of the Old Skool Harlequin romance novels I found at the local used bookstore.  It…was interesting in a train-wreck sort of way.

Man of the Islands by Henrietta Reid

(c) 1967

The back cover copy:  Greg Hallam’s name was a legend among the islands, and when his schooner put into Yara, Verity fell in love with the man as well as the legend.  But what chance had Verity when Stella also was on Yara?

Man of the Islands opens with Verity angsting about what to do with herself:  her father, who abandoned a career as a doctor in England to become an artist (unsuccessfully), has died, leaving her alone and without support.  Her paternal aunt has declined to take her in, and she’s more or less obliged to take a job working for Stella Fenton on Magena Plantation.  At the same time, the Allamanda pulls in to port, having suffered serious damage in the last big storm.  Stella and Greg, captain of the Allamanda, have a history of some sort, and she manages to talk him into coming to Magena, in theory to teach her younger brother how to properly manage the plantation.  Of course, really she’s just maneuvering to have him around, hoping to eventually seduce him into something, presumably marriage since he appears to have been The One Who Got Away.   

Poor Verity, stuck on Magena doing a job that it never really described except as office work, is sure that Greg is an arrogant user, and wants nothing to do with him.  But the reader is told of her gradual obsession and attraction to him.  Told, not shown, because they are seldom on the page together.  He rescues her a couple of times, then announces abruptly that he loves her, then goes back to ignoring and doubting her.  Eventually, the volcano on the island erupts, forcing them into proximity again, and there is a big confrontation between Stella and another character which Verity overhears, then another scene that Greg overhears, and finally Verity deigns to trust him and say The Words.  Eh.  In the end, the denouement seemed rather lame.  It also didn’t make much sense, since Greg has suddenly become a plantation owner — did he buy Magena?  with what money?  even though the island had just erupted and was probably not workable?

Okay, first of all, where’s Yara?  What is Yara?  In the beginning, I thought it was Australia, because of the Yarra River.  But no. Ultimately I figured out that Yara is part of Papua New Guinea, based on mentions of going to Rabaul, which appears to be the nearest large port.

Next question:  what does Magena Plantation produce?  I don’t know.  Maybe I wasn’t reading carefully enough, but it was never really clear to me.  The plantation is a successful one, and the source of Stella’s wealth, though.

Stella.  She’s a woman who likes men and money.  Which of course makes her the Evil Other Woman in this book.  Which her constant machinations and manipulations got a little tiresome — there seemed to be an awful lot of them for such a short book — the caricature-ish nature of her character was a bit of a disappointment.

Greg?  The reader never gets his perspective, everything is filtered entirely through Verity, who doesn’t seem like the most reliable of narrators, frankly.   Ultimately we learn that he pulled in to Yara for repairs because he’d heard rumors about Verity and her father, and was more or less in love with her based on those, long before he ever met her.  Yeah, no, not believable.

And Verity.  What a dish rag.  Except apparently she was a magnet for men, since both Greg and Stella’s brother and yet a third male character in the book were attracted to her.  Mostly I wondered about her lack of independence — maybe this is just a modern sensibility, but her lack of initiative in going to look for a job to support herself, her utter reliance on her father and then hoping for rescue by her aunt made me wonder about her.  She was supposed to be an adult, but that reliance on others seemed naive and childish to me.

In a lot of ways, this book seemed rather Victorian to me, with the worrying about chaperones and complaints about the "heathen" indigenous tribes of the island.  Gentility, Verity’s excess of it and Stella’s lack, was hammered on.  As I read, I kept thinking of the English in India, and their imposition of Britishisms on the population, mostly because that seems like what has happened at Magena.  As a romance novel, this book flat out did not work for me for the reasons I’ve mentioned:  told not shown, and what was told wasn’t believable.  The only vaguely interesting thing about the book was its minimal value as a narrative about 20th century colonialism. 

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