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Abby Green

REVIEW:  When Falcone’s World Stops Turning by Abby Green

REVIEW: When Falcone’s World Stops Turning by Abby Green

falcone

Dear Ms. Green:

When I’m in the mood for an archtypical Harlequin Presents story — here taking the form of cynical Italian tycoon + secret baby + punishing kisses = angsty-goodness — I look for Abby Green. Originally I decided against reviewing this for Dear Author, because, well, it’s a formula, and you like it or you don’t, and unless you want to do a critique of the entire genre there’s not a whole lot new to say. But then I was interested to notice some small signs here and there of the more modern spirit that’s been popping out in the Presents line lately.

(I go pretty thoroughly into the plot — there are no major spoilers, but if you really like to be surprised, you might not want to read on.)

The story opens with a bang, as Rafaele Falcone and his half brother discover the existence of another previously unsuspected half-brother, at their mother’s funeral. Disappointingly, this mostly sets up the series and doesn’t play into the plot much. Shortly afterwards, researcher Samantha Rourke is horrified to receive a phone call from her former boss and lover Rafaele, asking her to come work for him again. This inevitably leads to Rafaele discovering the existence of their young son, Milo.

The first intriguing thing I noticed was how much the plot is convoluted to make the secret baby aspects more palatable. Rafaele had thought Sam had miscarried, and his reaction to her pregnancy was so negative — the stress even bringing on more dangerous cramps! — that she allowed him to continue believing that. She’s not entirely comfortable with her decision though, and later admits that a desire to punish him for dumping her (and apparently immediately taking up with another woman) might have influenced her. Sympathetic but not blameless — it’s a delicate balance that’s more complicated than we normally see in a short category. Rafaele’s reaction is far more conventional: although he’d been horrified by Sam’s pregnancy, when he discovers he actually has a child he instantly wants full-time fatherhood. I suppose this is intended to make his side of the story more palatable as well, but given that he has Major Issues around parents and children, it would have been good to see him process some.

Another small but significant point: Sam didn’t become downtrodden and poverty stricken after their relationship ended (despite having been dumped by her boss, a point which is not addressed.) With the help of excellent childcare, she went on to earn her doctorate, and she works in a male dominated field, auto engineering. (The coolness of this is somewhat mitigated by Sam having become a tomboy to please her father; she loves how Rafaele makes her feel feminine.)

The main way this story differs from its brethren is… wait for it… Sam actually had sex with someone else while they were separated. It was only one time and God forbid she should enjoy it, but still, this is huge; I’ve encountered only two other instances in Presents. (Even when the heroine actually marries someone else, it’s still pretty damn rare!) Rafaele is also much less of a horn dog than he’d appeared; he was never able to forget Sam. It’s not a complete overhaul of the sexual double standard, but baby steps! (It’s kind of hilarious, in an awful way, to see the response to this plot point on GoodReads — Sam is characterized as a slut and a terrible mom, having sex with strangers “like a hooker.” One time, with a man she’d been dating, makes her into that. No wonder Presents have been resistant to change.)

As for enjoyment value… this didn’t hit the ball out of the park for me as much as usual. It may be because this particular one isn’t really my formula, but even with the updated elements, it felt a little tired. I’m not sure it’s the formula that needs refreshing as much as the language, or perhaps it’s the combination of the two: Rafaele’s desperate exhortations to himself to keep control, Sam’s weak limbs whenever he’s near, even his unbearably attractive stubble — all this is very familiar.  It was entertaining enough, and I’ll hope for a stronger twist to the gut in the next book. C

Sincerely,

Willaful

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If You Like…Romances Set in South Asia or featuring South Asian characters

If You Like…Romances Set in South Asia or featuring South Asian...

Dear Author guest post by Kim T.

A few years ago, I watched a Hindi language, historical epic film called Jodhaa Akbar, starring Bollywood superstars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.  As a librarian with a graduate degree in European history, I was intrigued by the 16th century historical detail in the film.  And I completely swooned over the beauty and charisma of the lead actors.  Being a film geek, I began to explore the Bollywood film genre.  I was, admittedly, drawn first to the beautiful costumes and song picturizations, but I soon found myself just as interested in the cultures of India.  I began to read non-fiction on modern India and watch Indian films (in Hindi and other regional languages) that went beyond the typical Bollywood masala formula.  Still, my favorite Indian films (and the ones I watch over and over) will always be Bollywood romances.  As a lifelong romance reader, I think this makes perfect sense.  There’s nothing as wonderful or satisfying as a delightful, fluffy romantic comedy or an angst-ridden, passionate romantic drama whether in print or on the screen.

My reading interests have paralleled my interests in Indian films and I’ve read several non-fiction titles on India and literary fiction by South Asian authors.  However, I’ve had to be very creative in locating mainstream romances with South Asian settings and/or South Asian characters, especially contemporary titles.  I’ve also received many recommendations from members of the romance reading community.  The following are titles that I’ve enjoyed with a strong romantic element and they represent a variety of genres including chick-lit, historical fiction, literary fiction, and traditional romances (category, paranormal, historical, etc.).

The Zoya Factor by Anjua ChauhanThe Zoya Factor
by Anjua Chauhan

Published by Harper Collins in India, this is the sweet and hilarious story of an advertising executive who becomes the “lucky charm” for India’s cricket team during the ICC World Cup.  She finds romance with the captain of the team.  There are several untranslated Hindi phrases in this book and some very specific cultural references that will be lost to most Western readers, but I still highly recommend it, especially if you’re interested in how an Indian author takes on the chick-lit format.  I also enjoyed Advaita Kala’s Almost Single, another chick-lit title by an Indian author, reviewed here at DA.

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Saris and the City by Rekha WaheedSaris and the City by Rekha Waheed

This Little Black Dress UK title written by a British author of Bangladeshi descent is a traditional chick lit story of a career-minded woman dealing with her conservative Bengali family’s demands and her attraction to the typical rich and gorgeous hero.

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The Twentieth Wife by Indu SundaresanThe Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

In this first in a historical trilogy about Mughal India, the love story of protagonist Mehrunnisa and Prince Salim is a blend of historical fact and romantic fiction.  This book piqued my interest in historical romance written by Indian authors and I recently stumbled upon a series of historical romances called Kama Kahani published by Random House India and written by Indian authors. The series, including titles like Kiran Kohl’s Passion in the Punjab, can be found through Amazon.co.uk.  They have beautiful covers and I particularly love the series’ taglines printed above the back cover blurb: “Are you a spirited beauty, your fire contained – buy only just – by the clinging brocade of your lehnga’s choli? A delicious Kama Kahani is sure to strike your fancy.”

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The Stolen Bride by Abby GreenThe Stolen Bride by Abby Green

Several years ago, Mills & Boon began to increase their presence in India and to search for promising Indian authors for their lines.  To date, two Mills & Boon titles by Indian authors have been published but they’re hard to find outside of India.  So, in the meantime, we’ve had some other interesting developments in the M&B/Harlequin Presents line, such as the late Penny Jordan’s 2008 title featuring an Indian hero and several more titles by other authors featuring characters of South Asian descent.  As a sometimes reader of the Presents line, I have enjoyed Abby Green’s The Stolen Bride and its Bollywood actress heroine and cringed at other lazier titles that simply shift the overplayed “sheikh romance” formula to the Indian setting.  I’ve also been inspired to collect vintage Harlequins and other category titles that are set in India (I’ve only found a couple that actually feature heroes or heroines of South Asian descent).  A pleasant older Harlequin Presents title set in India is Jayne Bauling’s Sophisticated Seduction (#25), published in 1996.

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The Mango Season by Amulya MalladiThe Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

In this literary fiction title, Indian born-Denmark based author Malladi writes a moving depiction of a young Indian woman’s struggles with her parents’ demand for an arranged marriage and her love of an American man.

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Finally, the following titles, which have been recommended here and elsewhere numerous times, should also be mentioned:

The Duke of Shadows by Meredith DuranThe Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

Historical romance partially set in India, with Anglo-Indian hero.

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Not Quite a HusbandNot Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

The 1890s northern Indian setting of this much-praised historical is superbly drawn.

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demon moon by meljean brookDemon Moon by Meljean Brook

A paranormal with a heroine of Indian descent, this is one of many examples of the culturally diverse heroes and heroines that have become happily commonplace in paranormals over the last several years.

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Sexy as Hell by Susan Johnson  Sexy as Hell by Susan Johnson

The Bruxton Street Bookstore series has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.  This title features Osmond, Baron Lennox, a hero of Anglo-Indian descent who grew up in Hyderabad and now owns India’s largest bank.  Johnson excels at interesting and unusual historical detail, but it’s often overshadowed by her steamy content.

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These are just a few titles that have stood out for one reason or another in my search for romance with a South Asian flair.  I hope that these recommendations will lead to even more recommendations from other Dear Author readers.  Happy reading!

If you would like to submit an “If You Like” of any book, author or topic, please don’t hesitate to email jane at dearauthor.com. You only need about 6-8 titles for the post.