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REVIEW: Beyond Daring by Kathleen O’Reilly

Dear Ms O’Reilly,

Sequels can be a dangerous thing. If I enjoyed the previous book, will the next one live up to it? Or will it bomb for me and somehow taint what I feel for the one (s) I previously liked? Will secondary characters be twisted out of recognition when it’s their turn at bat? Or will the “feel” of the book be totally different? These questions had one more added to them in the case of this book: would you be able to make me like the heroine who clearly is based on Paris Hilton, a celebrity I despise?

Jeff Brooks works for a PR firm. It’s his job to take the unpalatable and make America love it. Right now, he’s losing his mind over his latest assignment, aka how to control the public shenanigans of Sheldon Summerville. Sheldon is the oldest daughter of uber wealthy business man Wayne Summerville and though she’s the apple of her daddy’s eye, even Wayne realizes that her public image can tarnish that of the family firm thereby costing them $$$/  £  £  £/  ¥  ¥  ¥/whatever. And with a proposed merger in the works that could open up the Chinese market, Wayne’s not taking any chances. Jeff’s trying hard, he really is, but Sheldon seems to delight in creating the biggest scenes, being the most photographed celebrity and often baring all in her quest for notority. Jeff likes what he sees, don’t get him wrong, but Sheldon’s got to cover up that delicious bod and behave, damn it!

Sheldon knows she’s thought of as the empty headed blonde who’s got it all. Beautiful body, bountiful bank balance and a life you’d be a fool not to envy. All her life, everything’s been smoothed out for her, covered up for her, fixed and repaired for her — damn, she knows she really does have it all. She got tired of all of it a long time ago but figures that if people don’t know the real you, they can’t hurt you. Show ‘em what they expect to see and they won’t be disappointed in what they do see. It’s worked for 26 years so why stop now? Well, because now Sheldon’s being asked to marry the son of the owner of the company her father wants to aquire. Tax laws being what they are, being married will save a ton of taxes and other nasty costs. It would also give Sheldon a way to help her father and for once do something for the family instead of always being the one who has to be fixed. If only the PR guy her father hired wasn’t making her wish for a relationship that would never work out. Jeff’s hot, nice and totally doable but he’s determined to avoid any personal involvement while doing what her father is paying for despite anything Sheldon tries to shake him up. Sometimes, life does suck.

“Beyond Daring” does live up to “Beyond Breathless” in regards to some of the points I mentioned. It’s funny in a subtle way that did’t get right in my face and demand, “aren’t I FUNNY!?!” The characters who also appeared in “Breathless” stay the same and don’t suffer from the 180 degree turns that are often seen in sequels. The quick pace stays the same and it’s not bogged down with extraneous plot twists. So far so good.

Now as for the heroine. As far as I’m concerned, Paris Hilton needs to shut up, cover up and start to justify the air she breaths daily. So obviously, you had your work cut out for you to make me like Sheldon. I ended up not hating Sheldon and maybe even liked her some but she’s not my favorite heroine. I guess seeing what I feel for the person on whom she’s modeled, you did a good job with her. But could she really have been able to spend six years learning to play violin? In total secret? For a woman with her degree of public recognition, I have my doubts. But do agree with her that Schubert isn’t a fav. Give me Vivaldi any day.

In the previous book, we saw bits and snippets of Jeff in PR action. However in this book, I’m not sure about Jeff’s 5 point plan to dramatically improve Sheldon’s image. An heiress walking a picket line and supporting NYC electricians on strike? Really? Or going to sports events? And this would make me think better of her how? I tend to think most people would view those as empty publicity stunts not public image enhancers. Then there’s something about the sex. Jeff almost seems to be using it sometimes to punish Sheldon. Is this secretly a way he’s punishing himself? Is it his way of coming to grips with the fact that he’s falling in love? The tone of it just seemed “off.” I do like the way he cares for his family and seems willing to do anything to help them (despite what his sister does to him but more on her later).

In my review of “Breathless” I mentioned that Mercedes, Jeff and Andrew’s sister, and Thea, their mother, were two characters who didn’t work as well for me. In this book, Thea has some scenes which flesh her out some and give me a clue as to why she’s so important to her family above and beyond being their mother. She and Jeff share a nice mother and son moment and she ends up giving Jeff the proverbial kick in the pants he needs to jump start his courtship. Mercedes is another matter. This girl is going to need some serious redemption for me. You tell me she loves her brothers. We get to see some sibling ribbing and she does end up helping Jeff but… she still seems to be willing to make hay off their problems first and help them second. She’s very “me first.” And after seeing this for two books and reading the set up for the third, she’s not a character I’m already feeling the love for.

This book has a lot of minor characters. Some like Sheldon’s mother and almost fiance Jason, are barely there. It’s not that they’re badly written, it’s just that we really don’t get to know anything about them. Sheldon’s sister isn’t much better and comes off as a bit of an airhead herself despite being halfway through med school. Well, the worst of it is yet to come for her so maybe she’ll grow up some more. Wayne is a likable father who deep down does seem to care that his daughters are happy while at the same time showing the shrewd business tactics and force of will that built his company. Then there’s Philip, Jeff’s gay receptionist. I liked him but is he too stereotyped? At least you’re not gay bashing.

So, while “Beyond Daring” doesn’t live up to “Breathless” for me, it’s not bad. It’s a fast read, made me laugh out loud numerous times and I’m happy that I read it. Oh, and I came up with the perfect name for Jeff’s future boat, the Sea-Shel. B- for this one.

~Jayne


Dear Ms. Reilly:I didn’t have as positive a response to Beyond Daring as Jayne. I won’t belabor the plot which Jayne articulated above. Beyond Breathless stood out due to the great repartee between the hero and the heroine and the genuineness of their personalities.

The main problem I had was that I was told one thing about the characters and shown another. Jeff, the purported playboy, was never really sold to me. I never saw any of it. If he was a true playboy, he would have sexed Sheldon six ways from Sunday instead of running away from her. I also thought it was odd that while Jeff wanted to make it on his own, he was more than willing to sell out to Sheldon’s dad and make Sheldon miserable than accept help from his brother, Andrew.

Tormenting others for their own gain seems like a trait of the family that only Andrew escaped. As Jayne stated, Meredith will require some major redemption because she acts like a spoiled brat who uses her blog to broadcast sexual fantasies about her brothers and their partners. It seemed rude and exploitative to me.

I didn’t quite get the point of Sheldon rebelling to the point that she was constantly embarassing herself and her family. After all, she was well loved by her family. If it was the case of having too much money and feeling like she wasn’t contributing to her family, then how is falling in love with some guy resolving those feelings of worthlessness?

The best parts of the book were the interaction between Andrew, Jeff and Mercedes. It was the perfect mix of sibling love and sibling rivalry. Those scenes were my favorite and the ones that had me laughing. Beyond Daring didn’t live up to Beyond Breathless but it didn’t tarnish my good feelings for the previous book. It only made me love Beyond Breathless more. C.

Best regards,

Jane

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

13 Comments

  1. Kat
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 05:28:06

    Aargh, and I still don’t have the first book! 2007 is shaping up to be a year of book release angst for me. Were there any scenes involving nakedness in a limo? Because one of her previous books had such a scene and it was so cheeky my husband came over to ask me what I was giggling about.

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  2. Jayne
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 05:36:32

    They had sex on the beach (something which never appealed to me as I keep imagining sand fleas all over me and sand up my butt). There is one scene where Sheldon is supposed to be walking a picket line in NYC and she rebels by taking off her jacket then her bra. The electricians loved it.

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  3. Kat
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 05:39:41

    Actually, the question I should have asked first is…was there a sex tape? :P

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  4. Jayne
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 05:42:02

    LOL, no there’s no internet sex tape. Sheldon does go to some VIP lounge at a club and become the filling in a boytoy sandwich on the dance floor.

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  5. Kat
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 05:47:37

    Uh, isn’t the VIP club some kind of porn site? Don’t ask me how I know that.

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  6. Jayne
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 06:00:59

    Oh dear, no that’s not where they are. Here’s a description from the book:

    Mercedes and Sheldon were camped out at Ecstasy, one of the hottest meatmarkets in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Not only had Sheldon got them into the upstairs VIP room, but she’d brought along her own mini-entourage of eye-candy.

    Brief introductions were performed. There was Carlos, with slicked-back dark hair and an unbuttoned white shirt that exposed rippling abs. Carlos, to no one’s surprise, was a model.

    Also there was Tommy, who wore khaki pants, a Tommy Hilfiger button-down, loafers and no socks, which was so last decade, but Tommy’s dad owned most of the ports in New York and Jersey, so bad fashion sense could be overlooked.

    There was Enrique, who was another underwear model, and Christian, who only had one name, and a thing for tight black leather that creaked when he walked, and then there was Davin, who was the group’s token suck-up. Every time Sheldon spoke, he hung onto her every word, like she was some rich, knockout with a perfect body, and perfect teeth. Okay, she was all that, but Mercedes didn’t hold it against him. Besides, she was having too much fun.

    The VIP room was everything that Mercedes imagined. It was wall to wall people with a customer to waiter ratio of three to one. There were martini glasses in blue with tiny yellow balls around the base. Very cute. And the ceiling was made of marble, not the rock marble, but the toy marbles. All shapes and sizes, some hanging low on string, some glued right to the top. The whole look was very textured, very fun.

    And we’re not going to ask how you know about the VIP lounge.

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  7. Jane
    Mar 02, 2007 @ 07:05:30

    I have been in a VIP lounge in one of the hottest (at the time) nightclubs in Chicago. The reason we got in? Because one of our group was a bouncer at another bar and knew the bouncers at the lounge. I think 3/4 of the people in the VIP lounge were wait staff from other bars in Chicago. It took the whole shine off the idea of the VIP lounge.

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  8. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Mar 03, 2007 @ 10:48:50

    Okay, in lieu of previous discussion on author imput, I thought this would be a good time to comment. Hopefully, I won’t suck all life out of the discussion (it seems quiet now), and hopefully I will not acquire mortal enemies. All legal waivers aside, I thought it might be instructive to add some of the “behind the author’s brain” moments. When I wrote Beyond Breathless, Sheldon was not intended as the heroine for Jeff. Jeff was going to have a secretary who was madly in love with him, but she was mousey, and he was tied up with this sex-bomb of a client who wanted him for herself. All that was fine and dandy until I finished Beyond Breathless, and realized, that, sadly, I had painted himself into a box, and I had to go home from the dance with ‘those that brung me”. Sheldon was tying Jeff up in knots. I’m not fan of Paris “Vagina Larger than France” Hilton, either, so I knew this would be a monumental challenge.

    All that said, I loved writing this book. The words flew, I knew exactly who the characters were, and I cried buckets (which I don’t normally do) while writing near the end. So, all that to explain that, I wasn’t happy about my choice of heroine, either, but I fell in love with her. And the mousy secretary with a crush on her boss, became a ‘he’ instead, and not quite so mousy.

    I have a habit of writing characters who are the underdogs in romance novel casting. I don’t know why, and I really wish I didn’t, because it never fails, the books aren’t nearly as well loved as the other more noble couples. However, it moves something within me, I suppose. Kinda like a mother who takes in foster children. Don’t know. I’m wandering.

    re: violin — OK, you’re probably right. :)

    re: Mercedes — I have two comments to add to the discussion here. One, when I first started writing the series, I intended to do Mercedes’ book first, but it gave me huge, huge, huge fits. I knew that the author of sex blog was not a sympathetic character in my head, and I couldn’t get around that. I talked to my editor, and she said, “silly, do the book last.” It was an aha moment and a tribute to my editor’s greatness. A character can be unsympathetic in previous books and can be sympathatic later. Mercedes is a young, irresponsible person, who is so driven by her own goals, that it overwhelms everything in her path. I will say the my working title for Book 3 was Mercedes Grows Up, or, What Goes Around Comes Around. She has lots to learn.

    and lastly: on sequels in general – I love doing the small series of books. It’s great fun to have a character that you know, but you don’t “know”. And when they get their own book, you get to figure out why they’re who they are. This series is about two brothers, one sister, and how one event affected each one of them in three completely different ways.

    I think I’m done, now. I hope this helps the discussion, rather than kills it forever. :)

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  9. Samantha
    Mar 03, 2007 @ 10:58:33

    I haven’t read a Blaze in forever because the first few I read were inane at best, but the comments,especially about the first book may make me change that. Great repartee is hard to find!

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  10. Jayne
    Mar 04, 2007 @ 08:12:44

    Oh cool. Me loves Behind the Author’s Brain Moments. I’m so glad you didn’t take offense at my anti-PH comments. You never know, someone could be a rabid Paris fan and scream invectives at me. Probably not though….

    I’m curious as to why you felt you’d painted Jeff into a corner, heroine-wise. Maybe this goes along with not being an author myself but it wouldn’t have bothered me for him to dump Sheldon for a mousy secretary. Or for Phil to have a crush on him!

    Idle question for you or any author: have you ever had another character in your book (s) that you hated? One you tried to tie up and leave in a closet or drive over a steep cliff but like Freddie Krueger, they just kept coming back from the dead until you finally gave in and wrote their story?

    I was already planning on reading Mercedes’ book but you’ve given me hope. However a big part of me hopes that she really gets kicked down to the curb as a growing lesson before her HEA arrives.

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  11. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Mar 04, 2007 @ 09:34:15

    re: painted into a corner — When you pair up two people in a romance, you’re looking for the Big Reaction. The time when a character comes out of their safe place and has to take risks, take on a new role, grow, and change from the safe, comfortable person that they were before. After I wrote the Jeff/Sheldon/party scene in BB, his safe place was gone. She took it away. I could write another heroine, but it wouldn’t have the same impact, because we (the reader) had already that moment from Jeff. I don’t know if that makes sense to the reader, as well as it does to the author, because so much never makes it to the page, but that’s my thinking. :)

    re: character hate — There’s a time when I first start writing a book, and I don’t know my characters, and they aren’t cool people. Worse, they’re boring. That’s the moment when I hate them. However, my normal routine is that to overcome the hate, I must pull something out of them that I love and redeems them in my eyes. Sometimes it’s a scene, sometimes it’s a vulnerability within them, sometime it’s even lines of dialog. I’ve never turned in a book where I didn’t find something that made me fall in love. The worst punishment for one of my characters is to be flat, and for me to be apathetic about them. I don’t write many true villains, but when I do, I try and make them have another dimension of good. All that said, there is one moment in Mercedes’ books when I take out frustrations on many short-sighted people. you’ll understand when you get there, at least I think you will.

    re: other author’s on character hate — I would love to hear other author’s opinion on this as well. I’ve seen (and written) lots of emails expressing frustration with characters, but every author has their own system and their own pet peeves and their own rituals, so would be interesting to know…

    re: coming back from the dead. Usually I know my primaries and who they are, but there are times (like with Sheldon, and also with Noah from the Longest Night, and Sam from BS) when someone comes in and you realize that what you thought was incorrect. This person is the better match. I hope that makes sense.

    re: Mercedes’ book — bwahahahahahahahaha…… Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, maybe not, but I will say that it’s my editor’s favorite book of the series, and she’s tough.

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  12. Kat
    Mar 04, 2007 @ 20:13:33

    Usually I know my primaries and who they are, but there are times (like with Sheldon, and also with Noah from the Longest Night, and Sam from BS) when someone comes in and you realize that what you thought was incorrect.

    Was Cassandra originally meant for Benedict? I always wondered, because he was a little more sympathetic in Beth’s book (the whole that’s-the-woman-I’m-going-to-marry thing)?

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  13. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Mar 05, 2007 @ 10:15:25

    Kat,

    Yes. Somewhere in Book 3, I changed my mind, and went with Noah instead. Don’t remember exactly why, probably because I liked Noah better. :)

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