Mar 2 2007
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.
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.