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REVIEW:  A Deeper Dimension by Amanda Carpenter

REVIEW: A Deeper Dimension by Amanda Carpenter

Dear Ms. Carpenter:

It’s always interesting to see romance authors reinvent themselves in a new genre or subgenre. I had just finished a “Thea Harrison” paranormal romance, so was primed to compare it to this much older work originally published as Amanda Carpenter. There is a similarity in the focus on external plotlines concerning the larger world — here, it’s the steel industry, rather than Fae politics. Other than that… well, this a category romance published 30 years ago, with all that implies.

deeperYou could tell A Deeper Dimension was an older Harlequin just from that lovely title. Alliterative, euphonious — even relevant to the plot, by golly! The “deeper dimension” is what Alex tries to convince Diana that she’s missing from life, in her refusal to become emotionally involved with people.

Diana begins her job as Alexander Mason’s executive assistant with some apprehension. She’s straight out of graduate school, and it’s still a male dominated field. But she quickly makes a place for herself by taking charge during an industry crisis, and grows increasingly close to her intense, energetic boss. Her attraction to him is unnerving however, “a threat to her strength of personality.” An abandoned baby who was bought up in the foster care system, the aptly named Diana is proud of her self-sufficiency, and afraid of human closeness:

She had never had any warmth or affection shown to her and she didn’t know how to take it… In Alex, she glimpsed a world alien to that which she had always known.

The story is told almost entirely from Diana’s point of view, but Alex’s warm feelings for her come through in his teasing, and his consideration for her well-being. (As well as occasional friendly kisses, which apparently was so appropriate between a boss and his assistant in 1983 that even Diana isn’t freaked out by them.) But Diana tenses when he tries to get closer to her:

“I think you’re right to count on yourself to pull you through a crisis. But there is a better way of life than that, Diana. You did fine when you had to survive, but that’s all you know how to do, survive. I’ve seen too many examples of another way of life, a better and deeper…”

“We had a pleasant day, didn’t we?” she interrupted. He fell silent as she continued, walking away. “I think you’d better leave it at that.”

After that the story goes in a pretty typical direction, with accusations of coldness, forced kisses, and even Alex shaking Diana. (Speaking as someone who’s read many old categories, it could be a lot worse.) The resolution of their conflict comes about in a startlingly melodramatic way, which feels out of place with the more low-key, realistic tone of the rest of the book.

As in many workplace romances, casual sexism and sexual harassment runs rampant in this story. At their first meeting, Alex jokingly tells Diana, “And don’t you ever call me ‘sir’ in that tone of voice, my girl, or I’ll turn you over my knee — yes, all six feet of you, and whack you over the bottom.” Although she could use some consciousness raising, Diana does often stand up for herself, asserting at one point, “I will not be taken for granted, nor will I be railroaded into something as if my wishes don’t matter! I mean more to me that that!” Since Alex is not an unmitigated jerk, the asshole:doormat ratio is actually surprisingly good.

A Deeper Dimension has very positive reviews amongst the Harlequin lovers at GoodReads, which makes me suspect I’m not the best audience for it — especially since I have a severe allergy to most lighthearted banter, which is how much of the courtship happens. My guess is that it’s also not likely to appeal to most “Thea Harrison” readers, unless they’re already fond of old categories and workplace romances, and aren’t disappointed with a “kisses only” story. For me, it was an okay read. C.

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REVIEW:  One Hit Wonder by Elyssa Patrick

REVIEW: One Hit Wonder by Elyssa Patrick

Jane Timmons has two weeks to . . .

1. Keep her distance from her sexy boss, the once famous pop singer, Damon Suarez.

2. Stay firm. No kissing allowed!

3. And not let Damon know she loves him.

Damon Suarez has two weeks to . . .

1. Convince Jane to not quit.

2. Stage a comeback and be more than a one hit wonder.

3. Win Jane’s heart–no matter what it takes.

Dear Ms. Patrick,

Jane sent this to me with the note that she thought I would like it. Well, I did but for various reasons, I wasn’t blown away by it.

One-Hit-WonderFirst of all, while I do like books with music star characters, I have a hard time believing in the set up for this hero. Damon’s only got one hit song – though it was a BIG hit – years ago when he was a boy wonder. Since then, he’s lived off the royalties of that one song plus the notoriety he courts by acting eccentrically and his sold out concerts with his money allowing him to live large in LA. Really?? One mega hit about 20 years ago and he’s still going to have adoring fans and sold out concerts? I don’t buy that but for the sake of the plot, okay. He’s also described as lazy and content to accept this status quo yet later there are hints that he’s dissatisfied with his music career and wants more acknowledgment for his musical talent. Perhaps this is the difference between his views and those of the heroine about him but since she’s worked with him closely for two years, I would think she’d have some hint of how he feels about his career.

The heroine I like better. Jane’s a small town girl who – drumroll! – always wanted more from life than her childhood hometown had to offer, left to find it and is happy as a clam at high tide in LA. Yes, Virginia – there is an author who doesn’t worship at the altar of Small Town America. Not only did she escape from Nebraska, but she has goals and plans and knows what she needs to do to get where she wants to be in life and that doesn’t include sponging off her boss. Jane Timmons, I salute you. She’s also avoided the usual heroine pratfalls and embarrassing things that are often required of romance women when around the men they adore. She’s competent, put together – though why she uses bobby pins instead of hair pins to put her hair up is a mystery to me – and doesn’t get easily flustered by her wild employer. When she hands in her notice, she means it and doesn’t get swayed from what she plans on doing in spite of the fact that she loves her boss and has for years. She’s going to make it on her own.

Alright so on to the romance. She loves him but he doesn’t seem to have thought of any emotion beyond what the colors of the little umbrellas she puts in his drinks mean about her mood that day. So yeah, he’s thought of her a little but not nearly like she’s thought of him. Until she hands in her notice and suddenly, he’s determined not to lose her because – mainly – she makes his life run smoothly and – hmmm – suddenly he wants to know more about her which leads to “The Event.” I’m thinking most romance novels have The Event. That plot part which somehow throws he and she together and kick starts the romance into full throttle. This is fun. The description of The Event sounds hilarious. A flashmob in NYC all dancing and singing in the streets in a step the heroine describes as “looking like you’ve really got to go.”

This is all good and enjoyable but the zip from here to the next morning and the “I love yous” goes too quickly for me. I admire Jane’s bravery in letting it all hang out and telling Damon the truth and going for what she wants for a night but for the shift in his thinking from “lesse if I can keep her on as an employee” to “Yowza, I love her!” doesn’t work for me. I do appreciate the lengthy dating time incorporated in the epilogue but the other issues drop this to a C+

~Jayne

 

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