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REVIEW:  The Principal’s Office by Jasmine Haynes

REVIEW: The Principal’s Office by Jasmine Haynes

Dear Ms. Haynes:

I’ll confess that I had become disenchanted with your work. The grown up hookers with a heart of gold series followed by two dark and somewhat unromantic stories made me gun shy. But a free book of an author I’ve liked in the past? I can’t resist at least giving it a try and I am glad that I did.

The Principal's Office Jasmine HaynesRachel Delaney is a newly divorced single mom sharing custody of two teen boys with her ex husband. Before her divorce, she was a homemaker. Now she is working at a receptionist for a local company but her small salary doesn’t allow her for many extras even with her ex picking up the tab for the mortgage. Her eldest, Nathan, is playing Rachel against his father like a pro, starting to hang out with a bad crowd, and acting perpetually angry. Rachel would like something just for herself and while a lover would be nice, she’d settled for a vibrator.

Rand Torvik is a believer in the law of attraction or perhaps the universe reshaping things that were meant to be. He sees Rachel three random times – at a grocery store, outside a sex store where Rachel bought her vibrator, and in a local coffee shop – before approaching her with his interest. Rachel isn’t looking for a relationship but she wouldn’t mind calling on Rand for a little adult time. This suits Rand just fine.

In some ways, Rand and Rachel’s sexual interaction is much like a courtship. Even in this erotic book, their first encounter is relatively chaste, at least between the two. Rand’s neighbors are exhibitionists and Rand essentially sets up a first date atmosphere with wine on his upper balcony and a cinematic view of the neighbor’s hot tub antics. Every encounter that Rand and Rachel experience explore a few more fantasies from video taping themselves to participating in some exhibitionism themselves. Inevitably their physical connection brings them emotionally close. Rachel and Rand’s relationship is put on hold when she discovers that Rand is her son’s new principal, a man that her son hates.

As Rachel becomes more sexually adventurous with the encouragement of Rand, she gains confidence at work with the encouragement of a co worker. I felt that Rachel was blossoming into the person she could have been, not because she had a job and a lover, but because she began to identify herself as an individual and it was through those two vehicles that this came about. I enjoyed her recognizing that her skills as a mother translated into managing fractious co workers.

The one weakness in the story was Rand. The story could have been written in the first person because despite scenes from Rand’s point of view, he remained much of a mystery. He had little character movement and everything he did was exactly right. He knew exactly how to nudge Rachel into loosening her inhibitions, guessing exactly what would turn her on. He was able to turn her son around with exactly the right methods. I found him too good to be true and in many ways a flat character. I was also puzzled by his mantra that the laws of attraction bound his actions. The way he conducted his life didn’t seem as metaphysical as his philosophies would indicate.

The ex husband storyline was fairly predictable and while it was used to propel Rachel’s storyline and exhibit her newfound personal strength, I didn’t find the ex husband’s actions particularly believable which worked to lessen the tension that I believe it was supposed to present.

I did love the subtle sex positive, pro woman message in the story. A repeated mantra is that Rachel deserves to have it all. She deserves to be viewed as a good mother, an upstanding member of her community, and most of all, she deserves to have great sex. Rand is happy to stand by her side to make sure all of those things come to fruition, particularly the great sex part. It seems that full length erotic romances are a wasteland of late so The Principal’s Office, even at the trade paperback price, might be worth it. B-

Best regards,

Jane

  • The Principal’s Office by Jasmine Haynes * $0.99 * A | BN | K | S
  • Sunita’s 2011 TBR Challenge: Hot Blood by Charlotte Lamb

    Sunita’s 2011 TBR Challenge: Hot Blood by Charlotte Lamb

    I have fallen severely off the TBR wagon over the last few months, but it’s time to get over my guilt and shame and climb back on. This month’s topic is “fairy tales,” and since I didn’t have one in my TBR, I stretched the category and decided to read Hot Blood for the Challenge. This 1996 book by Charlotte Lamb has just been released as part of the HarlequinTreasury series, which Jane discussed in a recent post. I’m a huge Charlotte Lamb fangirl, and when Jane said on Twitter that Hot Blood featured a 52-year-old heroine pursued by not one but two younger men, I was immediately interested. And it seemed to me that this premise could be said to meet the fairy-tale requirement, given usual genre norms.

    Katherine “Kit” Randall is a divorcee with a grown son who lives in the English village she was born and grew up in. When the book opens she has just finished watching a screening of Camille, starring Greta Garbo. Moved to tears by the film, she finds herself in a conversation with Joe Ingram, an award-winning photojournalist who has recently moved to town. Joe is gorgeous, a decade younger than Kit, and very interested in her. Kit reluctantly accepts his offer to have coffee but resists his considerable charms because she is in an ambiguous relationship with Liam, her widowed business partner. After more than a year of a sexually fulfilling but uncommitted relationship, Liam has refused Kit’s request that they take the next step and make a commitment, preferably in a church with their children, grandchildren, and the rest of the village as witnesses.

    There are so many things to like about this book. Kit is an attractive, sexy woman, and both Liam and Joe are intelligent, accomplished, handsome heroes. Rather than being devastated by her divorce, Kit understands why her husband left their mutually unsatisfactory marriage when he fell in love with a younger woman, and she maintains a good relationship with him and his young family. Kit’s son Paul married young out of a pscyhological need to establish a new family of his own, but he chose well and Kit has a good relationship with her daughter-in-law, Claire. She even gets along well with Liam’s son and daughter.

    But there are also some strange and annoying aspects to the story. First, the way Lamb depicts the relationship between Kit and Liam made it difficult for me to believe they had enjoyed their year together. For the majority of the book, Liam is angry and possessive toward Kit. Even though he refuses to marry her, he is jealous and territorial once Joe appears on the scene. He basically stalks Kit when she goes out with Joe, even though he himself is wining and dining Cary, a young and attractive newcomer to the village. Liam goes on a weeklong business trip with Cary and then comes back and berates Kit for spending time with Joe. He keeps telling Kit what to do, and although she protests, she basically lets him. Kit and Liam argue and snap at each other endlessly, making their coworkers uncomfortable and the village curious. As someone in the same age category, I would have expected them to behave a bit more like adults.

    Second, given that Kit is a woman with the demonstrable ability to attract not one but two eligible men, her continual insecurity about her attractiveness started to grate. Some level of uncertainty is understandable and even appealing. But for a woman of fifty-two to obsess about her aches and pains (rheumatism as a sign of middle age? really?) went beyond normal for me. Take this passage:

    Kit looked up at the blue sky with pleasure. The older she got, the more she welcomed spring and the harder winters became for her. She was conscious of an ache in her back from sitting on a hard plastic chair for too long.

    She’s middle aged, as even she acknowledges, not ancient. It must be the rheumatism.

    But the biggest problem is the romance itself. Joe is a very winning potential hero, but any hope the reader entertains that Kit will choose him is soon quashed. Instead, we get Kit and Liam’s rancorous arguments. When the Big Secret that underlies Liam’s unwillingness to marry again is revealed, I double-checked the publication date because the way Liam blamed himself for the difficulties in his marriage sounded like something someone in of the middle of the 20th century would say, not a hero at the end of it. A plot twist throws Kit and Liam together on a road trip, and poor Joe gets shoved off the page while Liam seduces Kit, spills his Big Secret and reconciles with her.  In the end, Liam admits how much he loves Kit and decides he really does want to marry her.

    I have found some of Charlotte Lamb’s books fascinating for the ways they push the boundaries of the category format, and some of Lamb’s skills as a master of the form are apparent here. But Hot Blood is deeply conservative, despite its unusual premise. When the reader closes the book, Kit and Liam are about to settle down to the comfortable life of grandparents and business partners. Kit will wind up with a second marriage she finds much more sexually fulfilling and a husband she feels passionate about, but her place in village society and her role as family matriarch will remain much the same. I was disappointed. Grade: C-

    ~ Sunita

     

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