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Harlequin Spice

REVIEW:  Silent Surrender by Barbara J. Hancock

REVIEW: Silent Surrender by Barbara J. Hancock

Dear Ms. Hancock,

After reading and reviewing your impressive novella, Ghost in the Machine, I was eager for more of your work and curious as to what your writing was like in other genres. Silent Surrender, your new Spice Brief, caught my attention and I decided to try it.

Alexia arrives at the Rivera hotel and resort for a vacation harried by her phone. Alexia is a trader on Wall Street and it is difficult for her to carve out even two days to get away from her stressful job. She doesn’t know she is being watched by Carlos Rivera, who observes her dealing with a couple of crises as she checks in.

Carlos is impressed and intrigued, and he later approaches Alexia, who is sitting at the bar, with two champagne glasses. Alexia is appreciative of the fine champagne, and even more of the man’s gorgeous appearance. He speaks no words, but his eyes say volumes. Soon Alexia and Carlos are dancing together, and not long after that, sexxoring in a private dining alcove.

Rivera spirits Alexia away to his penthouse suite, where they spend the night, still saying not a word. But will Rivera’s silence content Alexia, and how will she react when she learns why he won’t speak?

This was a charming little short. Your writing here is atmospheric and seductive, so the absence of dialogue worked almost as well for me as it did for Alexia. I can’t say that I didn’t guess where the story was going plot-wise, because I did, but though not as compelling as Ghost in the Machine, it was still enjoyable.

What surprised me was that the sex was pretty vanilla for an erotic story. Also, some of the metaphors, such as “the dress sighed into a forgotten fabric puddle at her feet,” worked for me beautifully while others did not – for example: “Butterflies? The thrill that arced from her nipples to her stomach and beyond was more jet airplanes engaged in aerial acrobatics.”

But the characters were so very easy to like and want the best for, and I was glad for the outcome of their encounter (not things I take for granted in a Spice Brief these days), so this one gets a C+.




REVIEW: Everything Changes by Megan Hart

REVIEW: Everything Changes by Megan Hart

Dear Ms. Hart,

The plot of this Spice Brief deals with the same events described in your full-length novel, Tempted, which Jennie and I reviewed here. But whereas Tempted was narrated in first person from the POV of Anne Kinney, a married woman in her late twenties, “Everything Changes” is told in third person and its viewpoint character and protagonist is Alex Kennedy, the man who tempts Anne toward a new direction.

Everything Changes by Megan HartIf this sounds like a simple story, it isn't. There are complex relationships at the center of both Tempted and “Everything Changes.” Yes, Alex is greatly attracted to the married Anne and yes, Jamie, Anne's husband, is Alex's best friend. But Alex is also greatly attracted to Jamie, a boyhood friend whom he has never been able to keep from loving. And it is Jamie who invites Alex into his and Anne's marriage bed.

As in Tempted, it is clear that Alex is bisexual. Anne appears to be straight, and Jamie is something of a mystery. Is he bisexual too, or does he only swing that way for Alex? If Alex knows the answer, his thoughts don't make it clear.

“Everything Changes” begins when Alex has lost his company, Transcom, due to an affair with the wife of the head of the conglomerate which purchased Transcom out from under Alex. Feeling at loose ends despite the million dollars he attained from the buyout, Alex leaves Singapore and soon afterward, arrives on his old friend Jamie's doorstep.

Anne answers the door. She is expecting Alex, but what she doesn't expect is her attraction to him. Alex is drawn to Anne from the first, and though he admits to himself that he'd have wanted her just for being Jamie's wife, the pull between them develops into more than that.

And then there is Alex and Jamie's mutual desire, which they mask, deny and fuel by touching each other with causal punches rather than focused ardor. Still, Alex is taken aback when Jamie says he wants the two of them to share Anne.

“She wants it.”

Alex shot Jamie a glance over his shoulder. “She just met me.”

“I mean she wants to be with two guys at the same time. And you're the only one I-trust.”

There was more to it than that, and they both knew it even as they both neatly skated over it.

Even though he believes no good can come of it, Alex agrees to pleasure Anne. There is one ground rule – no fucking – and a whole lot of pitfalls.

Readers who have read Tempted know how the threesome proceeds and how this story ends, and therein lies my main problem with “Everything Changes.” Much of it felt like a rehashing of Tempted. Alex's POV fills in some information we didn't have in the earlier book, but I had guessed at a lot of his feelings so the story lacks surprises.

Still, the scenes between Alex and Jamie without Anne present do shine. I wish that Jamie's sexual preferences had been explored a bit more and I feel similarly about the common ground Anne and Alex share (both have alcoholic fathers). The latter is only touched on briefly, and for this reason, I felt that outside of sex, there wasn't enough to support the feelings that developed between Anne and Alex.

“Everything Changes” clocks in at 38 pages on my Sony Reader, a length which is simply too short for such a complicated tale. Consequently, the story feels rushed and underdeveloped, yet I think more lingering would have only made me impatient with the scenes that had already been portrayed in Tempted.

As is often the case, your prose is above average and your characters intriguing. I think it's likely that readers who have not read Tempted and therefore don't know the outcome of either that novel or this Spice Brief, would find “Everything Changes” more compelling than I did. For me, though, “Everything Changes” feels more like a marketing strategy to spread the word about Tempted and the upcoming Naked, than like a satisfying story in its own right. C- for “Everything Changes.”


Janine Ballard

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