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REVIEW: Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice

REVIEW: Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice

Woman on the Run by Lisa Marie Rice

Dear Ms. Rice:

I don’t remember which order I read the Lisa Marie Rice books but I do know that Woman on the Run was one of the latter books in my glom. It features a slightly different heroine (one more cosmopolitan but who ends up embracing small town life) and the standard hero (tall, dark, reticent with the stamina of a horse, assuming horses have a lot of stamina in the sex area).  Unique to a LMR/EJ book, much of the story is told from the heroine's point of view, although we do get plenty time inside the hero's head as well.

Julia Duvaux became a key witness in a case against a mob boss.   When said mob boss puts a $1 million hit on her head, she is shuffled off to Simpson, Idaho, under the witness protection program.   There cosmopolitan, world traveler, lover of museums, restaurants, and her cat, Julia is transformed into Sally Anderson, 2nd grade teacher.

But it's either hide or die and Julia loves her life more than any of the above (including the cat) and agrees to be temporarily hidden in the tiny town of Simpson.

This book takes a bit of suspension of disbelief such as the idea that a former book editor who doesn't like children will immediately be able to take up the reins of teaching second grade children without any problem.   Every child embraces her and surprisingly, Julia embraces them back.

There is one sad little child, Rafael Martinez, who had become increasingly morose within the short time period in which Julie had been a teacher. Julia recognizes instinctively that this is because of some problem at home. She sends a note home which brings not his dad to her house but one Sam Cooper.

Sam Cooper runs one of the largest and most well-known horse breeding ranches in the country. It said that the Cooper Ranch is cursed. The curse is that they can’t keep women at the ranch.   They all either run off (like Cooper's wife or Rafael's mom) or they die young (Cooper's ancestors). There's even a disproportionate number of foals versus fillies born on the ranch. Cooper courses dismisses this nonsense appears but in the truth Cooper is not quite sure how to romance Julia:

[H]e'd lost the art of making a woman smile, if he'd every had it.   He could rappel down from a hovering helicopter, scuba dive to 200 feet, make a two thousand yard shot, tame the wildest horse, but making a woman smile-that was another matter.

Cooper knew everything there was to know about soldiering and everything there was to know about livestock.   But damned if he knew how to coax a beautiful woman into his bed.

Cooper embodies the strong silent type and while we get plenty of Cooper's musings, his conversations are laughably brief.

“Had a meeting. Flight was delayed. Had a hard time getting back."

"Well, I'm glad you're back."

His jaw tightened. "Glad to be back."

"We're redecorating here, did you know?"

"Heard that.   E-mailed Bernie."

Julia was was finally able to smile. She'd almost forgotten his laconic way of speaking. "I guess you left all your pronouns back in Kentucky," she said.

"Guess so.” One side of Cooper's hard mouth kicked up in a smile.

This is story does idealize the small town but it also shows that a dying town can result in miserable people.   Julia's talent for making things bright (she's also a handy interior decorator) breathes in new life to the town and Cooper.   Julia doesn't seem to miss her cultural activities after all.

But if you can look past the glorification of the small town, there is a lot to appreciate.   Gentle humor is suffused throughout the book.   There is true admiration that Julia and Cooper share for one another. Through their eyes we get to see the other in a very positive and sexy light.   You understand why one loves the other and how they fill each others spaces and gaps.   Cooper's inability to understand how Julia is completely transforming his life is pretty fun to watch.

As for the erotic nature, this book relies primarily on the graphic sexual content, primarily from the viewpoint of Cooper.   I thought that the men always sound like men in these books.

There is a suspense thread related to the jeopardy Julia is in that is woven throughout this story and I thought it was fairly lame.   Cooper was too competent to allow anything bad to happen and at a key moment, Julia does something that is too stupid to live.   But those criticisms aside, I enjoyed Julia and Cooper's love story quite a bit.   B

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley

REVIEW: Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley

Dear Ms. McKinley.

Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinleyYour book was another one recommended to me by Denise Rossetti. Because I loved the first one she recommended so much, I thought I’d try this one too. And boy, I’m glad I did.

This book has a very similar storyline to Zero at the Bone: two men navigate protective custody because one has witnessed something that could put away a very bad man for a very long time. As they spend time together, they fall in love. Despite the surface similarities, however, the stories are very different. In Shades of Gray, Danny Butler is a drug runner, working for a drug kingpin. He’s finally been caught by the cops on a weapons charge and Miller Sutton, FBI agent, manipulates Danny into witnessing against his boss. While in protective custody with Miller acting as Danny’s babysitter, they fall in love.

Unlike Zero at the Bone, this book isn’t a suspense book. There’s a couple of twists at the end that are brilliantly done, but almost all of the page space is given over to the relationship between the two men. The plot is there, it’s important, it’s beautifully written and pretty-much hole-less, as far as I can tell, but it’s secondary to the relationship. But the problem with this review is that I really can’t talk about that relationship without giving away unacceptable amounts of the plot. That said, however, you don’t hold back on how much these two men each have to compromise their own deeply held beliefs in order to save each other and be together. Miller has to overcome 30 years of denial over being gay and has to either lose or overcome (depending on how you look at it) his FBI “everything is black or white” mindset:

As a novice, Miller had assumed criminals were different in all ways from the average law-abiding citizen. But over time he had come to realize that drug dealers, murderers, and gang leaders all had people they loved, people they would do almost anything to protect, the same way the successful business man or suburban mom next door looked after their own. Involvement in the criminal world didn't necessarily erase those basic emotions of loyalty and love. It sometimes made Miller uneasy, the knowledge that in fundamental ways men like Danny were more similar to him than they were different. For Miller,
life worked better when the lines didn't blur.

Danny has to cut himself some slack, and see the good in himself. These are equally hard things for these men to do.

I also love how the narrative itself is all about the “shades of gray” that Miller has to embrace. Danny is terrified of his boss, but loves him, fears him, but is always looking for his approval, recognizes that he’s a Bad Man but doesn’t want to testify against him because of his deeply-felt loyalty to him. The justice system Miller believes in fails him at the end, as he himself does, too, and he has to figure out how to live with himself after that.

Not only are these characters perfectly consistent in their characterization throughout the novel, their changes are also consistent. That is, the narrative consistency of their characters is upheld even through the character growth and maturation they undergo, something that can be extremely difficult to pull off. And as this book was mostly about the characters figuring out how to be better people, both together and apart, in order to deserve each other, this consistency of characterization was vital to the quality of the book.

I think I’m failing miserably to say how damn GOOD this book was. I love romances that are primarily character driven and this one is so — I’m sorry, but I have to swear — abso-fucking-lutely perfect. These men have been through hell before their story starts, they go through hell during the book, they put *each other* through hell emotionally, and find themselves irrevocably different at the end of the book, wiser, all illusions shattered, all emotional disguises stripped, unable to be other than perfectly honest with themselves and with each other. I also like a lot of angst in my romance and you deliver perfectly. I like some grovel to my ending as well, and the Affair to Remember quality to the ending is perfect for drawn-out grovel from both characters.

Your writing never once tripped me up. The sex scenes are perfect. I liked the flashbacks, although occasionally they were slightly repetitious. I really can’t find anything wrong with this book at all. Angsty, romantic, hot, brilliant, and just plain GOOD. Thank you.

Grade: A

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

P.S. You really need a webpage. Like, really. How can an author today not have any sort of webpage at all?

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