Tour’s Books Blog

December 21, 2009

Three Books by Lisa Marie Rice – Hot Romantic Suspense

Lisa Marie Rice is one of the authors doing ‘erotic’ romantic suspense.  Possibly the best right now is Shannon McKenna,  and others include Cherry Adair, Lori O’Clare, Denise Agnew, and naturally Lora Leigh.  The biggest problem with most romantic suspense is the extreme Alpha male characters, the overuse of ‘fragile, delicate, helpless’ female character, and most importantly the astonishing lack of technical research.  OK, many writers evade this by creating their own ‘world’, but the moment their characters start using real world weapons, its about as realistic as the fact that the heroes, usually in their mid to late 30’s, have near permanent hard-ons for the heroines.   Yes, there are exceptions – Anne Stuart, Suzanne Brockman, Tara Janzen and many other mainstream romantic suspense writers do a pretty fair job of their research and judiciously use the Alpha male/helpless female trope.   Another problem is the fact that romantic suspense tends to be a catchall category with books that range from  paranormal, to make-believe quasi-government agencies, to shades of Blackwater private spies/mercs, to using very real spec ops groups in the military and various government agencies.  The degree to which the reader can believe in story will vary a LOT.  For the sake of a story line, I do understand why some things are changed.  An example, in the SEAL books by Suzanne Brockman, she keeps her SEAL Team 16 together for a long time.  In real life, that doesn’t happen.  Military moves the men around based on their expertise and the need for any specific operation, but you can’t build a series of books based on that, so you ignore it.  I’m OK with that.  Some of the suspense writers make such glaring errors it ruins the whole book for me.

Lisa Marie Rice does tend to use a particular heroine type –  she’s very girly, never had down and dirty sex, usually very classy, always beautiful, no family to speak of and few close friends, and she’s in some kind of serious trouble that she wants to handle, but can’t.  The men are big, very tough, hard, guys – proto-typical Alpha males – that usually stay away from such soft women, but cannot resist the lure of this particular woman – so much so, they forget all their seduction skills and do the up-against-the-wall wild monkey sex routine.  Also, they are all really well endowed – but that’s a romance tradition.  Heroes are never average in length or width.  So here we go.  Be aware, these are some of her earlier books.

  • Title: Woman on the Run
  • Author: Lisa Marie Rice
  • Type: Erotic Romantic Suspense
  • Genre: Woman in jeopardy needs tough man to save her from danger while she saves town
  • Sub-genre: Former SEAL and WitSec protectee with price on her head
  • My Grade: C+ (3.4*)
  • Rating:  NC-17
  • Length and price: Long novel – 100,000+ words; cover price $18.99 but sales, remainders and used available
  • Where Available: everywhere books are sold; look for a deal; ebook available
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased online

Julia Devaux is the classic, wrong place, wrong time WitSec protectee.  She’s an editor in Boston taking a photography course who wandered onto the abandoned docks one morning just in time to see a notorious mob boss kill a man.  Now the boss has a million dollar price on her head and the U.S. Marshal Service has her in witness protection is a small town in Idaho – as Sally Anderson, grade school teacher.  Julia is the daughter of career diplomats and grew up all over the world.  Granted, many times she was in small towns, but she was also at home in Paris and Boston.  She’s used to exotic meals, sophisticated, worldly people and conversation and all the amenities a city offers.  Never comfortable driving, she’s now all but stranded miles from the nearest big town – and winter is moving in fast.  Technically, she’s on unpaid leave from her job, but in publishing, the likelihood of her editor’s position being open once she’s safe is pretty much nil.  The few friends she has all think she’s caring for a sick relative in St Peterburg, FL and her fussy cat, Frederico Fellini, has a new home.  Instead of her condo, she has a small, old house, a clunker car, and a large group of second graders – one of whom is obviously having a problem at home.

Frightened and alone, Julia is getting along as best she can.  Rafael, one of her students is obviously suffering due to some issues at home, so she sends a note to his parents.  Bernie, his father and foreman at the largest spread near Simpson, Idaho, is too drunk to go see Rafael’s teacher, so Cooper is in the school making the call.  Julia is still there, having been told by the Marshal she has a million dollar price on her head, when in walks the big, dangerous man who looks like a killer.  She brains him with the pumpkin the kids carved that afternoon.  She’s embarrassed to learn he’s not only a third generation owner of the premier horse breeding ranch, he’s also a former SEAL and a war hero.

Coop is instantly horny, Julia is needy.  Slam-bam sex.  He’s not exactly what she expects – Julia is prone to a certain snobbery.  (I’m not sure how someone who has lived all over the world can be so intimidated by driving she can’t find the next damn town.  Or so unsophisticated she can’t order books online!  No, you won’t get a great corner bistro, or Tibetan food, or a French patisserie in a small town in Idaho.  Since she lived all over, she managed without before, why the big deal?)  Coop takes taciturn to whole new levels, but his thoughts are interesting and occasionally amusing.  The romance progresses as a real killer starts hunting her down – simply called The Professional (AKA Léon).  OK, if you missed it, The Professional was also the name of a movie about a professional hitman played by the brilliant Jean Reno with none other than Natalie Portman as the girl he protects and eventually trains in his trade.  Lots of movie connections in this book.

Julia turns into a doormat around Cooper, an unfortunate trait shared by many LMR heroines, though none as extreme as here.  I like my female leads with a bit more attitude and gumption.  I’m not crazy about these fragile flowers with no survival skills and a penchant for stubbornness at all the wrong times.  Julia is supposedly a woman raised all around the world, one comfortable in any society, yet she comes off so damn unworldly and innocent.  It’s like she lived her whole life without any verve or dynamic curiosity or burning sense of adventure.  The whole ‘genteel lady’ thing was rather annoying.  Cooper could molded directly from Gary Cooper in High Noon – for that matter, this whole thing had a ‘High Noon’ feeling to it, except in this case, the town backed up the man facing down the bad guy.  The plot is a pastiche of various movies blended together, but no really original characters or plot lines.  The small town feel of Simpson is pretty much spot on, if a bit trite and predictable.  Woman on the Run is an average read and most assuredly not worth the cover price of $18.99.  If you can borrow a copy, buy a cheap remainder,  or get it used at a low price, then try it, but there are better books out there in the romantic suspense genre with equally hot sex.  Try Anne Stuart’s Ice series.

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  • Title: Port of Paradise
  • Author: Lisa Marie Rice
  • Type: Erotic Romantic Suspense
  • Genre: Woman in jeopardy meets sexy Italian policeman
  • Sub-genre:  American school teacher doing a friend a favor becomes a target of the local mob
  • My Grade: C+ to B-  (3.5*)
  • Rating:  NC-17
  • Length and price: Full novel – 90,000+ words; cover price $14.99 but sales, remainders and used available
  • Where Available: everywhere books are sold; look for a deal; ebook available
  • FTC Disclosure: Purchased online

Ms Rice cracks her heroine mold just a little here with with heroine Hope Winston.  Hope Winston’s best friend Kay started an special school in Bari, Italy to teach English to adults who held jobs that demanded a working knowledge of English.  The school was just getting established when Kay is nearly killed in a hit and run accident.  She asks Hope for help with the school during her long convalescence and physical therapy.  With nothing much to hold her in New York, Hope makes the move to Bari and finds she loves Italy.  She’s staying in Kay’s house and all manner of strange things have been happening.  Voices in the night, strangers around the house, heavy breathing phone calls in the middle of the night.  Kay absolutely insists she speak with Captain Franco Rivera.  She knows how much Hope hates all police, the contempt and distrust she feels thanks to how an abusive police chief treated her when she was 18 years old.

Franco Rivera is not at all what she expects – and Hope Winston is not what he expects.  When he takes her home and a man runs from her house, she gives chase – and to his surprise and that of the fleeing man, she begins gaining on him.  Then the man starts shooting at her and Franco tackles her to get her out of the line of fire.  Franco is quickly developing a thing for the beautiful blond who obviously hates cops.  Just how much trouble she’s in all seems to revolve around that house.  It’s a small place by the sea, sitting up on a bluff.  The two phone numbers they find the shadow of in a notepad by her phone leads to the local crime lord – the man responsible for the death of Franco’s father 10 years before.

Despite her dislike and distrust of cops, Hope ends up involved with Franco.  The is a silly ‘big mis’ near the end and   Port of Paradise has a better developed romance and plot than many of LMR’s Ellora’s Cave books.  Despite several not quite believable incidents, especially Hope’s experience with the cops in FL, it was overall better balanced between the suspense part and the romance.  It never generates the tension between the characters that the best of the breed does, nor are the action part all that well done, but it’s a decent sexy romantic suspense read.  Frankly, Out of Control by Suzanne Brockman or Blue Ice by Anne Stuart are both light-years better.  Despite being shallow, Port of Paradise is a good read for those not really into the action parts of the best romantic suspense books.  Not worth the cover price, but remainders and used books are available.

*************************************************************************************************************

  • Title: Midnight Man
  • Author: Lisa Marie Rice
  • Type: Erotic Romantic Suspense
  • Genre:  Woman in jeporday is saved by a former SEAL
  • Sub-genre:  Interior designer is traget of killers and is saved by her new business tenant, a former Seal
  • My Grade: C+ to B-  (3.6*)
  • Rating:  NC-17
  • Length and price: Full novel – 90,000+ words; cover price $12.99 but sales, remainders and used available
  • Where Available: some book sites, used book stores, and from publisher Ellora’s Cave; look for a deal; ebook available
  • FTC Disclosure:  from an online book swapping site

Here we go with another former SEAL.  Honestly, Suzanne Brockman has a lot to answer for.  You’d think that SEAL’s were the only hardcore sepc ops groups out there.  Actually the Marines and the Army have them and Delta has members from all branches of the service.  For many of the operations described in romantic suspense, the odds of using SEAL’s is small.  And being a sniper does not make you the best 1,000 yard shot.  (By the way, the Wimbledon Cup, the award given to the winner of the 1,000 yard shooting match, was won by a non-military women more than once.  Michelle Gallagher won the trophy an amazing 5 times.  Her mother has also won the cup.   Carlos Hathcock, the famed Marine sniper from Viet Nam won in 1965.  The Army had the most winners of any branch of the service followed by the Marines.)

Anyway, about the book – Commander John Huntington, USN Ret., a former SEAL with the nickname ‘Midnight Man‘ for extraordinary night vision, hearing, and sense of smell, started his own security company providing personnel protection and training to corporations and executives that need to do business in high risk areas such as the Mid-East and South America.  Business is so good, he needs larger offices already and heads to a building in a transition area of Portland.  The inside of the building has been spectacularly restored, but not as spectacular as the owner and soon to be landlady, Suzanne Barron.  Suzanne is instantly unnerved by the huge man dressed in black and riding a motorcycle.  He’s not at all what she was expecting as a tenant, even though he’s incredibly polite.  He has the whole overwhelming ‘Alpha male’ thing going on.  She was expecting accountants to move in.  Nonetheless, she agrees to rent to him and he insists she check his references – one of whom is the fiancee of her good friend and a police detective lieutenant, Tyler ‘Bud’ Morrison from Midnight Run.

John convinces Suzanne to rent to him and to have dinner with him that night, she could even choose her favorite restaurant.  She names a place that calls for reservations weeks in advance, especially on Friday nights, thinking it will stop him.  She’s never reacted to a man the way she does to John.  He excites and frightens her at the same time.  He does nothing to improve his standing by breaking into the building after he insists she set the alarm and scaring the hell out of her.  She’s furious with him and he barely calms her down enough to get her to agree to keep their date and let him rent the office space.   Suzanne is so nervous – and excited – about dinner with John she can barely eat her wonderful food.  They no more than get back inside the door of her building than they are up against the wall having head banging sex.

Next morning she awakes to find John moving into the offices – and his private quarters – with the help of a scary looking group of men who move as quietly as he does.  Despite the tattoos, piercings and biker looks, they are all polite and she doesn’t feel threatened – except by the combustible reaction to John.  He can’t believe he lost control and all his finesse with Suzanne the night before and now he has to go out of town on business, but John has plans.  Suzanne goes to work on a job she’s sharing with another designer, a very gay one, and ends up seeing their problem client alone that afternoon.  That night, a man breaks into her building.  She calls John then she calls Bud, locks herself in her bathroom and defends herself with an aerosol can.  John finishes the job and decides whoever is after her is too dangerous to leave her in that building.  It turns out Suzanne saw something she didn’t even know she saw until the murder of her client and her business associate hit the news.  She’s the only witness that can break the alibi of the killer.  Bud insists Suzanne enter the WitSec program.  She and John are separated, but not for long.

Although not the most original of all Ms Rice’s Midnight series, Midnight Man is my favorite.  It’s not great romantic suspense, and the sex, while good, is no match for many other books, but for some reason the story line and the characters just work for me.  I’ve read the book twice and each time I enjoyed it.  I can’t delude myself into believing this formula driven story is anything but average, shallow, lacking character depth and plot complexity, but it is very readable and enjoyable.  If you’re wondering why I had that little sniper fit, you’ll need to read the book to the end.  You should also keep in mind that White Star, Point of Impact, and Time to Hunt are some of my favorite suspense thrillers and feature sniper protagonists, so I’ve done some research on them and on the spec ops groups.  Five years after publication, Midnight Man remains a very popular book with erotic romance readers and one of her most sought after titles on used book sites.  As with all her books, the cover price is too high, but used and remainders are available.

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