Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-3530-5
Historical Romance, 2014
There are ships in this story, along with the promise of an unconventional heroine, so Kathleen Bittner Roth’s Alanna seems like a good bet. Well, turns out that I’m wrong, but hey, such things happen even to good people like me.
Wolf – just Wolf, maybe because his real name must be Humphrey Diddlesworth III or something – hid under the bed when a man broke into their house and killed his mother a long time ago. As an adult, he… well, I guess he must have done something in the previous book in this series, and now the folks from that book give him some heart-to-heart talk that has him deciding to track down his mother’s killer. Along the journey from San Francisco to Boston, he meets Alanna Malone, a rich lady who is about to be married off to some guy she doesn’t care for. She’d love to put out to Wolf and call it love. Can the author find a way to pad the story so that she reaches a reasonable word count that would placate her editor and the people who buy this book?
Alanna is such a dreary read, I actually fell asleep twice while trying to read this one. There is no reason for it to be this way, as it has a mystery and a randy heroine wanting to feel it everywhere. Unfortunately, this is where the author’s sense of pacing breaks down completely. For a very long time, the characters just go around in circles in a manner best described as: “Do you want it? Well, I’ll give it to you… later. So you want it now? Maybe later. Now? Later.” Throughout all of this, Alanna is gagging for all of that manliness without any thought to the consequences of her actions. This makes her yet another randy heroine seized by lust and just has to act on it in a reckless manner – she’s not the brightest bulb around, that’s for sure.
Wolf, on the other hand, is all over the place. One moment he’s teasing Alanna and making her hot and bothered, the next minute he decides that he should play it cool, repeat and rinse. What is he thinking? What does he want? I have no idea. His actions for the most part seem to be dictated by the author’s need to string the reader along with promises of hot sex when she has no intention of delivering any until she has reached a minimum word count. There is also an unappealing smugness to that man’s thought processes and actions, as if he knows that he is just so far more amazing than anyone else in the world.
The biggest problem here is that I never get the sense of who or what these characters are at the end of the day. They seem to do and say things that feel disconnected from the rest of the scenes they are in, like they are a pair of awkwardly manipulated puppets in a play.
All these are quite the shame, because the story has an old-school epic vibe that brings to mind those stories written by Kathleen E Woodiwiss and other authors of her time, only this time the efforts to be more politically correct result in affected characters with noticeably twenty-first century values and norms when it comes to love and sex. Factor in a plot that seems to either rely heavily on details from the previous book (which I have not read at the time of writing) or is just plain inscrutable in the first place, and I find myself scratching my head throughout most of the story. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get it, and the sad thing is, I don’t feel that I am missing out on something great by not getting it.