Christina Dodd, $12.99, ISBN 978-0-9960859-0-8
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Lady in Black is not a new book. It was first published by Meteor Publishing back in 1993, and that company folded shortly after, taking this book down with them. Thanks to the online self-publishing software revolution making it easy for anyone to resurrect long-dead books, this one finally gets a second life. The author claimed that this edition is revised and expanded from its previous version, but I have not read the original version so I can’t tell you how different this one is from the original. I can tell you one thing, though: I thought this was first published in 1983, because it feels that dated.
Margaret Guarneri is a lady butler with some secrets. Her current employer is Jim Donovan, an elderly billionaire who appreciates her efficiency as much as he likes looking at her. When Jim starts receiving blackmail letters, his cousin Reid comes into the picture. Reid causes Margaret’s heart to beat faster, and she really gets excited when she can tell from his eyes that he really wants to see her naked.
Of course, she’s a professional so she can never let him know how he gets to her. Not that he needs to know, because what Reid sees and wants, he gets. And Margaret’s going to get it. She knows, but she won’t tell. Oh, but he will get her. And so forth these two go, constantly going on and on like the previous sentences in this paragraph, until I roll up my eyes and wish that these two would just stop their mental yammering and start getting it on already if they want to so much. Aside from Reid’s over the top impersonation of Robin Thicke wagging his big blurred lines across Margaret’s boundaries, he’s pretty much a typical capable hero with nothing much underneath that exterior. Margaret is much harder to fathom. She’s so determined to suppress her emotions that she ends up being kind of caricature of an ice queen. The better for Reid to chisel away at her, I suppose, but I wish there is more to this relationship than something I’ve seen the author do many, many times before. To give Reid some credit, he does show that he respects Margaret despite his “I know you want it” braggadocio, so this romance is better than it otherwise would be.
As for the suspense, which is described by the back cover as “hot”, well, it’s mostly the main characters talking about the problem. The villain can be easily and correctly guessed the moment this person shows up, and it’s not like there are many possible suspects to choose from in the first place.
Lady in Black is in many ways a standard romance from the author, with the usual “overwhelmingly male hero and ice queen heroine” thing she always does. Here, however, the romance is stuck with a plot that is as dry as sawdust. There are also many things about this book, from the exaggerated one-note emotions to the way the rich people live in a manner ripped right out of a 1980s soap opera, that make the whole story feel like something Danielle Steel would write twenty years ago.
My track record with Christina Dodd’s contemporary romances has never been as good as it is with her historical romances, and Lady in Black isn’t bucking the trend anytime soon. It’s quite the shame, really.