The Black Sheep
by Laura Leone, contemporary (2003, 1992 reissue)
Wildside, $14.95, ISBN 1-58715-188-X

The Black Sheep was initially published as a Silhouette Desire back in 1992 and this Wildside edition is merely a reissue without any revision. I've never read any Laura Leone books before Fallen From Grace so when I come across the Silhouette Desire edition, I eagerly push aside what I was reading at that moment to check out what the fuss about this author is all about. I've read some of the author's fantasy novels that were written as Laura Resnick and I've enjoyed them, so I'm eager to see if the author's romance novels are to my liking. Oh, and yes, I am reading this book in its original published form. If you wish to purchase the book in its current Wildside reissue, please take note that you'll still be getting a story the length of a series romance.

Unfortunately for me, The Black Sheep is very much like an old-fashioned romance novel. While the heroine Virginia "Ginnie" Porter is supposed to be feitsy, she is also everything an old-school romance heroine is that can very well give readers more familiar with more current romance stories a case of hives. Much is made about the heroine's "Child-like innocence", eeuw, for example.

Anyway, the story first. Our hero Prospero "Roe" Hunter is currently hiding away in his personal island of Sontara somewhere in the Mediterranean sea. Our poor billionaire hero is in need of some R&R because the act of cursing and hating his father and especially his stepmother for forcing him to go back all the way to LA to shove his sister to a rehab clinic just as she is this close to being a junkie knocking on heaven's door and asking St Peter whether he knows any good place to score some blow from. Poor Roe, having forced to be a big boy and take care of the whole family - he is now recuperating by suntanning naked and scowling at the birds and the sun. Then comes the phonecall. His brother Vince manages this popular American singer called Ginnie and he'd like Ginnie to lay low for a while in Sontara as Vince, the manager, has to recuperate from a recent injury.

Roe reluctantly agrees, his reluctance in part because Ginnie is said to be a prima donna. Naturally the woman that shows up is a typical romance novel fantasy: a heroine that may be a famous singer but at the same time so kooky and sweet while being so innocent and virtuous that she soon charms everyone in Sontara, including Roe whose recuperation shoots through the roof, if you know what I mean.

I suppose if I can overlook the fact that Ginnie is a very unlikely pop star in the sense that she is more like a typical sheltered smalltown lass than a pop star, the romance in this story will be a well-written Daddy and Little Princess story. That's my problem: I don't particularly enjoy reading a story where the heroine has to be pampered and protected from the evil world by the father figures in her life. In this story, Ginnie allows the male authority figures in her life (first Vince, now Roe) to make every decision for her. I mean, hey, the very premise of this story has Vince so concerned that he is no longer there to make decisions and plan Ginnie's daily schedule that Ginnie may do something crazy and ruin her reputation. At the end of this story, Roe appoints himself Ginnie's new manager and even plans to start a recording company of his own to put out Ginnie's future CDs! And Ginnie is just okay with that, without asking to see contracts or anything else.

Therefore, Ginnie is not the kind of heroine I'd like to see more often in romance novels - her "independence" comes in the form of her willingness to be selfless and kind to make the people around her happy. She meekly allows men to take over her career - Ginnie, for a supposedly talented singer, shows no convincing passion for her own art since she's happy to let other men run her career without asking her opinion when it comes to their decisions.

This story is otherwise a familiar tale of a woman straddled with a "terrible reputation" like being a singer. After all, all singers are ho's until they prove to the hero that they are actually sweet and selfless creatures who will never do anything selfish like disagreeing with the hero about matters related to these heroines' careers and everything else. Ginnie's reputation is a very big deal - the hero's love for her hinges precariously on Ginnie being as pure as snow. Fortunately for everyone, Ginnie is a heroine who will claim to be so busy that her hormones magically dry up and she has no desire. Hence her telling the hero that she is a virgin because she is too busy letting Vince run her life down to the barest minutae. Meanwhile, Roe has all kinds of family issues - mostly involving evil selfish women - to somehow justify his suffocating chokehold over Ginnie in the name of love.

Perhaps The Black Sheep is just showing its age because this book does not age well at all. Ginnie allows the men in her life to control her career as well as her life completely - there is no way I can ever begin to consider her an independent person. This is just a story of a happy little princess who finally finds a big daddy that will take care of her, love her, think for her, and will protect her from the big bad world outside. I suppose this kind of fantasy can be appealing but even then, I find Roe's brand of love to the point that he must take over and control every aspect of Ginnie's life too discomfiting for me to enjoy this story without reservations.

Rating: 57

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