Improper Advances
by Margaret Evans Porter, historical (2000)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-80773-4

Three chapters into Improper Advances I get flashbacks of Marlene Suson's The Lily And The Hawk. I'm not saying Ms Porter ripped Ms Suson off, but both books are very similar in that it has a performing heroine and a titled hero besotted with each other, but she keeps saying no or he keeps saying no (sometimes they take turns) in a cycle of meet-love-buhbye that wears thin after a while.

Heroine Oriana Julian is a singer ("Ana St Albans"). She isn't a free-for-all lovezone, so don't worry, but she's no shrieky "I am no harlot!" reluctant ninny either. When an incident with a drunken friend goes a bit out of hand, she decides to go to lovely Isle of Man for some R&R and to cool things over a bit.

Darius Corlett, Sir Misogynist, mistakes her for a - well, singer, and makes the move on her, only to be given a nice setting down. Immediately he (unrealistically instantly) ditches all the women-are-good-for-that-only philosophy to get down on his knees and - uhm, worship our beauteous heroine. He wants her, she wants him, oh starry, starry night!

But there are problems. First he doesn't know she's a singer. Then when he does, they both never think of making their relationship beyond that a temporary one (understandable). Then she has things to do and places to go. So does he. They meet, they part, they meet, they part, and so they go until the final conflict. Am I worthy of him? I must let him go if I love him so! torment included in liberal doses.

Unlike Marlene Suson's heroine who seems like an aspiring Barbra Streisand-wannabe transplanted into the past, Oriana seems like a 1790s woman in her behavior. But don't hold me to that, I'm not that much a stickler for history.

Improper Advances is a pleasant read, but that's as far as it gets. Oriana and Darius are lightweight characters with conflicts and baggages that more often than not seem rather contrived. Every recipe in the Book of Romance Plots is used to keep them apart until the epilogue, so reading this book is like watching two rather cute, if dim, puppies chasing each other round and round an oak tree on a pleasant sunny afternoon (maybe in Tuscany). Round and round and round they go. It's fun at first, but then it gets a bit pointless after a while.

Rating: 75

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