Silhouette Desire, $2.75, ISBN 0-373-05696-6
Contemporary Romance, 1992
I’ve never read any Laura Leone books before Fallen from Grace so when I come across this one in a used bookstore, it was an opportunity for me to see what the fuss about this author is all about. 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 feisty, 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”, 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 exhausting chore of cursing and hating his father and especially his stepmother. You see, they forced 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 phone call. 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 small town 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, as Ginnie may then 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 minutiae. 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. 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.