Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-421-8
Romantic Suspense, 2004
To Have and to Hold is an actual sequel to For Your Love – the same characters from the latter, Solange DuPree and Rupert Giles, are back to have one more adventure before they walk down the aisle. In the previous book, they’ve cemented their love and even found a kid to adopt in their adventure in Ethiopia.
Before they can settle down though, Rupert, a former British intelligence agent, is called back for one last glory: a former dictator has broken out from a Senegalese prison and may be plotting some really villainous deeds with terrorist Obed Bedele. The British Intelligence people suspect that this villain Aziz would be tracking down his ex-wife Ashante who is now married again and living in Mauritania. Rupert will have to try and catch Aziz. Things go awry however and he ends up having to protect Solange from Aziz’s wrath.
Meanwhile, Solange is delighted that she can now conceive, but between trying to be happy and stopping herself from strangling her mother (you know how things are when people think and talk about weddings), she bumps into an old-boyfriend again, who may or may not be up to no good. Their friends and family members also show up throughout the story. Hopefully there will still be a wedding at the end of the day.
The problem with To Have and to Hold is that it really doesn’t have much to add to the love story of Rupert and Solange. Their feelings for each other are already cemented in their previous appearances in Ms Sims’s books, so readers new to the series will not find a straightforward traditional romance novel here. The couple is already in love and they just want to get married at the end of the day. This is a story that is written for fans of Rupert and Solange.
Still, despite the author’s comfortable ease at depicting enjoyable scenes of friends and family interacting with each other, this book starts out slowly, with the writing often coming off as awkward. Conversations come off as preachy. But things noticeably improve a hundred pages into the story when the author gets back her rhythm when it comes to pacing and the conversations between characters begin to flow more naturally. I enjoy reading about Solange’s relationship with her friends and family. But on the whole, I’m really wish that I am reading a different story, a story where there is a couple that is falling in love. I find Rupert and Solange too sweet in here – they seem to be always kissing and making love and making me fear a little for my blood sugar. While I enjoy Rupert’s James Bond-like adventure, the adventure is more campy than sophisticated. Ms Sims is still not quite comfortable with writing suspense and intrigue.
So, at the end of the day, I am not sure how to grade this book. On one hand, it’s not a bad book – it’s not this author’s best book, but it’s still a readable book. One the other hand, I can’t help feeling that this book is an unnecessary epilogue for a couple whose story has already been told. Maybe it’s best that I just put this book aside and wait for the author’s next book instead.