Loose Id, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-758-0
Contemporary Romance, 2008
Try a Little Tenderness is actually a story in two parts. The first deals with the meeting and kindling of an affair between our hero and heroine, but things don’t work out at that time. The second half of the story deals with these two finally getting things right five years down the road when they happen to meet again, this time older and wiser.
Our Birmingham University Professor Peter Koss plays football, is tall and blond, and, from what I gather, looks like an “overgrown Viking”. A good-looking overgrown Viking, of course. When he finally jumps onto our heroine Loeletta “Lola” Bordenaux, however, he is under the impression that he is tackling a fellow burly player, not his dainty if curvaceous student who happens to be jogging nearby, so poor Lola ends up in a hospital rather than in bliss. Because Lola lives alone, Koss believes that it is the least he can do to offer his place for her to stay while she recuperates.
Don’t worry, Koss is some kind of genius so he’s only twenty-four. This is not some creepy story of an aging professor with midlife crisis hitting on a fresh-faced young lady in his class. Lola isn’t a fresh-faced teen either. She’s actually a twenty-year old whose experiences as an orphan shunted from one foster home to another have shaped her to be a pretty tough nut to crack. She currently moonlights as “Sin”, a hot dancer at a gentleman’s club, in order to make a living. However, it isn’t easy to maintain a relationship between them as she and he move in two different worlds.
The second half is a gender-reversal take on the familiar storyline of the prodigal son who leaves town only to come home and fall back in love with the smalltown girl that he has deflowered and then ditched all those years ago. This time around, Koss is that former virgin who still harbors a crush on Lola. Lola wants him back, but he’s determined not to let his heart get broken again, heh.
Try a Little Tenderness is at its most enjoyable in the first half when Koss and Lola are getting to know each other better. The second half has me scratching my head when these two head off on a field trip that seems more at home in a Michael Crichton story. I’d have preferred that Ms Holcomb has allowed Lola and Koss more private time to scream at each other, throw some things around, and slowly make up because the abrupt turn into action adventure so late into the story has me wondering whether I’m still reading the same story. I have a “What the heck is that?” reaction to the whole thing. I really would have preferred that the author has either stuck with making her story a contemporary romance with some mild romantic suspense or a road trip adventure romance instead of trying to fit all that into her story.
Still, the main characters are well-drawn and realistic and I have a good time reading their story before Ms Holcomb decides to turn her story into some action movie thing. The romance is believable because the author has her characters confront the various issues between them and enter the relationship the second time around with eyes wide open about the other person’s strengths and flaws. In other words, Try a Little Tenderness can be an uneven read, but it’s also a satisfying read when the going is good.