Review: Cold Case, Hot Bodies, Jule McBride

Cover Comment: Pure Blaze — very good looking models though!

Setting: Present day New York city.

Series: No, unless you count the fact that this is number 44 in the “Wrong Bed” series.

Hero and Heroine: Dario Donato, NYPD, Italian stud, and Cassidy Case, red haired, emerald eyed Irishwoman from South Carolina.

Plot: What’s not going on in this book? Cassidy is contesting ownership of an apartment building Dario’s family has been managing for years in the Five Points section, mainly as a cover to search for jewels which her ancestor, Gem O’Shea, stashed there, Cassidy needs the jewels to save her small jewelry store back in South Carolina, which is indebted to its ears thanks to her philandering ex husband. There’s also a cold murder case involving said ancestor, ghosts, and the claims on the building of a slimy Donald Trump-type character, as well as the metrosexual curator of a Museum of Sex!

Distinctive feature: You’d better sit down for this one. In a romance novel first, the hero doesn’t smell like “sandalwood” or “man”. He smells like … Christmastime.

Word on the Web:

I was surprised to find so few reviews, because this title came out in 2007 at the exact same time Harlequin announced everything was going to be published as an e-book. NPR and other national news outlets picked up the story and used this title as an example of what Harlequin publishes. But I am sure it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle when Harlequin puts out over a hundred titles a month.

Romantic Times, 3 stars

More about the author, who has written some 30 titles,  here.

The Racy Romance Review:

I’m not sure why I read this one. Sometimes I troll EBay for cheap lots of romances, and there are always a few lots of Blazes. I had read another Blaze by McBride, The Pleasure Chest, about a pirate named Stede who is stuck in a painting but comes to life when he sees the heroine’s box of vibrators, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, I cannot recommend.

After the heaviness of the Gaffney book, I needed something lighter, and this filled the bill, although at almost 250 pages, and with a large cast of characters (Dario’s family and friends, the other tenants in the building, the heroine’s ex husband and mom) and the many subplots, this was not as light as I was expecting.

I’ve been writing lately about nonconsensual sex in romance, and this book begins with a scene in which both the hero and heroine think they are sleeping with someone else, making me wonder how to categorize sex when NEITHER party truly consents (due to unintentional deception)! Strangely for a Blaze, they do not see each other again for about 80 pages, something that bothered me: if there’s one thing you can count on with category romance it’s that the hero and heroine are together on pretty much every page.

They end up making a deal to sleep together for a week (Dario tells her she has to agree or he won’t let her search for the jewels — I don’t think this counts as coercing her, incidentally. It’s more of an offer, which she can refuse.), and in the process they fall in love. Typical of a Blaze, the hero and heroine share many, many intimate encounters, and these are very well written and serve their purpose. I really liked the straightforward, believable way they began to care for one another: this was the best part of the book.

The writing is pretty uneven, and one thing in particular that bothered me were the inconsistent metaphors that were piled one on top of another. Here are three examples:

“…her arms and legs were twined around him more tightly, like vines growing around a solid tree trunk. She felt like a boat carried on a strong, sure current.”

Ok, are you rooted to the ground, or racing along the water?

“Like earthquakes, or volcanos, summer storms, or avalanches, it was an unstoppable force of nature destined to come to a halt as abruptly as it had begun”

Okay, is it unstoppable, or not?

“Desire had seized him like an iron fist, and he’d felt he was down there with the demons, flames licking every inch of him. Angels wings had fluttered around him, and he’d felt lifted up, soaring.”

Hmmm…

Something I liked about this book was the strong New York setting, and the interesting historical and paranormal subplots — there’s even a preface featuring Gem and her lover. Despite the unusual subplots, the hero and heroine are generic. Gem, in particular, has no distinctive features. She’s likable, but we never know who she is or what she truly wants. Ultimately what keeps the hero and heroine apart is a romance convention as common as any: the heroine has been “burned” by her ex (a bookish professor with the stupendously unlikely name of Johnny Case).

I don’t read many category romances. A grad student at my uni – not a writer — needed some money when her assistantship ran out and wrote one to earn it. I remember thinking they had to be pretty bad if it was that easy to get published. When I learned she earned about the same as I have writing short 1200 word pieces for the Chronicle of Higher Education, I thought maybe they were exploitative to boot, and stayed away.

Since then, I have read maybe 10 of them, and I now realize there are some really terrific ones along with the dreck. I would put this one somewhere in the middle of that pile.

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Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 6:33 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. For categories, I’d rec Julie Cohen (Harlequin Presents Special Edition) and Kathleen O’Reilly (Blaze)–caveat is I haven’t read O’Reilly yet, but have several of them based on several recs, so I’m expecting good things.

    I’ve also liked a lot of Janice Kay Johnson’s Superromance, and both books I’ve read by Judith Arnold.

  2. Victoria,

    I have read the O’Reilly’s — all three Sexy O’Sullivans — and enjoyed them very much, with the middle one on my keeper shelf.

    and I read the Julie Cohen that was the subject of cover controversy, His For the Taking. I liked it.

    I haven’t tried the others you mentioned, but I will!

  3. Cute review 🙂 I don’t read that many Blaze books unless it’s by an author I’ve read and enjoyed previously. I preferred the old Temptation line, but I think they laid off somewhat on the relationship aspect of Temptation to amp up the sex scenes in the Blaze line.
    Although like you, I have found some gems in this line.

  4. Thanks Kristie!

    I find it so overwhelming to choose among these. And yet, they are so easy to find and smuggle home, being right near the napkins in my grocery store. I wish I had a list going for good categories, but I don’t, so they all look the same on the rack.


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