This is one of those months when I’m thankful for Goodreads. In between reading non-fiction books on the cowboy era in Arizona and craft books on writing and marketing, I also read two romance novels. Both were enjoyable but utterly forgettable. That’s where Goodreads comes in with its book summaries and reviews. I was able to refresh my memory on what these books were about enough to write about them here.
By Caroline Fyffe
Jessie Strong, raised in an orphanage, is thrust out to make her own way when she gets too old to stay there. She’s on the brink of becoming a prostitute when Nathan Strong, a potential customer, instead decides to marry her. Jessie is grateful, but she doesn’t exactly feel love for him.
But her marriage allows her to adopt Sarah, a young girl she cared for at the orphanage. She sends for Sarah and her husband goes off for temporary work on a cattle ranch. And dies.
Chase Logan is tasked with informing Nathan’s widow of his death. He arrives just in time to be mistaken for the missing husband when Sarah—and Gabe—arrive with the man who runs the orphanage. Of course, Chase does the gallant thing and agrees to stick around long enough for the adoption to become official.
Chase has no intention of getting involved with a woman, but thrown together with Jessie, the attraction between the two of them grows.
Since this book follows the standard romance plot, you know there are obstacles and that they’ll be overcome so the book can end on a happily ever after.
This book was a Golden Heart nominee.
By Stella Bagel
Tessa Parker, whose father died before she was born, and whose mother had also died prior to the opening of the story, was taken in by the Calhoun family, who treated her like a daughter. Except she was also the housekeeper. Nevermind. The important part is that she has no family of her own.
She is flabbergasted when she’s informed that she’s inherited the Bar X ranch in Arizona from a man she’s never heard of. Having a new career ahead of her in Nevada, she figures she’ll just go look at the ranch and arrange to sell it.
Of course, on her way to the ranch, she runs into Joseph Hollister, deputy sheriff, whose family lives on the neighboring ranch. She learns that her benefactor was formerly the county sheriff, who had a wife who was disabled. Since he had no family, everyone expected he would leave the ranch to Sam, his long-term ranch foreman. But he didn’t.
From the minute she arrives, the Bar X feels like home. And her attraction to Joseph Hollister (for some reason, she decides right off the bat she won’t call him Joe, even though that’s what everyone else calls him) threatens to overpower her. Yes, he feels the same way about her.
Sparks fly almost immediately and Tessa and Joe become involved. Okay, more than involved. He spends more time in her bed than in his own, although we only get to see the first sex scene. (Thank goodness.)
However, there are two questions that have to be answered. Why did Ray Maddox leave his ranch to Tessa? And will Tessa go back to her life in Nevada or stay on the Bar X with Joseph?
I suppose you already know the answer to the second question, since this is a Harlequin romance. Since I’m a mystery writer, I also figured out the answer to the first one pretty early on. As in, as soon as I read the first chapter.
I’m disappointed in romance novels. While I knew in advance that the primary plot was the love story, where two people meet and are attracted to one another, then they’re faced with obstacles that have to be overcome, climaxing in the black moment, and ending in a happily ever after, they seem awfully thin to me. There’s little depth of character and the obstacles often seem contrived. The secondary plots are so simplistic, I’m not sure what purpose they serve, other than as a break from all the pounding hearts.
I’ve found the same thing in the Hallmark Christmas movies I’ve been watching. (It’s research!) Everything is so predictable, I keep wondering if I should spend ninety or a hundred-and-twenty minutes watching another one.
Directed By Alfred Hitchcock
Speaking of movies, in my quest to watch every movie Sean Connery was ever in, I ordered the DVD of this one recently. The movie is called “a sex mystery” while the book on which it’s based (by Winston Graham, who also wrote the Poldark novels) is called a psychological crime novel.
As someone who has a habit of falling asleep on every movie and TV show I watch in the evening, the fact that (after one short doze and a rewind) I didn’t on this one says something. And I started it very late, only finishing at 1:00 AM.
This is also a romance, although not a very traditional one. Hitchcock heroines are always complex, unlike those who show up in most movies, particularly of this era. Marni is a troubled woman, changing identities constantly to find new jobs where she can rob her employer. Her relationship with her mother is also… odd.
By contrast, Mark Rutland, the Sean Connery character, isn’t complex at all. The only question that kept bothering me was why he fell in love with a thief and a liar to begin with. He’s handsome, wealthy, and obsessed with Marnie and why she can’t be touched by men. (Except during an early scene with a thunderstorm, where she’s absolutely terrified and melts into Mark’s arms.)
He hires an investigator to uncover her background, but that doesn’t give him the whole story. He knows there’s a repressed memory in there somewhere, and since she refuses to see a therapist, he educates himself on how to draw it out of her.
Since this is a story of suspense, I can’t say a whole lot more without giving the plot away. There were a few flaws, and certainly the way the screen gets washed in red every time Marnie is faced with an object in that color is an outdated technique, but overall this was a thoroughly gripping movie.