Yes, another stupid title.
This is Anne Oliver’s debut book for HMB, and in some ways it shows. The hero is a musician, but in order to bring him into the Presents line, he’s also a tycoon. The tycoon part doesn’t really work for me, and I’d much rather he’d have stayed with his original musician persona. Putting them together made an uncomfortable fit, and I’d guess that this is the result of extensive revision notes.
I’ve tried a time or two to get a book accepted at HQN, latterly more because I wanted to show I could than anything else. HQN aren’t famous for their financial generosity to authors, though they do offer regular employment and almost promo-free zones to the people who write for the company regularly. So it was interesting to read this first book and compare it to the revision notes I received by HQN. Some I agreed with, some I didn’t, although I did work hard to do as they wanted. I submitted a book to the Harlequin Historical line. It was a story about a gentle duke, the only duke I’ve done to date and the lady’s companion he falls in love with. Someone is trying to kill him, and that, and his lady’s efforts to fit into the role she thinks he wants her to fill are the main conflicts. Add a mistress, I was told. Let her grow jealous. So I tried, but it didn’t work. That wasn’t what the story was about and it didn’t help it. I reworked that book, took a lot of the sex out, made her jealous, made him more domineering and then the editor left. So I put it back to its orginal version and sold it elsewhere (to Champagne Publishing, as “Noblesse Oblige,” actually).
I suspect Anne Oliver was told to make her hero a tycoon, as it’s well known (but never articulated) that HQN dislikes artistic heroes. Musicians, artists and so on aren’t very popular there. Great that she managed to get one through at all.
I was told to remove a lot of the hero’s thoughts, as he is the ‘McGuffin,’ the object of desire for the heroine. Oliver’s hero is allowed his own thoughts, but there are some things absent.
I do find it a little unlikely that Ben decides to rent the room in Carissa’s run-down home, even though it’s explained that he wants some peace and quiet for a while and after one night with her he wants more. His behavior is a tad inconsistent, veering from tender concern to rampant desire, and he changes too fast to make it totally believable. I did feel that Ben’s character had been altered a fair bit from the original conception, or that Oliver didn’t get a proper handle on him, but flashes of him, like when he’s lying in bed covertly observing Carissa are vivid and enjoyable.
The reason they stay together is a clichéd one, no surprise to regular readers of HQN Presents/Modern, but there are some shocking incidents, one in particular, that didn’t sit true with the way it was casually dismissed later in the book.
Spoiler – highlight to view text: Carissa loses her baby at five months, and later she says they had an angel for a while. They seem happy with that explanation. While I’m all in favor of the happy ending, this was a bit too slick for me.
Ben’s personal tragedy is explained early in the book. He was mentor to a young guitarist who drove his car drunk and killed himself. His relationship with the man’s widow and child is touching and nice, but an incident towards the end made me want to throttle Carissa.
Carissa’s constant rejection her feelings for him and his for her annoyed me with its repetition and I think she could have got over it before she did. It showed a lack of self-knowledge that verged on the childish. And she was a virgin at the start of the story, something I thought a bit intrusive and the reason for it made her look a tad foolish. Her long-term fiancé ran off with another man – and she didn’t think his constant refusal to take her to bed meant something? (He wasn’t described as religious or with a moral conviction – you would have thought she’d have twigged).
But a very good first effort, and a lot better than mine was. I gave up submitting to HMB, but Anne Oliver has gone on to be a stalwart, always producing readable books.
Carissa Grace can play a downright dreamy Chopin nocturne. But her own dreams have fizzled in the hot Australian summer. Her fiancé’s gone and she must be the last twenty-six-year old virgin this side of the Pacific. Until she meets hunk Bill Jamieson, whose warm whisky voice and hard-packed masculinity arouses her interest… and her desire.
Though their one-night stand leaves her yearning for more, when she discovers she’s pregnant, it’s no-strings, millionaire Bill who’s humming the wedding march. Too bad their marriage is in name only, because she’s falling for his soul-searing kisses and generous heart. But Bill is haunted by his past. Can she heal this emotionally scarred man and turn their marriage into the intimate relationship they both need?
Read an excerpt.