REVIEW: Reckless Night in Rio by Jennie LucasTuesday, July 12, 2011 1:00
There are Belgian chocolate truffles. There is fine champagne, single malt whisky, silk velvet Dior gowns, and Casablanca. There are also big bars of supermarket chocolate, alcoholic ginger beer, outrageous dresses so badly put together you can only wear them a couple of times, and Pretty Woman. And there is Jennie Lucas.
Sometimes, the supermarket chocolate is more fun, and sometimes anything less than champagne would be an insult. If you had enough nerve, you could wear the cheap dress to the Ambassador’s soiree, but you might be more comfortable in the Dior. I’m not telling you which group I think Lucas belongs in, but both of the groups above have one striking thing in common. They’re both guilty pleasures, and Jennie Lucas is definitely a guilty pleasure.
She writes about men so brutal that sex is more like rape. She writes about fragile, helpless women, women who give everything up for the men they love. She takes familiar Harlequin tropes and squeezes every drop out of them. And that’s her secret. The other tropes that authors tentatively use and then make right with careful reasoning and logic, she tears through and wallows in them. Logic, shmogic. Like watching a hippopotamus taking a mudbath, reading her books is both repellent and glorious.
Reckless Night in Rio is no exception. In some ways it’s vintage Lucas. With any other writer I would have given up reading on the second chapter, but because it’s her, and because I know that reality isn’t on her agenda, I can take it.
The heroine, Laura, had a fling with her boss, Gabriel, before leaving him and her job fifteen months ago to return to her family and have the baby neither of them realized they’d conceived that night. And she doesn’t tell him about it, because he told her he wouldn’t fall in love and didn’t want babies. Her family is impoverished, but she still doesn’t tell him. There we have our first disconnect. If she’s finished with him, she has nothing to lose by claiming maintenance and giving her baby, who she claims she loves, the money and privilege he is entitled to. She can take Gabriel to court and demand a DNA test, get scheduled payments, and unless she was negligent and caused harm to her baby, no court would think of taking the child from her. But those issues never appear in the book, not once. No, she won’t do it because it will make him saaad. And she doesn’t give him the benefit of the doubt, either. She makes the decision for him. But, hey, this is a Jennie Lucas book. Par for the course. Suck it up and move on.
Gabriel returns to her on the day of her sister’s wedding. He doesn’t realize that the baby, Robbie, is his, because, hey, he’s a brilliant businessman and he never has to cope with the unexpected. And, in any case, they used protection. He’s forgotten that they used Harlequin brand condoms, the kind that are guaranteed to fail. So he assumes that she had a one-night stand just after she left him, ignoring that it’s completely out of character, and she was a virgin when they first slept together. A twenty-six-year-old virgin. Yeah.
He wants her to pretend she is desperately in love with him to convince a business rival to sell him a company. I know, but by the time Lucas has finished mugging your logic, you can buy into it. Sort of. Besides, the situation is irresistible. Laura is really in love with Gabriel, but she has to pretend she’s in love with him and expect to walk away from him at the end of a couple of days and bring up her child in secret heartbreak. Plus, he has a secret, but it needn’t bother us overmuch. He refuses to allow himself to love her because of a Big Secret in his past. It doesn’t really matter what the secret is, does it? Be honest, it really doesn’t.
Plus, she gets the plain Jane makeover, melting glasses and all (“Take your glasses off, Miss Smith. My God, you’re beautiful.”) We are now talking about several hippopotami in a great big mud bath. We are wallowing. Of course, her pregnancy has made her more voluptuous and more beautiful, and of course her rival is a stick-thin supermodel. And of course there’s a bikini smackdown. You know, all the things you secretly crave for but few people write anymore, especially so blatantly.
You can take several attitudes to this book, and it depends what mood you’re in. After a fraught week at home, I wanted escapism, pure and simple. The Jennie Lucas brand virtually guarantees it. If I’d wanted something that dealt with real issues, that gave me a story that made some kind of logical sense, I would have gone elsewhere. As it was, it gave me a couple of hours off. I won’t remember this book next week, and in writing this review, a couple of hours after finishing the book, I had to look up the names of the hero and heroine, but it did its job. And it made me laugh, because you can’t write a book like this without over-the-top prose and making assumptions that in real life would probably get someone sued for something.
So this one is at your own risk. I’ve given it a C because, well, I wasn’t sure what grade to give it.
“All you need to do is… pretend to love me.”
The task should be easy for Laura Parker— after all, Gabriel Santos is outrageously good-looking, it’s for one night only and he is offering her a million dollars.…
There are just three things to consider, however:
1. They’ve already had one steamy, unforgettable night together in Rio.
2. Laura’s been in love with Gabriel ever since.
3. Gabriel’s never wanted children, but he’s not aware he’s the father of Laura’s baby.…
Read an excerpt.