REVIEW: Worth the Risk by Charlene SandsSunday, October 14, 2012 1:00
Well, the title says it all. But in the end it didn’t work for me.
Sammie has come to the small town of Red Ridge to start a boot shop. Jackson Worth is to be her partner in the business, after she lost all her money to a scum-sucking accountant who also took her to bed. Sammie isn’t the brightest card in the pack.
I think Jackson dyes his hair in secret. He has hair the color of dark wheat, sandy hair, and blond streaked. Later on, it’s described as dark, but that’s after he’s been running, so I didn’t let that one distract me. When we first got sandy-haired, I got quite excited, because there aren’t many ginger heroes around. Maybe it’s me, but those hues sound like different colors.
The story starts when Sammie and Jackson wake up in bed together in Paris, Las Vegas. That setup is a disappointment from the start. I wanted to be there when they connected and had wild sex, not be a witness to the fallout the day after. That’s like having the Brussels sprouts and not the roast.
Jackson, a cowboy investor from Arizona, loves boots, and seems to think it’s Sammie’s predilection for boots that turns him on. But apart from one scene where they get down and grubby (I couldn’t say dirty, just a little tinged) with her wearing nothing but her boots, little comes of his preference. I wouldn’t call it a fetish, because the theme isn’t carried forward or explored enough. Sammie doesn’t seem to work the boots, apart from one disastrous scene later in the book, and Jackson doesn’t explore his predilection in any meaningful sense. I’ve just written a book about corset fetish (not BDSM) and I did a bucketload of research before I started to find out just why people like it so much and what kind of things they get up to. It was fun, but in Unlaced I treated the preference as a fetish that both gave the hero and heroine a lot of pleasure, and then served to keep them apart.
Anyway, in Worth the Risk I was quite excited to think that the Desire line is plunging into fetish territory, but no such luck. There is no psychological insight and no reason given for Jackson’s preference. He could easily get it on without the boots, so they aren’t essential to either of them. It’s treated as a pretty trim, a theme rather than something that could be used to make the story different and special.
I did laugh at one point, but that’s when Jackson’s ex, the Big Bad of this book, who, I suspect, will be getting a book of her own before too long, is described as wearing jeans, a bolero, and a thin string of diamonds that “weren’t too much.” Only in cowboy country. Now, I love the unashamed preference for bling and I’ll happily spend half a day exploring Charming Charlies. But tasteful? Not ever so.
Sammie claims she can’t remember the details of her night with Jackson, because she’d drunk too much. And here’s my first disconnect. That’s after two glasses of champagne. I happen to have a weak head for drink, but it takes a bottle of champagne, not a couple of glasses before I get anywhere near the blackout stage. And the blackout stage is invariably linked with violent vomiting, stomach upsets, and migraines, none of which Sammie seems to be suffering from. Nothing that a cup of coffee won’t put right. That is so wrong, that I’m not sure the editor wanted it altered, since the line tends to frown on (but not ban) drunk sex at first meeting. A couple of glasses of brandy, maybe. Or the lethal brandy and Babycham (it’s a kind of perry and when you mix the two, a lethal osmosis occurs). So they agree to let what happened in Vegas stay there and continue as business partners.
The plot is a bit tedious. There’s a fire at Sammie’s store, but it’s before her stock arrives, and it’s covered by the insurance, so that just adds a small delay. Most of the rest of the plot isn’t about Jackson and Sammie, it’s about their friends, who have had their own books already. Jackson doesn’t have an external plot, only one where he looks on Sammie as a friend, then a partner, then a lover. Instead of a snowstorm, there’s a dust storm, but it has the same effect. No phone connection, shelter in a bunker, need to keep warm – you know the rest.
The happy families, small-town plot would have worked much better in the American Romance or the SuperRomance line. So would the sex levels. There are few realized sex scenes. The first scene starts after the night before, their first encounter fades to black, and there are a couple of not very hot, not very fully described scenes later. Or maybe this erotic romance author just wants a bit more. No, I don’t think it’s that, because I happily re-read my Georgette Heyers, where you get a kiss at the end if you’re lucky. But what this book lacks and the Heyers have in spades is sexual tension. It crackles between characters like Damerel and Venetia and Charles and Sophy. Sammie and Jackson? Nothing. We’re told they’re attracted, we’re given the tingling, heat, etc descriptions, but since so much of this is done with “telling” and not “showing,” there’s no chemistry between these two.
Cowboy entrepreneur Jackson Worth wakes up next to trouble…literally. His new business partner, boot boutique owner Sammie Gold, should have been off-limits, but something about her sweet vulnerability has gotten under his skin. Working with her is torture, as are the memories of what happened in Vegas….A one-night stand with the cowboy? What on earth was Sammie thinking? Jackson Worth is drop-dead gorgeous and completely out of her league. But if Sammie wants her happily-ever-after, she’ll have to shed her girl-next-door image to seduce the confirmed bachelor once and for all!