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LynneC’s review of Back in the Headlines by Sharon Kendrick
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Presents 13 Nov 12

Only the hero and heroine do everything to avoid it, so the title is a bit of a misnomer. While I often enjoy Sharon Kendrick’s books, this one is a bit ho-hum for me. A shame, because I like the way her theme of sacrifice plays into her stories. But a flat hero and annoying heroine don’t make for the best of reads.

First strike against is that the heroine, Roxy, used to be a member of a girl band called The Lollipops. Now this isn’t Ms. Kendrick’s fault, but recent events in the news in the UK have made me very wary and uncomfortable about pre-pubescent or barely legal women in pop music, so that’s creepy for me. The Lollipops used to dress in sexy school uniforms and suck lollipops, so, just, no.

We first meet Roxy as she’s singing in a seedy nightclub, trying and failing to resurrect her career. The hero, Titus, Duke of Stourbridge, who prefers to be known, weirdly, by his first name and surname (titled peers, apart from the equally quirky Timothy Bentinck, the actor who is also Earl of Portland) are usually known by their title, not their surname. Whatever, that didn’t really put me off or annoy me, because it’s possible.

Titus, as we plebs like to call our peers by their first names, comes to Roxy’s dressing room to tell her she has to get out of the flat she’s illegally subletting from his estate manager, who has squirreled away, i.e., skimmed, lots of dosh from our hero. Roxy fights back and says legally he can’t, but he points out that he’s a duke and fabulously wealthy, so nayah. I like that bit, because it’s pretty much the truth. If you’re poor in Britain today, your rights don’t mean a lot, because you can’t afford the time or the energy to go to court.

Anyway, Roxy staggers off with her suitcase, ends up in a nasty hostel, and Titus rescues her from there. Roxy is working as a cleaner during the days, and he gives her a job as a cleaner on his country estate. Big of him. It made me wonder, why cleaner? It can be hard to get a cleaner’s job with an agency, and these days most people use agencies. Then on the estate, his manager, Vanessa, “your grace”s him out of existence. These days, domestic staff are satisfied with a “sir” after the first “your grace.” The dukes I’ve met (okay, I’ve only met one) certainly preferred it.

And he regards the domestic staff as his servants. He actually thinks “the servant class” at one point.

Ick. No, just no. Only the queen has servants. Everyone else, if they’re lucky and rich, have staff. Most staff would walk if they were referred to as servants, and they tend to refer to themselves as staffing the house, not the servants. The wicked estate manager? Having served his purpose, he disappears into Plot Convenience mist. I understand that in category romance, where space is limited, authors have to take shortcuts and introduce plot devices that don’t take too much time from the main romance, but it does seem just a bit convenient. Not that I’d have cared, had Titus and Roxy worked for me.

Titus first. He doesn’t have an internal conflict, unless you can count his concern with taking up with someone from the lower orders. Honestly, he seems to think like that, despite the flurry of peers marrying models and similar. Besides, these days the WAGS are royalty (Kate Middleton is a kind of classy, honorary WAG). He has servants, he thinks that Roxy isn’t suitable. He’s handsome, wealthy, etc, and I do mean etc. And I have no idea where his money comes from. True, he owns some nice property, but apart from the house that Roxy lived in at the start of the story, there doesn’t seem to be much capitalization going on. These days dukes are strapped for cash, especially when they have white elephants of big country houses that they have to provide for. Titus is just – rich. Is he like the Duke of Westminster, who owns swathes of tasty property in London? More details of that nature would have helped me to believe in Titus.

Roxy? Very girl band. Beautiful and thick as a brick. In real life she’d have had extensive cosmetic surgery, too. Exploited all her professional life, so left with nothing, that is actually more the exception than the rule these days, but it does happen. She’s just not the brightest spark in the biscuit tin. She’s the custard cream left to go soft at the bottom. I couldn’t really warm to her, as through the story she reacted instead of acting for herself, and the occasions when she does do something for herself, she is more or less forced into it by circumstances or her duke.

I don’t feel any chemistry between them, either. Lots of lust, and every time Titus sees Roxy, he’s focusing on her breasts or her legs or her backside. Just what a girl wants in the man she loves. A lech. But nothing in common, no link outside the bedroom.

I’m afraid I can’t see their marriage lasting for long.

However, I do like stories about modern peers (just written one myself!) and how they cope with our world. Makes a change from the Regency lords who strut around in their skin-tight—sorry, don’t mind me. I’m just engaged by Titus. If anything, he deserves Roxy.

I’m not giving this book a fail mark, because the writing is good, except for the first chapter, which has enough head hops to make a frog crazy. Not sure what went on there. The heat is minimal (much fading to black and the one sex scene that is described is over in a paragraph), but the style makes the book readable, and that explains why I made it to the end. It certainly isn’t for Titus and Roxy.

Will I be reading more of Ms Kendrick’s books? For sure. Just because I don’t like this one, doesn’t mean you won’t like it, and I’m sure she’ll come up with a goodie soon. I do appreciate that she tried to be different with this book, while still keeping it in believable levels. I think I just wanted more depth and a more engaging plot, I guess.

And please, although there are two more members of The Lollipops, I really don’t want to read about them, especially in the current climate. The accounts of their past exploits makes me queasy.

LynneCs iconGrade: C-


“What woman wouldn’t get all hot and bothered if Titus Alexander was staring at her like that?”As part of a number-one-selling girl band, Roxanne Carmichael was used to having the eyes of thousands on her, but now that she’s scrubbing floors, one condescending look from the Duke of Torchester fires her blood with fury…and attraction!

Titus doesn’t suffer fools, and does not drop his guard. But his new chambermaid is threatening his iron self-control with those legs and that wicked mouth! There’s only one way he can get her out of his system—and that’s to get her into his bed!

Read an excerpt.