Is it a bad sign that I was laughing uncontrollably while reading this romantic suspense story? Yeah, I thought so too.
Dear reader, I could not finish this one. I promised myself, many years ago, that I would refuse to feel guilty about not finishing a book I wasn’t enjoying. My TBR pile is as high as a skyscraper, there’s more fish in the sea, the sun will come out tomorrow, etc. etc. I do try to give books a fair chance, and I made it all the way to the first sex scene on this one. And then, for reasons I’ll explain below, I just gave up.
And I warn you that I’m going to hop into the Snarkmobile for this review; in the oft-repeated words of Christine Feehan’s immortal Carpathians, “I can do no other.” Now I shouldn’t even have to say this, but in light of recent online discussions , I’ll put forth the disclaimer that this is not a personal attack on the author. I’m reviewing a book, not someone’s personality. I’m not familiar with other Samantha Hunter novels; maybe the rest of them are excellent, maybe they’re not. I do, however, have major issues with this one.
These issues fall into two broad categories: character development (or, rather lack thereof) and writing style. The combination of both made this novel so unreadable for me that I couldn’t find a point of interest where I could cast my reading anchor and stick around long enough to find out what happened. I simply didn’t care; strong feelings, whether positive or negative, will get me through a book, but apathy will sink me every time.
The characters in Unexpected Temptation, Luke and Vanessa, are thrown together in very cinematic circumstances. Luke and Vanessa are in jail, there’s been an explosion of some kind from which Luke has saved Vanessa, and there’s trouble brewing. The conflict, at the beginning, stems from the fact that Luke thinks Vanessa is someone he knows as Nicky; he has tracked Nicky/Vanessa to her home, which has proceeded to blow up, and in true action movie fashion he has thrown her to the ground to save her life. The start of the book confused me, because it jumped right into the jail scene; but I learned that this book is part of a series, so I can only assume that the events before then were described in the previous book. Okay, I can deal with cliffhanger series endings. I wasn’t crazy about the writing, but the initial premise was interesting. So far I was on board.
However, once it becomes clear that Vanessa is not Nicky, Luke insists on rejecting the truth for what I felt was too long… and then he’s suddenly lusting after her, and she after him. There is a relationship between Vanessa and Nicky, which should come as no surprise to anyone who reads the first couple of chapters. But this makes it hard to understand whether Luke likes Vanessa for herself, or if it’s only because she reminds him of Nicky, who was once his lover.
By the time I reach a love/sex scene in a story, I should be able to understand why these characters are getting together (no matter how superficial or temporary the fling might be); otherwise, the scene will just fall flat for me. This is what happened for me in Unexpected Temptation; I felt that Vanessa went from Bland Robot to Sex Robot in a single leap, and I had no idea why she wanted to get it on with Luke or how her previously reserved persona changed so quickly once the clothes started to come off.
In fact, and this segues into our writing style discussion, it’s hard to understand much of anything about these characters, because they’re so lifeless that they almost don’t seem human. Were it not for the dialogue tags, I could almost never tell who was speaking, that’s how blandly identical they seemed. It’s hard to describe this writing style, but all I could imagine as I read Unexpected Temptation was a computer voice droning out the text.
And you know what? I don’t even want to talk about this book anymore, because I simply can’t bring myself to care. The only thing I will say, before I leave you with a selection of choice quotes from the novel, is that I’m disappointed (I can’t even work myself up to anger) that Harlequin would publishUnexpected Temptation, because it needs a complete overhaul. Adrift in an endless stream of internal monologue filled with useless details that only serve to make the characters even more boring, one-word paragraphs, Stepford dialogue, and incomprehensible plot points, I decided to jump ship and leave Luke and Vanessa peeling off their clothes and setting their Robo-Sex dial to full thrust.
So that’s the last of the March 2014 bundle. I suspect it will be some time before I pick up another Harlequin title; I’ll be needing a few palate cleansers in the interim.
And, as promised, here’s a handful of stylistic gems from Unexpected Temptation. For the full effect, try getting your computer to read the text. You’re welcome.
- “‘But it was a mistake, I’m sure. Someone must have thought my house was someone else’s. It’s the only explanation. Who would want to hurt me?’”
- “She couldn’t leave him. If not for him, she might be dead. Again.”
- “‘Can you drive?’ She straightened, glaring at him as if she were offended by the question. She’s tough, he thought with a flicker of admiration.”
- “He’d learned, during his eastern studies, not to discount things like karma. The flow of energy, the cycles of the universe that moved everyone along in life. Everything was connected…”
- “He switched his gaze to the city’s lights that shone over the water in the distance.”
- “It was only evident if you looked really close, like she was doing now.”
- “She eased back, letting him investigate her injury. From a knife. That someone had wanted to use to kill her. Unreal.”
- “Vanessa blinked. ‘How could anyone track my money, or my car? I mean, who does that other than the government?’”
- “his touch, and how he looked at her… She couldn’t help but feel something.”
- “She didn’t have any of her usual shampoos or soaps, but Luke had some on the counter, so she used his. It was intimate, she thought, moving the bar of soap he’d likely used that morning…”
- “Usually there would be a robe in the bathroom, but she didn’t see one. Luke must have used it that morning.”
- “It smelled like him - like his soap. She smelled like him, too.”
- “As he took her in, the salad nearly lodged in his throat.”
- “…folding her legs under her in the way that women often did. He loved that.”
- “‘Jared changed the name, as he’s a famous chef. One you might know from TV, though I’m not supposed to share that.’ She did know. She watched that show all the time.”
- “Luke hadn’t experienced the sense of being so totally in sync with anyone since his days in China.”
- “Luke recognized the flirtatious tone of her voice. She was perfectly capable of reapplying the bandage on her own, but she was asking him to help her for other reasons. Vanessa was seducing him.”
- “‘Are you for real?’ It was like he was in a dream. A very good one. ‘Why don’t you find out?’ she invited, her tongue wetting her lips.”
- “‘Luke, you’ve lost everything you had. You know what that’s like. So have I, and so much has happened today. Why not enjoy this moment while we have it?’”