A Little Disappointing
I have never been let down by Loretta Chase before. Even deep in her backlist, where sometimes you find an author's less polished works, I enjoyed every book. Chase has a knack for writing unusual, misfit heroines that succeed against all odds, generally because of their eccentricities, rather than in spite of them.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen for me with Don't Tempt Me. I really did want to love Zoe Octavia, but I felt like I was seeing her through the wrong end of a telescope for most of the book. Very little takes place from within her point of view -- what there is, is intriguing, but there wasn't enough for me.
In a nod to the Old Skool harem trope, Zoe is introduced to the reader as the latest ton sensation, the long-lost daughter of a prominent noble, escaped after 12 years in the harem of an impotent <eyeroll> pasha. Her mission: to overcome the scandal and live the life to which she was born.
Lucien, with an abandonment complex the size of the Titanic's nemesis, has just enough power in the fashionable circles to help her out. Considering that Zoe's father is the one person for whom Lucien has respect and affection, he's more than willing.
Beyond that, the book sort of petered out for me. There was never any major obstacle to the relationship between the hero and the heroine. The plot device was unimaginative and underdeveloped. I could live with that, but what I really wanted was to connect better with Zoe.
I didn't get to, though. Her backstory was told to the reader through a newspaper story, of all things, which Lucien engineered to build some empathy for her plight. Not a bad starting place, but we got very little more. I was left feeling like I knew slightly more about Zoe than any random woman of the times who read the newspaper.
The Bright Spot
Chase has always been good at building characters, and maybe the trouble here is just that it was too subtle for me overall. The stuff I did like was about Zoe's consistency throughout. Certain characteristics pinged back to her and Lucien's shared childhood, showing evolution but not radical change. I liked Zoe's pragmatic approach to fitting back into society, while still using and valuing skills she learned in that alien society. Zoe has composure, strength and self-confidence no matter the situation, and that was very appealing.
Don't get me wrong, this was not a terrible book by any means. But Chase is one of those authors for whom I have very high expectations. Hopefully the next one will be back on track.
Around the Blogosphere (my state of underwhelm is distinctly the minority)
Katibabs at RNTV
Janet at Dear Author
Ana at The Book Smugglers
Esmerelda at Flutter (a spanking new romance blogger, and since she agrees with me, you should all check her out and watch her for great things to come.)