Oct 31, 2008

Spin number two on the Harlequin round robin.

Biding Her Time
by Wendy Warren
Thoroughbred Legacy Series #2
Published: 2008

So, here's a disturbing fact about me: I anonymously badgered my local library system, of which I am a fully functioning employee (because like hell I'm putting my name on all of these requests, you know what I mean?) to buy this whole series. Badgered like you will not believe. I'm not normally like this, so I guess I'll chalk up this irrational behavior to being a blogger. And a librarian. That's a pretty tricky situation, that. Anyway, I am pleased to announce that the system purchased the whole damn series. For me. And I am freaking thrilled about this for the fact that I have more silly horsey romance novels to throw away my time on.
How did Audrey Griffin - a blacksmith by trade - become a wine hostess? Sure, she's all about "seizing the day," but she's a tomboy, not a booth bunny. Granted, her makeover has transformed her into a hottie - but when you're working with a straitlaced Aussie god like vintner Shane Preston, a little fashion goes a long way!

Unfortunately, no-strings-attached doesn't work for Shane. Something about Audrey makes him want more from their fiery attraction - despite the fact that "commitment" leaves Audrey shakier than a horse on Rollerblades. Is she balking at love or simply biding her time?
So, look, I don't enjoy this, okay? It's petty and trite and ridiculous, but I'm reading it because it's called "Thoroughbred Legacy" and therefore why would I not read it? I don't like romances because women are commonly painted as independent while they're really aching to be dominated and men are displayed as heroic and supportive when they're one step away from being abusive, if they aren't obviously being abusive. It's not sexy, okay? Unfortunately for me, most of the romances I've read for this blog fall into this category. Men dominate, women love to be dominated (because it's somehow liberating?), blah blah yell yell kiss kiss blah blah babies! It's really tiresome. Imagine my surprise when this book totally exceeded my expectations.

By saying this, of course, realize that it's still a romance novel. My expectations were pretty low. I was expecting the usual story, and instead got this hilariously weird Harlequin version of the Thoroughbred series meets Sweet November. If that makes sense. Well, let's just get to the plot.

Do we all remember Quest and the Leopold's Legacy ordeal? No? Well, Leopold's Legacy was going to win the Triple Crown, but just before the Belmont Stakes the racing industry collectively decided to start acting like the Jerry Springer Show and had a fit about the horse's paternity. So Quest had to pull the horse from the race and all hell broke loose and Quest is going through some hard times. Quest is owned by the American Prestons. As opposed to the Australian Prestons, which also exist. Okay. That all said, Audrey Griffin is Quest's blacksmith. She's a tomboy and doesn't eat properly (her idea of dinner is popcorn covered in caramel sauce, if you wanted an example) and likes jeans. There's not much feminine about her, other than she is female. Then you have Shane, one of the Australian Prestons. I feel like I should develop a family tree to explain this, but he's the nephew of the owners of Quest. He's all suave and rich and whatnot. We begin our story in a bar, while Audrey is dancing around and watching him and trying to talk herself into being daring while he gives her a look and then proceeds to ignore her. That was kind of awesome.

So Audrey is left dancing with a jockey in a chaotic and unimpressive manner while Shane talks to his cousin about wine or something because that's what they do. He may be an Australian Preston, but he was the younger son and therefore not into horses, I guess. So he's dealing with his handicapped cousin, whose parents died in a tragic tractor accident that left her paralyzed. Shane has taken over the business and is desperately looking for a way to get her back on her feet in a literal sense. Later on Audrey and Shane discover each other at Quest, resulting in hilarity while Jenna, Quest's matriarch, demands that Audrey be Shane's "booth bunny" during their wine show/tour/whatever that was. Booth bunnies are apparently the wine world's porn actresses, or something, which means that Audrey is the last person Shane needs to come with him to this wine thing. But Audrey has always wanted to travel, and Jenna's all urging her to go so she won't quit because she needs health insurance because she was a cancer victim when she was a kid and could relapse at any time. Audrey's prickly about this, refusing to talk to anyone about her cancer ordeal, especially considering she might be relapsing at that very moment. She's just refusing to think about it, preferring to just live for the moment. Shane is the very opposite of this. Planning is a turn on for him. Seriously.

Eventually they work it out so that she'll be his booth assistant. I found it sort of endearing that their first kiss happens while she's splattered caramel all over her shirt (in a non-sexy way, if caramel can be sexy, which I'm pretty sure it can't be, but still) and somehow managed to smear it all over his sleeve. They manage to not have sex immediately, waiting until after they get to New York and after she decides it's time to cut her hair for the first time since growing it back after chemo. So she pretties herself up and Shane is all wow, you're even more of a girl. Astonishing! He tries to take her out to a fantastically boring dinner, but she demands that they go to Toys R Us instead and eat vendor food. I found all of this fascinating. Then they have sex. The non-disturbing kind that couldn't be construed as rape. All very wonderful. Unfortunately here I sort of dozed off. Wine is not important to me. It's just, you know, a beverage.

Getting through these wine shows quickly, we'll just say that they happened. Good. Audrey continues to get sicker, not wanting to tell anyone about her cancer ordeal from years past, but then it gets to a point that Shane's all, "look, tell me what the hell is going on" and she still won't, so everything implodes and she decides that now is about time to go see her mom, who abandoned her after her cancer went into remission for the first time. She goes out to visit for the first time, astonishing herself into understanding that she has a choice here: be healthy or sick, loved or not. So she decides she likes her blue jeans and that she has to get over everything and go to the doctor. They do the biopsy, and just before the results are announced Shane and his cousin show up. Actually, everyone shows up, and Audrey comes clean and Shane's all yeah, I know because no one can keep your secrets, you know. And it's such a romance novel at this point, only in a good way. He wants to marry her despite her probable inability to have kids (he wanted to have four at one point, as part of his grand plan, which I found pretty damn funny), and as an engagement present he has not a ring, but a horse -- this filly that Audrey loves called Biding Her Time (hello title of the book...they're all named after the horses, I guess). I found this fitting. Then the doctor announces that she doesn't have cancer, but does have some non-fatal virus, and needs to not eat caramel for dinner anymore. It's kind of sweet. Sickeningly so.

The horse scene is less prominent in this book, which is too bad because this one is a hell of a lot better than the first book in the series. The overall plot of the series progresses a tiny bit in that everyone outside Quest decides to blame Brent Preston (the breeder and/or trainer) and the vet. That's all there.
  • I like Shane. He is the first romance novel guy I have ever actually liked. And I like him mainly because people keep dirtying his clothing and he doesn't seem to care. And he doesn't act all possessive. And he's fairly laid back. And he lets Audrey take him to a Toys R Us store. And he brings his cousin ice cream and when she tells him she can't eat any because she ate too many cookies he says: "You can. Each carton comes equipped with its own miniature spoon" like this is the most amazing invention ever.
  • The sex scene is pretty tame by Harlequin standards. It's actually pretty tame by Joanna Campbell's standards circa 1981. This I also appreciated, because there is nothing like poorly written sex. In that it is horrible.
  • I kinda wanted Audrey to have cancer at the end, because in this instance the end was almost too sappy. I can take a fairly high level of sap and keep going, but this book's ending was definitely difficult for me to get through without rolling my eyes.
  • At one point, Melanie, random Preston daughter, tells Audrey that they might have to sell Biding Her Time to someone that would put the filly into "claiming stakes." This is clearly the worst thing that can ever happen to a horse.
  • Yes, I also liked Audrey. I liked that her first thought after screwing things up with Shane wasn't to run after him, but to fly out and meet her mom for the first time in ten years. And I like that she missed her jeans and came to her decision to choose life without having Shane present for that decision. It was weird and very non-romance novel.
So, I liked it. It still fell into the tired old romance novel concepts (especially the ages: Audrey is 24 and Shane is 34...that is about as romance novel as you can get), but it managed to not make me feel dirty simply by opening the book, and for that I give Wendy Warren a heartfelt thank you.

Next up, I venture back into Karen Bentley's world. By this I do not mean that I will review Ashleigh's Hope. But what else is there, you might be asking yourself. What else, indeed.

With that, Happy Halloween!

No comments: