Sinfully Delicious by Lora Kenton
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-5083-8
Note to new romance authors: there are certain romance cliches that are death to a novel. Don’t have your heroine stamp her feet when she’s angry. Don’t have your hero smirk. Delete the word “tresses” from your writing vocabulary. And if your heroine is a clueless socialite, don’t have her lie about all the things she’s really capable of doing. Sinfully Delicious is the debut novel from the writing team of Lora Kenton, and while it shows flashes of promise, they come after too many romance cliches and shopworn plot elements.

Kyra Dawson Lourdes, New Orleans socialite, is running from an evil fiancé who has murdered a woman. She has come to the raw Texas town of Las Almas Perditas in search of her childhood friend, Cliff Baldwin, who is now a notorious bounty hunter. Kyra hears that Cliff is at “Madame Lucy’s”, and naively assumes the brothel is the home of a titled Frenchwoman. Here she meets up with Cliff, who is fresh out of bed with a hooker.

Kyra’s money has been conveniently stolen, so Cliff must take her back to his ranch. He’s immediately thinking those ol’ lustful thoughts about Kyra, who is all grown up and not the sweet sixteen-year-old he left behind nine years ago. Kyra decides she’ll help out by cooking for Cliff, though she’s never touched a pot before. A predictably disastrous meal ensues.

Cliff is himself being hunted by the nasty Yancey brothers. His pals Luke and Shane (see forthcoming romance novels, no doubt) help Cliff and Kyra out of danger several times. Eventually the bad guys catch up with them. Cliff and Kyra exchange lustful glances and finally go over the edge.

That’s about the sum total of the book. As a “fish out of water on a Texas ranch” story, there’s little new or inventive about it. We’re told Cliff thinks Kyra is smart, and apparently love is blind, because to the reader she may well come across as a dimwit. She t-talks like…this f-for too much of the…time. When Cliff sends her out of danger, she doesn’t listen, but hides to watch what’s going on. She puts a bonnet on a mule and thinks it’s sweet. Standing in the middle of a whorehouse, she can’t figure out what these women are doing in their underwear. Yes, I realize she’s supposed to be a sheltered lady, but too much of what she says and does shows little common sense. It’s not enough to tell me she’s smart. Have her act it and you won’t need to tell me.

Cliff is a walking testosterone tank. He’s all wrong for Kyra, yadda, yadda, but golly, she’s pretty. His reasoning for staying away from her seemed flimsy at best, and the final separation, instigated by Cliff, felt forced. Not much impression here.

What did make an impression was the final fourth of the story. The action returns to Las Almas Perditas and the whorehouse, and the prostitutes get involved in a rather inventive way. Kyra, ordered out of Cliff’s life, finds the spine to make plans without him, and it’s clever. At this point, the authors had found their stride, but it was a bit late in the book. And I really enjoyed the sarcastic Shane, half-Indian pal. He’s an interesting character with a bit of snap to his personality.

On a side note, what’s with this trend of sticking a joke/drawing/homily at the beginning of every chapter? I’ve read three books in the last month alone that used this format. Here it’s a cooking homily, from the Sinfully Delicious Bakery Recipe Book, but it’s the end of the story before this makes any sense. Editors, it’s been done. Please don’t put this in every book and think it’s a fresh approach.

Sinfully Delicious shows many of the growing pains of a first book, but if the ending is anything to judge by, better things are in store from Lora Kenton.

--Cathy Sova

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