All About Love

All About Passion

Captain Jack's Woman

Devil's Bride

A Fine Passion

Four in Hand

A Gentleman's Honor

The Ideal Bride

A Lady of His Own

The Lady Chosen

On a Wild Night

The Perfect Lover

The Promise in a Kiss

A Rake's Vow

A Rogue's Proposal

Scandal's Bride

A Secret Love

Secrets of a Perfect Night

The Truth About Love

What Price Love?

 
To Distraction by Stephanie Laurens
(Avon, $7.99, R) ISBN 0-06-083910-4
***
Once upon a time there was a nice little plot about a hero, Jocelyn Deverell, Viscount Paignton, who decides itís time to get married so he asks his aunt to recommend a likely candidate. She names the heroine, Phoebe Malleson, whoís twenty-five and insistent that sheís not interested in marriage Ė ever Ė but surely a virile hunk like Deverell can persuade her otherwise. (After all, this is a nice little romance plot.)

Phoebe has secrets. One of them is that she assists maids and governesses who are being subjected to unwanted harassment and assault to escape their situation. Deverell observes such a rescue in progress and wonít rest until he knows the whole story and until he convinces Phoebe to be his wife. Meanwhile, Phoebe is finding Deverell difficult to resist. And she has more secrets.

But something awful happens to this nice little plot on the way to the happily ever after.

The author is an A-list author with Avon, and the nice little plot isnít sufficiently long to fill a 400-plus page book. Whatís an author to do?

Well, add sex, of course. Lots and lots of sex. And still more sex. (As a public service, hereís an abbreviated version. They fool around a lot. Lots of petting. Lots of panting. Then they finally get it on. Repeatedly.)

So the nice little plot gets down and dirty and sad to say, boring. This isnít sex as an expression of attraction and affection between the hero and heroine. This is sex for sexís sake. This is sex to pad the page count. The title gives it away: this is sex as a distraction. This is sex that gets in the way of the nice little plot. What a shame. Sex used to be so much fun.

To Distraction is much more Deverellís story than Phoebeís. Much of the action is seen from his perspective, and his behavior and motivation are pivotal to the progress of the plot. The general pattern of the story line is that Deverell acts, others react. Like many romance heroes before him, he came into the title unexpectedly, but when compared to his career during the Napoleonic War, he doesnít find the duties interesting or fulfilling enough to consume all his time. Heís got energy and determination to spare. A heroine with secrets provides a welcome challenge.

Phoebe is more of a stock character, the twenty-something heroine who never wants to get married and has secrets. (Personally, Iím waiting for the heroine who actually sticks to her single status and forces the to hero accept it.) Phoebe does the usual. The usual in a Stephanie Laurens novel never involves holding out for very long. Phoebe is sometimes upstaged by her eccentric aunts Ė not a good indication of a strong heroine.

This is another in the authorís Bastion Club series, but the clubís other members play a relatively minor role. Knowledge of previous books and characters is not necessary. The three-heart rating on this review is something of a compromise. At first I was going to give it only two hearts because itís overlong and the nice little plot gets derailed at frequent intervals for the gratuitous sex scenes. I finally decided that the nice little plot didnít deserve to be lumped in with two-heart books that are devoid of such basics as a credible plot and decent characters and promoted it to three-heart territory. If the nice little plot werenít so burdened by the sex overload, it might be higher.

I recommend that if you read To Distraction, you enjoy the nice little plot and unless youíve never read a book by this author, skip right over the lengthy sex scenes. As the cover notes, this is the authorís twentieth Avon book. At this point, readers have been there, read that. Deverell and Phoebe donít do anything that wasnít done countless times in the previous nineteen books before the nice little plot comes to The End.

--Lesley Dunlap


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