Let's talk plain here. I really liked this book because I had the hots for the
hero. That fact surprised me. I thought, oh merde, if I have to read about
one more sulky half-breed I'll just spit. Surprise! Half-breed, yes, sulky,
no. This guy was just plain cool. Not "cool" as in "Hey it's the Fonz." But
cool in the, "It's eleven o'clock," girls in the office, Diet Coke commercial.
You remember that ad don't you? Lucky Vanos sweating on a
construction site? Well, that's what the hero in this book did to me.
Let's face it. You read enough romances and somewhere along the way
you realize that the heroes are all starting to blend into one another. It's
that whole Alpha, Beta, Zeta, Gamma male thing. They're charming
rakes, misunderstood loners, cynical scions or any combination thereof.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. There's a definite cozy
security that comes from being able to pick your hero and know exactly
what to expect from him. But some authors stick so closely to those
predefined pigeonholes that the hero (and this goes for the heroine as
well) loses all sense of individuality. And it isn't until you start reading
about someone who breaks from the mold that you realize what you've
Don't misunderstand me, Shadrach Jones (admittedly, an awful name),
the hero in Mary McBride's entertaining new tale Storming Paradise
isn't some sort of new western hero for the ages. He's just a satisfying
combination of everything I've ever found attractive in my heroes. He's
sexy, funny, intelligent, and a straight talker. The plot never gets away
from him – by that I mean that his mere presence in the proceedings
keeps the story from becoming too unrealistic or unmanageable. Jump
up and down and scream and yell because the heroine has pissed you
off. Oh no. Shad would never do that. Form quick ridiculous opinions
about people based on circumstantial evidence? Please! Not my Shad.
Oh, sorry. There are other people in this story.
Libby Kingsland and her incredibly self-centered sister Shula are about
to be tossed out of their St. Louis home when they receive a summons
from the father they haven't seen in fifteen years. "Dear Daughters, I'm
dying. I want you to come to Texas." Shula sees dollar signs and a way
to escape the bill collectors. Libby sees Paradise, the family ranch she
never wanted to leave as the safest place to hide the abused little girl
she's taken under her wing. The sisters get to Paradise and Papa
promptly dies. In his will he decrees that the ranch and all of its holdings
will go to his long time nemesis next door unless one of his daughters
marries Shad Jones, the ranch foreman.
Right off the bat we know that Shad wouldn't go near Shula with a
ten-foot pole. But that Miss Libby? Hhmm? A little mousy maybe, but a
real lady. And that's the problem for Shad. A previous run in with a
"lady" has left him with nothing but twenty years of nightmares and a
firm desire to remove himself from their company. But if he has to
choose between "the raspberry tart and the oatmeal cookie," then nature
has a hand in the choosing. Because for all her insistence that she will
never marry, Libby lights up like a firecracker whenever Shad is near.
Indeed, Storming Paradise fairly crackles with the sexual tension that
builds between Shad and the spinster.
Those magic moments, and there are plenty of them, make up for the
book's one major misstep – Shula. This chick is so brazenly bratty and
self-centered that it nearly drove me to distraction. The fact that Libby
acts the martyr and puts up with her nonsense made me want to climb
into the pages and bang a couple of heads together. Written as an
otherwise sensible woman, Libby's complacent acceptance of Shula's
bad behavior simply doesn't make sense. But, happily, Shula's antics
take a backseat to my hero Shad and his quiet but deadly eroticism. Yes,
"my" Shad. Halfway through the book he dumped Miss Libby for me. I
So Storming Paradise may not be the perfect romance. It doesn't
rewrite the male hero for the millennium. It doesn't even give us a
particularly memorable heroine. But it does entertain mightily, and that is
something that many romances fail to do these days. They take
themselves too seriously. But author Mary McBride has a style that
easily moves between humor, passion, and private thoughts. Her story
flows easily on the strength of realistic dialogue that never reads as
forced, and an enviable talent for timing. And she sets a magical mood
for love scenes that send tingles down the back.
As for Shad and me? Well – we'll always have Paradise.