In Hot Pursuit

Secret Thunder

Silken Threads

Wild Wind

All of Me by Patricia Ryan
(Harl Tempt. #764, $3.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-25864-X
Giving a book a three-heart rating can be a nail biting experience. It's usually a story that will appeal to some and not to others. However, when a book is much too predictable and has a hero who feels unfinished and undefined, a three seems the only way to go. Here at TRR our review key states that a three-heart book is acceptable. While I can't recommend All of Me, it's certainly acceptable.

Twenty-two-year-old Nora Armstrong has just come to New York to make a name for herself as a jewelry designer. She's going to room with her cousin Harlan until she's established. When Harlan asks her for a favor, she's reluctant but can't refuse this favorite cousin of hers. Harlan wants her to go to a fundraising benefit with influential David Waite, a man that Harlan is trying to impress in hopes that David will throw some business Harlan's way.

So Nora agrees to be ‘arm candy' for this one-time deal. When she meets David, she realizes she's probably in over her head. Here's this gorgeous, suave, sensual British aristocrat who's remote but polite. What she doesn't know but what we find out before page fifty is that David has broken off several relationships because the woman in question used him and his connections to further her business. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what's in store for these two. Nora wants to establish herself as a jewelry designer, and David abhors women who seemingly use him.

Nora senses reluctance in David, but she has no idea of his past history. She's just going to follow Harlan's directive to pretend to be a model and to remember that her role in David's life is merely decorative, the ‘arm candy' woman. She's to be a trophy date, a woman that other men fantasize about, but can't have. When people at the benefit compliment her on her unique jewelry, she pretends that a ‘friend' is the designer.

All of Me, being a Blaze book, emphasizes the sexual relationship. Nora is a virgin and wants to wait until she falls in love before she becomes intimate with a man. I was so pleased (and surprised) that David actually believes her, without equivocation. What a nice surprise! Nora doesn't even want to experience a climax, so David has to be really inventive.

In a wonderful scene that involves a silk tie and trust, David ties her up, asking Nora to have faith in him. He'll arouse her but won't complete the act. The Kama Sutra and the Perfumed Garden are mentioned as titillations. Soon their mutual sexual frustration becomes intense.

"Can you die from sexual frustration?" he asked hoarsely.
"If so, what we've got going on between us amounts to a suicide pact."

David's doorman provides some much needed comic relief. David, who scoffs at his doorman for reading romances, claims that they're fairy tales. Not so, announces the doorman. "I'd say they'd be fairy tales if the ending came outa nowheres. But it's the guy and the girl. They make it happen. Both of them."

Nora is almost a fairy tale heroine. She's beautiful, talented, statuesque, stacked, and is a genuinely nice person to boot. In short, I found her too perfect, with more virtues than one person should possess. David, however, is far from perfect. He describes himself as"an ass---rigid, imperious, condescending . . . " I'd throw in judgmental, too. At least he does have the good sense to quit smoking after Nora tells him that she'll never kiss a smoker.

All of Me suffers from predictability. We keep wondering when the door will slam, the boom will fall, the candle will blow out. It does. The story also suffers from characters who are too fictitious-feeling. But the sexual tension and intimacy scenes are outstanding. Nora starts off with enough of an impudent attitude that her feistiness mostly outweighs her perfection. I liked her, but I never wanted to step into her shoes. And without that desire to shove the heroine out of the way and step into those shoes, All of Me becomes a three-heart acceptable read.

--Linda Mowery

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