All That I Need
There’s a problem when a book provides more evidence that a hero and heroine should not be together than evidence that they should. While I loved the heroine of All That I Need, I didn’t like the hero, and their courtship relied so heavily on chance throwing them back together that I didn’t see a firm foundation for the HEA.
Fallon Marshall, travel writer, came to Santa Fe to write a feature on a beautiful old estate about to be sold when the heir passed away. Lance Saxton owns the auction house that is handling the sales. They are also linked through friendship with the protagonists of previous books, which is fortunate because Fallon and Lance keep splitting up and need coincidences to bring them together. About halfway through the book, Fallon becomes pregnant (despite using condoms). Will Lance and Fallon work things out, or will Fallon have the baby on her own?
Lance fell out of a bad Harlequin Presents novel and landed right in a steaming hot pile of contemporary hero stereotypes. Wealth of unexplained origin? Check. (The auction house is a new venture; no idea what he did first). Selfish ex-girlfriend? Check. Jerk personality due to said ex-girlfriend? Check. Seriously Oedipal Mommy issues? Check, check check.
But Fallon is not a doormat. In fact, she’s the voice of every sane reader who’s ever read a book with a jerk hero. In one great example, Lance resentfully asks Fallon on a date because a friend warned him that she might date other men. Fallon retorts:
“You acted as if it were some sort of privilege to be asked out by you, and at the same time as if the request was dragged out of you. You can’t make up your mind about me, and I don’t have the time or patience to wait around until you do…. Leave. I’m hoping you’ll be enough of a gentleman to leave without me calling the police.”
Unfortunately, Fallon’s no-nonsense attitude, which endeared her to me no end, also made me want better for her than Lance. The man had problems. Partly these were real problems, such as resenting the stepfather who took a belt to him (which the author, to my frustration, seemed to condone because “there were no marks”). While I can understand that his ex-girlfriend having an abortion was traumatic for Lance, I also didn’t appreciate the author using “had an abortion” as shorthand for “villain.” Some of his other problems, though, were just weird. He tells Fallon about “Cissy, who dumped me in high school, [and] Melissa, who did the same thing in college” as evidence that women abandon him. Seriously? I suspect 90% of the American population doesn’t marry their high school or college sweetheart. If you’re using this to justify relationship avoidance, you sound more like one of those creepy woman-hating Internet “nice guys” than a romance novel hero. In another scene, Lance takes out his anger by speeding with a pregnant Fallon in the car, and she tells him to slow down or let her out. Lance apologizes and says “I wouldn’t do anything to harm you or our baby.” Fallon responds, “Not intentionally, perhaps, but would you have slowed down if I hadn’t asked you to?” Lance doesn’t know.
Which sums it up for me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Fallon’s going to have to spend the rest of her life watching out for thoughtless bad behavior. I didn’t believe she could transform Lance so quickly into someone who could do it on his own, and I also didn’t think it was fair to expect her to. A few editing problems (a restaurant that was booked when Fallon tried to make a reservation was not booked when Lance called, the timeline for Lance’s mother’s remarriage makes no sense) also kept the book out of the B range.
On a personal note, I was saddened to learn that the author Francis Ray passed away in early July. This will be among her final books (she has a romance scheduled for October). She was a pioneer of romances featuring African-American leads. and a prolific contemporary voice. I know she will be missed.