Her Body of Work
Her Body of Work, the first book by new author Marie Donovan, is one of the better Harlequin Blazes I’ve read in a while. The premise isn’t silly, the characters are interesting and likable, and the sensuality level is off the charts. All in all, it’s a most effective read.
Chicago artist Rey Martinson’s work often involves male nudes, and she has a hard rule never to get involved with one of her models. When she is commissioned to create a ten-foot sculpture that could make her career, she jumps at the chance, and only needs to find the right model. Then Marco Flores walks into her studio, and suddenly her rule seems made to be broken.
DEA agent Marco Flores is on the run from Miami drug lord Juan Carlos Rodriguez. Having worked undercover in Rodriguez’s organization for more than a year, Marco is now scheduled to testify against the man in his upcoming trial. A leak in the agency means his life is in jeopardy and he must fend for himself until the trial. He heads to his brother Francisco’s home in Chicago, intending to do whatever it takes to get to leave town so that no one can track him in their pursuit of Marco. When Marco arrives, he learns his brother, a model and aspiring actor, is on his way to Los Angeles for an audition. The only problem is Francisco’s modeling agent set him up with an interview for an assignment, and if he doesn’t show up, his agent will drop him. To get his brother to leave, Marco agrees to go to the interview in his place. He’s surprised to find the artist is a beautiful blonde. Even more surprising, she hires him for the gig. There’s an immediate attraction between them, and before long Rey finds it impossible to keep from breaking her own rule and getting her hands all over his body.
Okay, the setup is a little contrived, and there are plenty of little weaknesses throughout. This is a first book and not unexpectedly, it’s far from perfect. Some aspects of the suspense plot felt murky, and Rey’s character didn’t seem as developed as Marco’s. The pace also has a tendency to drag at times. There are some other things I could mention, but overall the strengths of the book outweighed the weaknesses so much that it’s an easy book to recommend.
The main characters are two distinctive and unusual people. Neither Rey nor Marco are American by birth, having immigrated when they each were twelve. Rey is a native Swede whose name is short for Freya; Marco came from Cuba on a raft with his mother and brother. Their unique backgrounds made them more interesting than the typical romance hero and heroine right from the start. In spite of the suspense subplot, much of the story focuses on character interaction, which I liked. The author writes about the details of Marco’s heritage convincingly. It’s not just some tossed-off background information, but a key and well-developed part of his character that felt very realistic. Rey’s artistic background is portrayed with just as much assurance. Though I don’t know much about the art world, the author convinced me she knew what she was talking about. She provides a lot of little details that added believability to the character and her career. I had no trouble picturing Rey as an artist, she’s more believable than many other artist characters I’ve read in romances.
One thing that I always respond to in a book is a strong voice. I often find it easier to overlook weaknesses if I enjoy the author’s style. That was the case here. Donovan’s writing is quite polished, particularly for a new author, and she has a confident voice that made for a smooth, easy read. It certainly doesn’t read like a first book.
Then there are the sex scenes, which are some of the most effective I’ve read in a Blaze in a long time. There is a difference between scenes that are simply sexual and those that are truly sensual. The scenes in this book fit in the latter category. While they are fairly explicit, what makes them standout is that the author builds a sense of mood that makes them more potent and involving. From their first meeting, the sexual chemistry between Marco and Rey is palpable, and Donovan keeps that high level of sexual tension simmering throughout the story and all of their encounters. The lovemaking scenes themselves are creative and very well-written, and I was impressed by the author’s skill at delivering such sensual scenes.
Her Body of Work may be Marie Donovan’s first book, but hopefully it won’t be her last. This a strong debut from a romantica author who’s definitely worth watching.