A little while ago I had the pleasure of reading the erotic romance anthology, Secrets: Volume 6, for AAR. To my delight, the short story Love’s Prisoner by MaryJanice Davidson was not only the best story in the collection, but one of the best short stories I had read in a long time. As I had never read anything by this author before, I immediately wanted to find her backlist. Unfortunately I soon learned that her previous romance novels were published as e-books only. To be honest, that put me off a bit, since I don’t have an e-book reader and I had never read an e-book before. But I liked her story so much I decided to try one of these books anyway, and I’m glad I did. Although Love Lies has several flaws, Ms. Davidson possesses a humorous and engaging writing style and good storytelling ability. Let me be the first to say that MaryJanice Davidson will be a writer to watch.
Ashley Lorentz is a struggling journalist who spends time as a volunteer at the local mental hospital cheering up the patients. Victor Lawrence is an obscenely rich lawyer who donates money to this same hospital. They meet when Ashley literally crashes into him in the halls one day, and it’s nearly love at first sight. He agrees to an interview with her because what he really wants is a date, and soon they are seeing each other regularly. They talk easily together, enjoy each other’s company, find each other mightily attractive, and if things were allowed to run smoothly, would no doubt have been walking down the aisle in just a few months time. Unfortunately for them, this is a romance novel, so something must go wrong somewhere.
When Victor gets seriously concussed from a workout mishap, doctors advise that someone (Ashley) should spend the night watching over him at his home for signs of fever or worsening condition. Up until this point, Ashley and Victor have been trying to be noble and have not yet made love. Later that night in a state of delirium, Victor puts the moves on Ashley and she, not realizing that he has worsened, responds. However, he is so out of it that he thinks she’s his ex-wife, and ends up doing and saying things to her which Ashley cannot forgive. In fact, she feels that he effectively raped her and she wants nothing more to do with him. Problem is, Victor has no memory of the night, and doesn’t know what he did wrong or why Ashley won’t see him. When he finds out that she’s pregnant and didn’t tell him, he railroads her into a marriage she does not want. Victor is deeply in love with Ashley and, truly repentant for whatever it was that he did, goes to all lengths to treat her like a queen and make this marriage work. Because of her troubled past, Ashley can’t bring herself to forgive him and puts him through all levels of hell before things finally get resolved.
Stated baldly like this, the plot doesn’t sound terribly original. In fact, I found that it was very similar in many respects to the plot of the short story I so enjoyed. The plot really works better as a short story. However, Ms. Davidson’s writing style is crisp and sparkles with wit and humor. The first half of the story is a rather enjoyable romp and even the more angst-ridden second half has its moments (in a fit of rebellion against the forced marriage, Ashley decides to hyphenate her name to Lorentz-Lawrence). The characters are well-drawn and I found myself enjoying this story in spite of myself and laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Although this book wouldn’t qualify as erotica like her short story did, there are several very hot scenes involving not-exactly-consensual sex, which are quite erotic. The biggest problem I had with this story was the heroine’s inability to forgive Victor for something he did when he was delirious. Yes what he did was hurtful and wrong, but despite Ashley’s insistence, it was not equivalent to rape. Victor becomes almost saintly in his efforts to win her back, and his efforts go a long way towards endearing him to the reader, but when you get right down to it, he’s really too good to be true.
I had warring expectations before I read this book. On the one hand, I had so enjoyed this author’s short story that I was expecting something brilliant, but on the other I had heard a lot of cautionary tales about e-books and was very afraid that I would be wasting my money. Although Love Lies was not quite as good as I wanted it to be, it was much much better than I had feared. I truly hope that Ms. Davidson will continue to write romance and that more of her future works will be published in the old fashioned way. Either way, I’m looking forward to her next effort.