Scenes of Passion
Now that Suzanne Brockmann has become one of the biggest names in romance, Silhouette has clearly decided it would be a good idea to publish any of her earlier works that it can. Scenes of Passion is one of these, and was written nearly ten years ago for Meteor’s Kismet line, but was never published until now. The question is, is it any good, and can it compare with Brockmann as we know her today?
The answers are yes (mostly), and not quite – which really isn’t that surprising given how consistently talented a writer she is, but also how she has consistently improved in her writing.
Our heroine is Maggie Stanton, a twenty-nine year old languishing in what should be a satisfying career as a lawyer in a prosperous firm. But being a lawyer isn’t what fires her passions. What she’s wanted to do since she starred in the yearly musicals in high school, is to be a stage actress. But since acting isn’t a “safe” profession, Maggie did what her parents wanted her to do and went into the law.
Maggie is also in a very dull relationship with a man who seems to want to marry her, but whom she’s trying oh-so-gently to dump. The only man she’s ever really been wild for was her high school co-star, Matthew Stone, but, unfortunately, Matt was dating her best friend at the time and, when they broke up, he left town after graduation. Maggie hasn’t seen him in over ten years.
But what do you know? He’s back in town after inheriting his father’s estate and just happens to need a lawyer! How lucky for both of them. Now they get to spend practically every day together working on his father’s business affairs during the day and playing lovers in yet another community musical at night. Just how long do you think it will take them to hook up in reality? In order to throw some curveballs at our happy couple, Brockmann gives Matt a troubled past that keeps coming back to haunt him. No one in town trusts him except Maggie, and if that weren’t enough, Daddy’s will has some irritating stipulations that threaten to keep them apart.
While reading this book, I got the feeling that Maggie was a “Mary Sue” character. If you’ve ever visited Brockmann’s web site, you know that she enjoys singing and performing in community theatre herself, so it rather felt as if Ms. Brockmann was trying to write herself into the book as the heroine. I found the attempt transparent; it was a giveaway that this was an early work for the author.
Yet what’s good about this book is textbook Brockmann. The dialogue zips, the hero is to die for – and suffers greatly before he gets the heroine – and the book moves along at an entertaining clip. You’ve finished reading it with a smile on your face before you start thinking about all the weak points. Once you do, you realize that the plotting is extremely formulaic (Will stipulations? Give me a break!) and the secondary characters are hardly more than paper cut-outs. Furthermore, the way everything conspires at the end to make Maggie distrust Matt feels seriously contrived. (No one could be that misunderstood.) Maggie also comes off somewhat badly in how she deals with this crisis and since the book wrapped up a bit too quickly to completely redeem her, I almost felt she didn’t deserve Matt in the end.
How could a book with this many flaws earn such a high grade? The answer is that what works in the book works well – that zippy dialogue, the zippy pace, and the terrific hero are highly entertaining. Readers who’ve enjoyed this author in the past will enjoy the chance to see the genesis of a favorite writer, and though those who haven’t read her before could find a better first Brockmann, Scenes of Passion is a book that’s aged pretty well, something you can’t necessarily say about all ten-year-old series titles.