Too Hot to Handle
In the middle of Too Hot to Handle I had a startling revelation. Though she has a reputation (a deserved one) as one of romance’s steamier mainstream authors, Cheryl Holt really writes just like Barbara Cartland. Only with sex.
Think I’m exaggerating? In this book, a virtuous young woman flees an arranged marriage and lands in London in order to obtain employment to support her blind widowed sister (no kidding) and her sister’s young daughter. Thinking she’s there to inquire about a governess position (at midnight, no less), she actually stumbles into the middle of a lascivious nobleman’s “interviews” for a new mistress.
Complications ensue when the nobleman discovers that she is, indeed, virtuous and offers her the governess position in his household. She settles in his luxurious mansion, family in tow, while the emotionally tortured nobleman fights his baser instincts, even while he eventually gives into them. Add in a secondary romance featuring the blind sister and the recently scarred (no kidding) brother of the hero, several e-e-e-v-i-l and manipulative women, and the hero’s eventual realization that he really can love after all, and the resemblance to Dame Cartland is unmistakable. Only with sex.
To be honest, I rather enjoyed reading this book. Sometimes predictable and undemanding are exactly what I’m looking for and Ms. Holt certainly delivers just that. But, while I’m not above kicking back with a tried and true tale (only with sex), the author’s abysmal anachronistic language, unfortunately, pulled me out of the story every time. In this book (set in 1813, mind you) characters are described as “snooty”, one character “has had it” with another and . . . well, you get the picture. I’ve got more tolerance than some AAR reviewers for Wallpaper Historicals but, in this case, there’s more wallpaper in this book’s 342 pages than you’d find at a Home Depot Superstore.
As for the characters, they’re both likable and real enough. They also behave, quite frankly, just as the characters in those Cartland novels I read so voraciously as a teenager. (Only they have sex.)
So, there you have it, a classic tale of the wealthy rake and the virtuous young woman who reforms him (only with sex). Call me a dreamer, but I can’t help thinking how much more enjoyable this book would have been had author taken a bit more care to set her story firmly in her time and place, thereby allowing the reader to really get lost in the fantasy. Say what you will about the old girl, but Dame Cartland certainly understood the importance of that.