Too Much Temptation
Lori Foster is capable of writing good romance – The Winston Brothers was a solid B read for me (we didn’t post a review for this book since we’d reviewed each of the three short stories when they were published in earlier anthologies). She also writes great love scenes. At times, though, she affixes them to contrived plots. The plot of Too Much Temptation isn’t quite as dumb as that of her last book, Wild. But that’s not saying a lot.
Noah Harper is a victim of that ancient Regency plot device, the assumed betrothal. “Almost from the first time he’d met Kara, everyone assumed they’d eventually marry” – even though he doesn’t love Kara and doesn’t enjoy having sex with her. Apparently the fact that his grandmother approves of Kara is good enough for Noah. I might possibly have bought this scenario if the book had been set in 1812, but a red-blooded, 21st century American man allowing his grandmother to pick his wife? I snorted with contempt – not an emotion I want to associate with my romance novel heroes.
Neither Noah nor Kara tell anyone the reason they broke up, so everyone naturally attacks Noah for cruelly dumping her, and his grandmother – are you ready? – disowns him. Grandmother’s personal assistant, the plump but well-endowed Grace Jenkins, is the only one who stands up for Noah. Grace is virginal and sweet, and she has hopelessly adored Noah for years. Noah is touched by her loyalty, not to mention horny after all that unsatisfying sex with Kara. He immediately proposes a no-strings-attached affair.
This is where I think it’s going to get good – the chemistry between Noah and Grace is steamy, and it’s kind of cute the way Noah is attracted to the not-model-slim Grace. But then, oh geez, here comes his grandma again. “You’ve ruined Grace,” she says accusingly to Noah. Excuse me, ruined her? Which century is this again? Attempting to coerce Noah into getting back together with Kara, Grandmother says to Grace, “You’ve shown a distinct lack of morals, dear,” and fires her. My calendar says it’s 2002, which means that Grace should have been on the phone to her lawyer.
This, unfortunately, is not the last we will see of Grandmother. She will try to bribe, manipulate, and coerce Noah into marrying Kara, all for no apparent reason – it’s not as though she doesn’t like Grace. Why she is fixated on the Noah/Kara wedding remains a mystery. Annoyingly, Grace and Noah can’t even straighten out their own relationship issues without a syrupy final chapter, in which Grandmother, realizing the error of her ways, helps them see beyond their differences.
I’m told that, because Noah is illegitimate, family is all-important to him. I’m not buying it. How many people do you know (outside of General Hospital‘s Cassadine family, I mean) whose lives are manipulated and controlled by some domineering matriarchal figure? If any, why on earth do they put up with it? (Noah’s brother has “sequel” written all over him, which means that Grandmother will be back. I’m thinking that the next book should be called Agatha II: The Vengeance.)
Enough about Grandmother: what about Noah and Grace? Well, they are so much victims of their ridiculous plot that I hardly know what to say. Noah is an alpha male of the dominating kind, who loves the fact that Grace is a virgin and loves the way she mothers him. Grace is wishy-washy and nurturing, lets people walk all over her, and longs for Noah to make it up to Grandmother so they can all be a family. It’s all just a bit much, if you ask me.
What saves this mess is the frequent love scenes. As expected, these are carnal and tender and loads of fun. Foster uses plenty of forthright language in the bedroom scenes, which I thought was fine, but which some readers might not like.
On a purely erotic level, this novel succeeds. As a romance novel, it fails. Either way, Too Much Temptation suffers from Too Much Grandmother. If Foster put as much effort into making all her plots as believable as her love scenes are steamy, she’d be awfully good. But I prefer authors who can generate sexual tension out of real characters and situations, rather than manufacturing it out of plot contrivances that make no sense. So long as many of Foster’s characters remain one-dimensional and her plots absurd, I just can’t recommend her.