Tell Me You Love Me

Kayla Perrin, 2003, Contemporary
Harper Torch, $6.50 US/$8.99 Can, 375 pages, ISBN #0-06-050350-5

Grade:B Sensuality:Hot

Tyanna Montgomery, the heroine of Tell Me You Love Me, won my heart on page four when someone approaches her in a dark gym parking lot and, instead of screaming or being a helpless victim, she punches and kicks her would-be assailant until he collapses onto the pavement. Now that¹s a woman I can root for! I smiled gleefully and settled into my first Kayla Perrin novel with anticipation.

As it turns out, the man she assaulted is Sheldon Ford, the lover who did her wrong by disappearing from her life with nary a word of explanation one year before. The initial exchange between them in that parking lot is terrific and true-to-life ­ sharp and funny without being completely hostile. It sets the tone for the whole book.

The lines are drawn right there in the parking lot ­ Tyanna is a woman done wrong who isn¹t interested in retribution or any such immature thing, but also isn¹t interested in hearing much from Sheldon ever again. For his part, Sheldon is determined to explain the seemingly unexplainable, the hows and whys of his disappearance from Miami a year ago after leaving Tyanna an inexplicable kiss-off letter. He has his reasons (it turns out fairly quickly that they¹re good ones) and he¹s desperate to convey them to Tyanna, the woman he hasn¹t forgotten even though a year has passed.

How Tyanna and Sheldon get from that first parking lot confrontation to happily ever after is a very enjoyable, if not incredibly deep journey. This novel is like a milkshake – you gulp it down in a single sitting and smile when you finish because you¹ve enjoyed it so much. It¹s frothy and fun, anchored by good writing, believable characters and dialogue that rings true. There is a mystery that unfolds (a continuation of why Sheldon disappeared in the first place) and it¹s integral to the plot, but for me it was definitely secondary to the development of the relationship between the hero and heroine.

Tyanna and Sheldon are both strong, appealing characters and they are the main reason Tell Me You Love Me works so well. They are a well-matched pair ­ smart, funny and determined to be true to themselves despite the occasional censure of others. Each has their own insecurities which play out in the story and are believably resolved between them. The dialogue is crisp and realistic, not just between the lead characters, but also between the secondary players as well. There is a nicely drawn supporting cast here, not too big that you need to keep a list in front of you, but large enough to give you different perspectives on the ever-changing Tyanna/Sheldon situation.

I particularly enjoyed Tyanna¹s relationship with her best friend Wendy. Often best friend relationships in romance novels make me cringe because I just cannot relate to their either too-sappy or (at the other end of the spectrum) overly competitive behavior. In my opinion, the relationship between Tyanna and Wendy was perfectly pitched. They¹re different from each other and they agree to disagree on several issues, but they always support each other. I liked seeing a portrayal that so closely resembles my own relationship with my best friend. I could relate to the conversations they had and the minor subplot involving the taping of an exercise video (they are personal trainers) was interesting and served its function as a plot device.

Tyanna and Sheldon¹s early relationship (before his disappearance) was highly physical and sexual, so much of the book has them dealing with their strong desire for each other in the context of trying to form a new relationship. Can she trust him? Is he going to bail on her again? Does he want any more from her than sex? What does she want from him? Does he love her? Will he ever tell her he loves her? Would it be so wrong to sleep with him/her again? The sexual tension is powerful and the love scenes are hot, but not lengthy.

I appreciated the portrayal of Tyanna as not only a self-sufficient, intelligent woman, but also as a healthy, assertive sexual being. I have been rather irritated and bored of late by a number of contemporaries featuring older virginal heroines that I couldn¹t relate to, so it was refreshing for me to read about a heroine who not only had emotional feelings for the hero, but also had perfectly normal, natural, honest physical feelings as well. I realize that everyone will not share my viewpoint on this, but the frankness of the physical lust between the two characters is an important piece of Tyanna and Sheldon¹s relationship (though not the only piece). I liked and related to it myself.

My primary quibbles with Tell Me You Love Me occur toward the very end of the book, and while I won¹t provide any spoilers, I¹ll just say that the resolution of the mystery seemed a little contrived. Tyanna also pulls a TSTL move toward the end that really made me wrinkle my nose. All¹s well that end¹s well though, and I forgive her. Anyone can make one dumb mistake and, except for that gaffe, she was a heroine I could agree with and respect.

If you¹re a Kayla Perrin fan already, then I think you¹ll be very happy with her newest release. If you¹re like me and new to her work, then you have a pleasant surprise awaiting you!

— Nicole Miale

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