Crazy Like a Fox, by Anne Stuart

>> Tuesday, January 04, 2005

I'm back! Hope you all had a good end to 2004 and have started 2005 even better. My end of the year was good, personally (on December 30th I finally managed to hand in a paper I've been meaning to write for the last couple of years, the final thing I needed to do to get my degree), though what with the tsunamis in Asia and the fire at the disco in Buenos Aires, I couldn't really summon much enthusiasm to celebrate.

I have started reading a lot again, though. During most of December, I was so busy with that #@%€ paper that I wasn't able to read much, and when I did, I felt hugely guilty because I thought I really should have been sitting at my computer and working. Actually, to a lesser extent I'd been feeling that way for some months. It will take a while for it to finally sink in, that I can just sit and read with a clear conscience!

Ok then, the first book I read once I was free was an Anne Stuart. As you'll see if you read the January 1st At The Back Fence column at All About Romance (the second part of the column), Anne Stuart writes all over the place, practically every type of book. I love opening one of her books, because, though not all of them have been successful with me, I like not knowing what I'm going to find. My latest read was Crazy Like a Fox.

A Family Affair...

Delacroix Landing was more of a prison than a mansion, but Margaret Jaffrey had no choice but to move in with her dead husband's eccentric Southern family so her nine-year-old daughter would have a better life.

Before long, Margaret found herself seduced by the atmosphere, the slower pace... and Peter Andrew Jaffrey, who excerted a powerful fascination on her -his cousin's widow.

She'd been warned about Peter, but his sad smile and compelling green eyes were driving her crazy with desire. Was it reckless fantasy or love's intuition that drew her to him?
It's funny, actually, how the blurb seems to be trying to hide what the book is about. I guess the publishers think most readers will shy away from reading about the heroine falling in love with the lunatic murderer locked in the attic, LOL! I know an accurate blurb would have had me buying the book immediately, even without knowing the author. I would have been right to buy it, too, because it was an excellent book. My grade would be a B+.

What this is is a modern gothic, with some of the elements of the old ones, but with more sex mixed in, among other things. Our heroine, Margaret, arrives at the house and is almost immediately intrigued by Peter, who she soon finds out has been convicted of murdering his wife and has been diagnosed as insane and allowed to be placed under house arrest. The man can't be near an open flame because he'll set fire to the entire house, and listening to country music will send him into fits. And yet Margaret feels drawn to him, even if she can't be sure of his sanity.

Of course, even in an Anne Stuart book, we readers know that the hero can't be a murderer and he can't be really crazy, but Margaret doesn't. I did like how Stuart managed to keep her from looking like a gullible idiot for believing in him. At first, she doesn't (believe in him, that is). She completely buys his craziness -which isn't strange, because he's really good at his little games- and it's only little by little that she starts seeing small details that manage to convince her.

Margaret is quite a strong heroine, always a plus. She stands up for herself, and doesn't allow anyone to bully her, not Peter and not the overbearing family matriarch. And I liked that she was not above a little bitchiness when dealing with her husband's spoiled female cousin who lived in the house.

Peter was also an excellent character. He's very reluctant to start something with Margaret, but he can't help himself. I really enjoyed the scenes in New Orleans, where he takes a huge risk in order to go to Margaret in disguise during Mardi Gras. Stuart wrote his increasing desperation to get out of his rison very well.

The only negative was that the suspense subplot was a bit weak, basically because it was so obvious and it made Peter look like a bit of a boob for not realizing what was happening earlier.Other than that, it's all good!


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