Her Body of Work, by Marie Donovan

>> Friday, March 03, 2006

book coverAs the AAR readers' poll approaches, I always go a bit crazy trying to read as many books as I can from the year in question. I always end up voting really late because of this (sorry, LLB!). As I made up a tentative draft ballot earlier this month, I noticed I'd read no 2005 category books. None at all. When my latest batch arrived (quickly and expensively, as some of you I've shared my shipping issues with know), it contained two 2005 series books I had high hopes for, so I read them as soon as I could.

The first was Danger Calls, and the second Her Body of Work, by new-to-me author Marie Donovan.

When sculpting a nude, the artist must…

…understand the male body

Chicago sculptor Rey Martinson has always worked with nudes, but she is floored by her new model’s male perfection. Cuban-American Marco Flores’s body is more than inspiring—it’s irresistible.

…be good with her hands

Because it turns out that Marco is incredibly talented with his--on Rey! After each wildly arousing modeling session, they find release in intense lovemaking.

…have an eye for detail

Rey can’t ignore that there’s something suspicious about Marco. He’s the first lover she’s ever had who sleeps with a gun under his pillow! But for Rey, being with Marco is worth the risk. Because she’s never been with a man who stimulates her so strongly—as an artist…or as a woman.
It was a really good example of what Blaze books can be, when done right. I ultimately decided to vote for Danger Calls as best series books (and that's the last thing I'll say about my ballot until the results come out... any time now), mainly because the ending of HBOW wasn't as good as the rest of the book. Still, a B is quite a good grade.

I tend to have a kind of love/hate relationship with the Harlequin Blaze line. I really love a romance where the sex is steamy and works to develop the relationship, and I've found some Blaze authors who are really good at that. However, when Blazes are bad, they tend to really stink. I especially detest: a) ridiculously contrived setups which are supposed to be sexy but are just silly, b) mechanical love scenes which add nothing to the story and are just there because the author thinks because this is a Blaze, she needs to add X number of love scenes, whether the story asks for them or not. Sadly, both a) and b) apply to a large percentage of the Blaze books I've read.

The good news is, they definitely do not apply to this one. As for a), the setup here is sexy and provocative, but not at all silly. Marco is a formerly undercover DEA agent whose cover has been blown. He's now on the run from the drug dealers he'd infiltrated and, knowing that they will try to get to him through his family, the first thing he does is to get them out of the way.

His mother is easy: off she goes on a cruise of the Mediterranean. Then it's on to Chicago, to try to get his model/actor brother out of the city. He lucks out, because Francisco has an audition in LA, but before he goes, he guilts Marco into covering for him and showing up to an audition for a sculptor. After all, they look similar enough, at least at first glance, and that way, Francisco's agent won't be pissed and he'll still have a job if his LA thing doesn't work out.

The artist who's looking for a model is sculptor Rey (short for Freyja) Martinson, and she specializes in naked men. She's looking for the perfect model for a big commission, a marble sculpture of Mars for an important client, which will finally put her on the map if it's a success. The sparks fly on Marco and Rey's very first meeting, and in spite of their reservations -Rey because she's had bad experiences with her models and has long made it her policy not to get sexually involved with any of them, and Marco because he's on the run and knows he's going to have to get out of town soon- they're soon creating even more sparks, between the sheets.

I very much enjoyed this. Both Rey and Marco are interesting, likeable characters, and they have some very nice chemistry. I thought Donovan did a wonderful job in using her frequent and imaginative love scenes to show the slow progress of their relationship, from simply a very strong attraction to fondness and tenderness and finally love. And when I say imaginative, I mean it! It's actually pretty kink-free, but there are certain things there I haven't seen elsewhere in Romanceland (the Cubana, BTW, we call Russian here. Interesting!)

Plus, both Rey and Marco are immigrants, she from Sweden, he from Cuba, and the exploration Donovan does of the immigrant experience, of how it affected them and shaped who they are now, is fascinating. I thought it really added some interesting and fresh layers to these characters. (And isn't it a funny coincidence that the heroes in these series books I read, one after the other, are both Cuban immigrants?)

All through the book, the grade I had in my head was a B+. It wasn't quite an A read (just lacked that extra zing that's the mark of one, I guess), but it was solidly enjoyable. The ending, however, lowered that grade somewhat. That's when the suspense subplot came to the foreground, and while it wasn't really bad, it just lowered what was previously a fresh, fun story into humdrum territory. The villain was uninteresting, and I just didn't completely get Marco's behaviour there at the end.

This is just a small part of the book, though. This is one I'd recommend, and a new author I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for from now on.


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