Unexpected, by Lori Foster

>> Monday, March 13, 2006

I didn't like the few Lori Foster books I've read, but for some reason, her books keep accumulating in my TBR. I guess her stories sound interesting, so I always end up picking them up used when I see them cheap. That's what happened with her Unexpected. In fact, what tempted me here was that it sounded really close to the story I've always wanted to read in a romance novel... a kind of romantic suspense but with the heroine being the tough warrior and the hero being the regular guy who's caught in a situation that's out of his depth.

Eli Conners expected hired mercenary Ray Vereker to be a tank of a guy with forty tattoos - not a gorgeous creature with considerable karate skills. While Eli certainly needs Ray's help, he thinks she could use a little of what he's offering...a down-and-dirty, body-scorching passion of the forever kind.

Ray's as good as any man when it comes to storming enemy compounds and loading an AK-47, but Eli's strong sensuality and gentle touch leave her shaken and stirred. And really, who could blame a girl for succumbing to mind-blowing temptation in the steamy jungle? But now it's back to business. If only Ray wasn't feeling hot, bothered, dizzy, and just a little bit, well, queasy.

The last thing either of these unlikely lovers expects is to be expecting. Suddenly, Ray's precise, no-nonsense mission is veering wildly off course, derailed by raging hormones, out-of-control desire, and a delirious love that is completely unexpected.
I think when I decided to pick this one up I mustn't have read the blurb in detail, because I really didn't remember the pregnancy angle. When I opened my box and saw that stork there in the cover, my jaw dropped. Uh-oh, I thought, is there any way Foster can get a HEA ending without... er... emasculating (you know what I mean) Ray, given the premise? Without her having to give up what made her different from other romance novel heroines in the first place? And I do NOT like stories which are all about the pregnancy.

Turns out both my worries were the least of my problems with Unexpected. It was awful, but not because of these issues.

Ray does give up her mercenary gig, but that was ok with me, because right from the beginning you know she's burnt out, only doing this one more mission because she needs the money. So her giving it up didn't bother me at all because it didn't feel like one more woman giving up the career she loves because hubby disapproves.

The pregnancy thing? Ehhh, I didn't actually like what Foster did with it, but it wasn't that bad. And actually, this happens late enough in the book that it's a bit puzzling that Kensington decided to make it such an upfront thing in the packaging. It shouldn't have been mentioned at all in the back cover blurb, as far as I'm concerned.

So what makes this such a bad book? Well, basically that Foster takes an interesting premise and then totally chickens out. She goes out of her way to reassure us that Ray isn't that strong and competent, that Eli can totally overpower her if he wants to and didn't really need her to rescue his brother, that in bed Ray is very "womanly" and submissive... it went on and on. She starts out with characters who might be interesting and original and beats them over their heads with a stick until they've squashed themselves into stereotypical "romance hero" and "romance heroine" molds.

Reading this book felt like experiencing the Death of a Thousand Cuts. Every couple of pages there was something so incredibly irritating that it threw me out of the story (and nearly made me throw the book against a wall). None of these problems were fatal in themselves, but they accumulated until the book was deader than dead.

Stuff like getting to meet Jane, for instance. Jane, whom, even having read only a couple of Lori Foster books, I recognize. She's totally "the other woman". Foster's "other women" (and by "other women" I mean any woman who's not the heroine or maybe the heroine of a previous book or the hero's mother -though sometimes the mothers are like the "other women", too) are all cut out of the same cloth. They're shrill and hysterical and they're all money-grubbing whores.

You know what? Even thinking about this book makes my head hurt, so I'll stop this review right here. My grade? A D.


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