Dangerous Magic, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Friday, July 20, 2007

TITLE: Dangerous Magic
AUTHOR: Jayne Ann Krentz (written as Stephanie James)

PAGES: 219
PUBLISHER: Originally: Silhouette Special Edition (see its cover here). My copy was a reissue, a "Collector's Edition" from Harlequin.

SETTING: Contemporary (bah, early 1980s, actually)
TYPE: Category Romance

REASON FOR READING: Estelle started an intriguing thread about it at AAR. I already had it in my TBR pile, left over from my massive JAK glom from a few years ago, so I immediately went and fished it out.

Sleeping her way to the top was not Elissa Sheldon's style...

Sure, she had skills and intelligence, but senior work colleague Wade Taggert was convinced that Elissa had slept with a married man to advance her career. Elissa was furious at Wade's assumptions and was very tempted to quit her job—but when he had the nerve to blackmail her into an affair of his own, the opportunity for revenge was too sweet to pass up.

The trap was set. She would manipulate him into falling in love with her, and when he was on his knees begging her to marry him...she would shoot him down for the dirty dog that he was. But what she didn't count on was falling in love herself...
THE PLOT: When Elissa Sheldon is called into the new boss' office, she expects to be told she got the promotion she was angling for. After all, she was clearly the best-qualified person for the position. But she doesn't get her promotion, in spite of Wade Taggert acknowledging that she was the best person for the job. Her problem, he says, is that she slept with the wrong man for the job. She should have gone for him, not for that other executive he saw her with. And from now on, she will. They will be lovers, and that is that.

Elissa is outraged, especially because she wasn't sleeping with that guy at all. But rather than suing Wade for sexual harassment (which, to her credit, she does consider doing), she goes for revenge. She'll pretend to go along and when he's begging her for marriage, she'll turn him down, in the most humilliating way possible.

MY THOUGHTS: Estelle, my friend, we're going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Dangerous Magic is better than those titles I warned you to stay away from, but Wade still crosses my personal line between self-assured and jackass.

I think this plot, which depends on the hero behaving so badly, might just have worked if we'd got a huge grovel on the his part. I would even have accepted a bit of a scare, a bleak moment in which he thinks that his abominable behaviour might have cost him the love of his life. But we don't get either of those things.

During the dénouement, Wade tells Elissa: "You’ve been outclassed, outmaneuvered, and out-tricked every step of the way, my lovely.", and so she has been. All thorought the book he's been manipulating her into doing what he wanted, making accusations he knew were baseless and basically doing his best to make her feel bad. Not one moment of doubt on his part, not one moment of guilt for the distress he's causing this woman he's supposed to love. And he's rewarded for it, because he gets everything he wanted, just as he wanted it.

His actions upset me even more than they did Elissa. I hated the way he kept telling her that she needed a man to keep her under control, to dominate her, that she'd been allowed to handle people all her life and she needed someone who she couldn't handle. Blergh. And even worse was the scene in which he threatened to beat her, and though it's made clear that he wouldn't have followed through, it's only after a horribly humiliating episode of begging and pleading on Elissa's part, who really did believe he would hit her. This particular scene was the worst, but this guy had a general tendency to threaten violence whenever he perceived Elissa was "offending" him. He could make the most awful accusations to her and she wasn't allowed to get angry, but let her give him a bit of lip, and he considered it his right to chastise her. He was also an insanely jealous.

On the plus side, Wade did have more of a sense of humour than the typical old alpha jerk, which was the only reason I was able to finish the book. He was even able to laugh about himself, at times (at times being the operative words here). Also, I was intrigued by the obvious loneliness in him, his very real need for Elissa. And that's all the positive things I can say about him.

Elissa wasn't a bad heroine, at least not until the end. She was suitably outraged by Wade's accusations, and I sympathized with her need for revenge. If only she'd been able to follow through! Wade really, really deserved Elissa to do her worst.

I must say, though, that no matter how many negatives I list, this was a one-sitting book. There was a bit of a guilty pleasure element to my reading it, and with a better ending, I might have excused a lot of the problems.

MY GRADE: A C-, with bonus negative points for the pointless appearance of a shallow, beautiful, sophisticated Evil Other Woman, out to get Wade. Was that a requirement back then?


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