To Die For, by Linda Howard

>> Tuesday, March 22, 2005

To Die For is a bit of a departure from the type of stories Linda Howard's been doing lately. Humorous, first-person, with a very different heroine, it was also published directly as a softcover.

Blair Mallory lives the good life. She’s pretty, confident, and the owner of a thriving up-scale fitness center. But in the shadow of success, a troubled member of the club develops a strange fixation on Blair, imitating her style and dress. Matters take a darker turn when the look-alike is shot dead–and Blair witnesses the horror.

As the media speculates on the tawdry details of the homicide and pushes Blair into the harsh spotlight, she locks horns with police lieutenant Wyatt Bloodsworth. He wants to lead an investigation without interference, while Blair is determined to probe the dead woman’s life on her own. But when someone begins to menace Blair with mounting threats, Wyatt takes notice: Was this murder indeed a lethal case of mistaken identity–and was Blair the intended victim?
I mostly enjoyed reading it, and there were certain appealing things about the romance, but I wasn't crazy about it. My grade would be a B-.

I've heard much about readers want to slap Blair, but I was fine with her. She was smart, sensible and fun, even if she was a little too much of a Southern belle, girly-girl for me to completely like. The one I wanted to slap was Wyatt. God, that man was high-handed and patronizing! I just hated the whole "you've ran rough-shod over men all your life, you need a guy who can dominate you" attitude he had with Blair.

As for the romance, on one hand, I couldn't help but get some nice jolts from Wyatt's absolute and complete focus on Blair. There's just something about it that instinctively appeals to me. But really, I couldn't wholeheartedly like the romance, and I think it was because I just don't identify with the whole man-woman dynamics here.

Blair and her mom's view seems to be that there are girl things (stereotypical things, like how one can never have enough shoes, and stuff like that) and there are guy things, and guys will never understand the importance of all those vital girl things, so they're going to have to be manipulated and emotionally blackmailed into it. A woman's married life will be spent manipulating her man into "letting" her do what she wants.

I know this is the view of many women, but I just find it horrific. My ideal relationship is a more equal partnership, not something like what I see Blair and Wyatt's relationship as being in the future, which is a continual power-struggle, an eternal fight to manipulate the other into doing what they want. Blair basically admits that at one point, and while she takes the view that "at least we'll never get bored", it just sounds exhausting to me. Plus, well, really, even if I didn't particularly like Wyatt, I almost felt sorry for him, after seeing the type of things Blair had in her list of "girl things".

The external plot, about someone trying to kill Blair was pretty good, though I thought the resolution was a little disappointing. I found the complete mystery of why anyone would even want to kill Blair quite engaging, but when the solution was revealed, I didn't think it was particularly believable.

Anyway, for all my criticism, as it often happens to me with Linda Howard books, I enjoyed the book more than my rational reaction to it would indicate.


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