A Fine Specimen, by Lisa Marie Rice

>> Friday, June 26, 2009

TITLE: A Fine Specimen
AUTHOR: Lisa Marie Rice

PAGES: No exact idea, it's about category romance-length.
PUBLISHER: Ellora's Cave

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
NOTE: Previously released as Taming Nick. Where it was released, I've no idea. I went through a period of trying to search for all of LMR's books (even got all her Elizabeth Jennings ones), and I never heard of this one.

REASON FOR READING: Auto-read author.

Lieutenant Alex Cruz eats, sleeps and breathes law enforcement. He's tough, brusque, and cops and criminals alike tremble beneath him. And that's the way he likes it. Until he meets Caitlin Summers—and decides he wants her trembling beneath him.

The beautiful scholar is doing dissertation research in his cop shop, and seriously messing with his head. His self-imposed sexual abstinence comes to a screeching halt in Caitlin's ratty hotel room, and dies a permanent death in his bed…and his kitchen…and his living room. Caitlin is also intelligent and funny, kind and generous, her smile a burst of warmth in his cold, austere life. And that scares the crap out of him.

With his head and heart fighting a battle of wills, Alex can barely concentrate on work. And that's too bad—because his dangerous job and his newfound love are about to clash in the worst way possible.
I was very happy when I saw LMR had another book out and it was with Ellora's Cave. I haven't loved her Avon Red books, and I was hoping this would be more similar to favourites such as Midnight Angel and Woman on the Run. In some ways it was, although a few too many flaws meant it didn't quite reach their level of wonderfulness.

Alex Cruz is a hard-ass police Lieutenant. A former gangbanger, he was rescued by the man who's now his captain and feels he owes him. So when his captain sends a young researcher to do some field work at Alex's police station, he can't really say no. But Caitlin Summers is more distracting than he expected, and workaholic Alex, whose life has become all about work in the last months and who wouldn't dream of bringing his personal life into his cop shop, suddenly finds himself feeling the urge to do some very unprofessional things.

A lot of things here are classic LMR, and I totally relished them. Alex's immediate and utter focus on Caitlin and his protectiveness and possessiveness were just delicious. I've even given up feeling guilty about finding such caveman attitudes sexy, when in real life I'd stay far, far away from a guy like Alex. As for the juxtaposition of huge, aggressive alpha and dainty, almost child-like heroine, it does still make me a bit uncomfortable, but there's something about the way LMR writes it. Basically, se makes it seem hot as hell. What I did like unreservedly was that Alex respected Caitlin's intelligence and opinions, even being open to considering her theories on law enforcement.

It's an intense, intimate and 100% character-driven story. There's a bit in the background about Alex being after a particular criminal, but it was only a slight distraction. I quite liked complete focus on the romance, even though I'm probably the only reader who did enjoy the very original suspense subplots in this author's older books (yes, even the scenes from the criminals' POV).

Unfortunately, it's now time to talk about the flaws. The main one was something that left a bad taste in my mouth was the complete derision with which Alex would think of his previous sex partners. It was especially bad during love scenes... he kept making comparisons between Caitlin and those other women, and I found some frankly offensive. I think the low point came when he was thinking how soft Caitlin was down there, whereas some of his other lovers had had "cunts like steel traps". Euwww! Doesn't speak very well of him that a) he'd think of other women that way, and b) that if he thought so, he'd sleep with them!

Also, the development of the romance wasn't totally satisfying to me, mainly because Alex's commitment-phobia didn't feel fully believable. What I love about previous LMR heroes is how they are so immediately convinced that the heroine is the best thing that's ever happened to them, and though they know they don't deserve her, there's no way they're going to let her get away from them. With Alex it was weird, because when we saw the way he felt about Caitlin, it felt as if he should naturally be trying to bind her to him as firmly as possible. And yet, he was so insistent on there not being a future in their relationship, and him not being into long-term relationships. Which didn't make much sense, really, because Rice didn't give any reason for why he would feel that way. It just felt strange and out of character, I suppose. Less objectively, there's also the fact that mindless commitment-phobia in a hero just doesn't appeal to me in the least.

Finally, I thought the ending was a bit lacking. For starters, it was quite abrupt. That's been the case in quite a few of LMR's books. Yes, long, drawn-out endings, with everything tied into neat bows and scenes showing the main couple happy, happy, happy are quite boring, but I could have used a little bit more. Not to mention that the way things happened was extremely predictable. In fact, the exact event that makes Alex reevaluate and change his mind about commitment was literally predictable; a long time before it happened I stopped for a minute and thought "I bet this and this and this is going to happen." And it did.



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