There's a little blurb in an author's note at the start of the book that mentions how Lucky's Lady is Tami Hoag's first foray into the Romantic Suspense arena after a career of writing strictly romances and romantic comedies. So I decided to take this into account when I started reading the book. I've only read two other Tami Hoag books in the past--one of which I don't even remember the book or the title since it was a long time ago, and the other was the first book in the Doucet series, The Restless Heart, of which I had just recently read.
Ms. Hoag is a very good writer and sets up the imagery and location of the bayous and nature really well. At the very least, the images in my mind are quite vivid.
Unfortunately, the story suffers from everything else.
I'm under the impression that the book forgot that it was supposed to be a Romantic Suspense until sometime towards the ending--and then we just throw in a random scene for suspense sake and it's pretty much over before it's started. Sure, there was a lot of the "conspiracy" and the "melodrama" and the straight out "drama" that lead up to the point (that actually could have been cut pretty short), but it still felt like reading a plain old traditional romance novel that tried to inject some suspense into it in the eleventh hour so it could join the club.
Serena returns to her old childhood home for vacation from her psychology practice in Charleston only to find that her grandfather has gone into hiding in a cabin out in the middle of the swamps. For reasons (big bad conspiracy reasons), her twin sister, Shelby has not bothered to tell Serena the whole story, opting simply for claiming that Gifford Sheridan has lost his marbles and just ran off. So, in the heat of stupid pride and stubborn anger, Serena goes to find a guide who will take her out into the swamps to find her grandfather and bring him home.
This is when she meets Lucky, douchebag of the century who is sexist and lewd and keeps throwing sexual harassments innuendos at Serena (more on him later), and her entire life begins to turn upside down when conspiracies, family drama, and an angst-ridden, lust-filled romance invades her perfectly settled lifestyle.
For a romance novel, it probably wasn't a terrible book. As I had stated in my review of the first book in this series, I don't typically read books that are strictly romances; especially the stock standard, carbon copy, traditional romance novels with the same illustration of the same, barely dressed couple manhandling gripping each other tightly.
And Lucky's Lady was definitely no different than a typical romance novel (of which I have read few even if not many). In fact, as I read this book, I kept picturing that illustration as our main couple:
Serena Sheridan is the standard, uniquely gorgeous woman who is supposedly independent, successful, and intelligent and insightful, prim and proper… practically a Mary Sue of her own caliber. She’s got a dry, sarcastic streak about her (which works for some grins, but no straight out laughs), and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself… supposedly.
Etienne “Lucky” Doucet is, physically, the guy on the cover with his wild hair and eyes, chiseled features, built body, bulging bicep, and eternal shirtlessness. He’s the standard romance novel hero/faux-antihero whom women of the ages fantasize their excitements around--dangerous, roguish, on the edge of the law, and somehow alluring despite all of his douche-y qualities. On the inside, he’s got the standard Heart of Gold, as well as a broken spirit.
In real life, any self-respecting woman would kick him in the shins and run away for the behavior he exhibits which ranges from sexual harassment, to sexual assault, to downright rude, disrespectful, and plain scary. But this is a fictional romance novel a la Harlequin standards, so the every woman is certainly going to become attracted to him and allow this attraction to cloud their inconsistently swaying judgment in his character. I especially love the whole "No, no I don't want to have sex," "Yes, yes you do want this," "Well, okay, I guess you're right, yes I do want to be ravished," exchange that takes place in so many of these romance novels; then the guy gets what he wants, the girl's crying... but that's okay, it was mind-blowing sex, so everything is alright... Excuse me while I go roll my eyes a fifth time. But that's okay, because in the end, the guy is the most perfect man ever, never mind that he was an arrogant, egocentric, sexist douche-nozzle in the beginning; his standard Heart of Gold and his sad, sad tragic past that broke his soul makes up for his douchery.
And so goes our standard romance of the uptight and prissy, intelligent, yet also naively innocent woman who comes into our dangerous rogue’s life in order to make him fall in love with her and change his life while her life is turned upside down. There’s lusting, there’s insta-love, there’s angst, and of course, there’s the big “we can’t be together for reasons” quip that plays as the main conflict in 90% of romance novels.
The heroine is always prim and proper and needs a bad boy to liven up her life, because her life is a lonely pit of sorrow even though she is properly independent and successful in the rest of her life. The hero is always the dangerous bad boy who needs a prim and proper innocent lady to fix his broken soul and reform him back into civilized living…
Or something to that effect.
And then the book remembers that it’s applying for the Romantic Suspense club as well and so throws in a random conspiracy and obligatory Damsel in Distress scene to mark off its checklist.
As a Romantic Suspense, it was a nice attempt.
I’m filing this story away as a regular old Romance novel, though because I never felt the suspense in it. Had I not been told that this book is being classified as a Romantic Suspense, I probably wouldn’t have suspected it at all. As a traditional romance novel, it probably hit upon the usual marks with the same, replayed formulaic storyline and the same formulaic characters.
So it wasn’t a bad story. Serena has to deal with her family history and conflicts while battling other things; Lucky has to deal with his own personal demons while battling other things. The two have to work out their own romantic conflicts, and the bad guys sort of get the justice they deserve served to them… sort of. I’m a little put out that Serena’s twin sister, Shelby still gets let off, scot free without repercussions to her life and still finishes of the story as if she hasn’t learned her lesson.
But I guess that’s real life for you--sometimes not everything gets tied up in a perfect little bow. And so long as we have our Happily Ever After for the main couple everything else is fine, right? I’m not really too bothered by it myself.
I can’t say that I really enjoyed the romance or the characters. And since there was barely much story line to contend with, well, I’m giving this book a big old mediocre rating. If you like romance novels and you like your Happily Ever Afters (as I do), then this book won’t bother you. But if you’re also looking for a little bit more substance, I’m not sure I’d go for this one. Since I didn’t really care for the characters, the book and the romance didn’t impress me.
Tami Hoag is a good writer though, and I’m holding out hope that the rest of the series will be more enticing and the romances a little less formulaic. The next book in the Doucet series, Cry Wolf, sounds like it has more of a murder mystery/crime thriller angle to it, so I’m interested. I’ve read that her Kovac/Liska series is actually done really well, so I’m interested in checking those out when I get a chance.