Intimate Enemies
by Shana Abé, historical (2000)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58199-6


Ms Abé does have a nice style that is lyrical and just perfect for the mystical atmosphere of her romances, that is, when she reins in her verbosity. She loses control in the last book, A Kiss At Midnight, but here it's not too bad. Intimate Enemies starts with an explosive bang, drawing me into a great set-up of a Romeo-Juliet tangle of a highland feud that makes even the Gideon knot looks like child's play. It also sets up a strong heroine, Lauren McRae, matching her with a wonderful hero, Arion du Morgan.

Then the Cliché Demons possess our two main characters and ruin everything. Where's the exorcist? Bah.

The McRae and the the English folks at the Isle of Shot have been going at it for as long as anyone can recall. But this time, the Vikings from the North are coming down to plunder, loot, and rape. The only way the two diverse group of people can fight off the invaders is by uniting as one team. Arion knows this, so he proposes an alliance to Lauren, who is now temporary laird of her people (all her menfolk are either dead or helpless in bed).

Then we have a nice flashback to a time when our heroine is a sweet innocent young thing and our hero, holidaying in a McRae dungeon, sees her and goes Ooh mama (okay, he does it with more class). It's a love at first sight, a spontaneous combustion, heck, a nuclear fission spiralling out of control thing. But she is wary - all Englishmen are evil, right?

Back to today - what happens when two beautiful, attractive people already besotted with each other work together day and night? But there are complications to settle before the guilt and inhibitions fall off with the clothes: the Vikings, our hero and heroine's people's unwillingness to settle their differences, traitors within, the evil fiancé for Lauren... all ingredients for a great adventure romance, of course.

But it is also very easy for me to put down this book. Oh, the sexual tension is there, Arion is one hot koochie (in a Donny Osmond way), but Lauren does a lot of silly things. Then the Ye Trite Thingies start popping up - Murdoch the evil fiancé, the boink after a brush with death, the loyal and protective old blokey for the heroine, the hero's best buddy who is content to play second fiddle, yadda yadda yadda.

(It also didn't help that the hero's name, Arion, just keep changing to Marian. It's all my dotty eyesight's fault, of course, but whenever Arion is mentioned, I keep hearing the song from that Robin Hood parody movie Men In Tights: Where the man who carries the key? When will he be with his Marian? Ma-RIIIII-aaannnnnn? I cannot wait till he sets my heart frEEEEEeeeeeEEEEEE!)

But the whole exercise in triteness is thankfully thrown overboard in the last few chapters. Oh my! I actually held my breath and shed a few tears at Arion and Lauren's nobility. In fact, I am tempted to give a standing ovation. Then I think of the whole exercise in yawndom that is the very sagging middle and I sit back down.

Intimate Enemies isn't a bad book. It's entertaining and the ending just rocks. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, but it doesn't make the cut as a great book either. Just a very good one.

Rating: 84


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