All I Desire
by Thea Devine, historical (1999)
Zebra (Splendor), $4.99, ISBN 0-8217-6259-1


It's official - Thea Devine has toned down her writing a lot. I'm now so disappointed maybe even waffles with three scoops of yummy chocolate ice-cream topped with cherries and peanuts and chocolate sauce wouldn't cheer me up. Maybe. In this book, the hero and heroine don't even get it on until the last two pages. Is a Regency next on Miss Devine's in-the-work list?

Mind you, All I Desire is much better than her last two books. The heroine here isn't on the verge of hysteria all the time. The use of italicized sentences is mercifully minimal. It's just the two lead characters hate each other so much it is impossible to even figure out why the happy ending is there. It is as if in toning down the sensuality, Ms Devine just cranks up the hate factor to make up for it. And no matter how sensual a book can be, having so many unpleasant side characters and an over-the-top evil plot by the villains that has me laughing hysterically - it really ruins a good reading experience.

The story is typical of the author: Francesca Reay's best friend, exotic dancer and courtesan Samara Teva is dead and Alexander Deveney, Earl of Mere and Tamara's brother-in-law, has arrived to collect her husband's bodies to be buried in the family estate. Alex doesn't know Samara is dead and is looking for some state secrets Samara may be holding. By some convoluted reasoning, Francesca ends up taking Samara's identity and arrives in Alex's family home, populated by an unpleasant mother-in-law (they're always unpleasant in erotic historical romances), the dysfunctional sister-in-law who has the hots for Alex and hates Francesca (they always do), and don't forget the dysfunctional siblings (they always are). Next thing you know, Alex is locking Francesca in his bedroom and making her do erotic stripteases for his 'friends' as he sneaks through their correspondences in search for traitors and stuff. Never mind the plot - it all boils down to some really ridiculous Nazi-inspired Orwellian thingie that has me giggling. Which is not good for a book, is it?

Francesca is stronger than many of Ms Devine's wimpy heroines, but Alex hates her so much, I can't help but to wonder why she is attracted to him in the first place. There is really no tenderness between Frances and Alex no matter how hard I look.

Rating: 41


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