The Proposition
by Shirley Harrison, contemporary (2002)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 1-58314-220-7


Some books are labelled "Romance" on the spine when they should be "Romantic Suspense" (the romance is more of an afterthought). The situation is reversed regarding Shirley Harrison's first lead title for Arabesque. The Proposition takes so long to build up the suspense, fans of romantic suspense may end up gnawing at the spine of this book - which Arabesque has thoughtfully labeled "Romantic Suspense". For a romantic suspense, the pace and rhythm of The Proposition is all helter-skelter. I have never read a romantic suspense story with so many leisure times of our hero and heroine chatting up each other, chatting with friends, family, strangers, and dogs.

And for a romance, well, see above too. After doing some checking, I realize that this book is part of the author's saga about the Hardy family. No wonder this book feels like a family reunion at times. It is not a romance as much as a story of people chatting and talking and saying hi to each other in ten thousand variations of "Yo, girlfriend!". Yes, I'm bored by it all. Can you tell?

Carolyn Hardy first met football jock Michael Hennessey two years ago when he made her a charming proposition at the bank. Michael has chased her into the bank, actually, apparently having seen her outside and zoing! Led by his erection/homing device, he found her at the bank and asked her to be his groupie for the weekend. He'd even toss in a shopping spree for her. She okay with that?

Of course not. She didn't even recognize him as a football jock. She told him no. He called her up and said she was a bitch and she hanged up. He was bewildered. What, was $15,000 not enough?

They always say that men never forget the one that got away, and sure enough, two years later, he still couldn't forget her. When she happened to be one of the ones on "sale" at the Charity Bachelorette Auction he is attending, he just has to "buy". Sold! And she, needless to say, isn't ecstatic. But she can't back out, or he will never send that check to help some charity and save the world and other rot. Oh, the pain of being a romance heroine.

Carolyn is the typical workaholic woman who swears that she has no time to date. Yeah, because we all know real life career women don't date, they are like Vestal Virgins wearing metal chastity belts. (Dating nice men, of course, is a different story altogether.) Still, it is nice that Ms Harrison tries to make Carolyn a little different from the usual career-first-until-sex-then-it's-all-about-the-man-now twits. If she seems ridiculously reluctant to move from a job where she knows there is a glass ceiling above her head, it's because Carolyn is afraid to take risks. That's understandable, although don't they have workshops and Tim Robbins books for this sort of thing?

Mike tries to tell her that he has changed. She doesn't believe him. On his part, of course, he's a romantic single daddy who just needs love and a nanny/wife/mother, yadda yadda bla bla bla. He has only one son, and I find it amazing that he hasn't been booed out of his team. I mean, last I check the average number of bastard kids an NBA player should have is like, what? Eight? I think the NFL can't be too far behind.

Lots of Hardy family members and friends from the past book and no doubt future books chew up scenery, armed with imaginary pom-poms as they cheer our two main characters on. Sex, sex, sex! I find it odd that they will expect a notoriously infamous womanizing football jock will want to marry Carolyn from the get go - what kind of sanitized world do these people live in? - and even odder that they will urge Carolyn to get Michael even when they hardly know that man. If we are all groupies here, that mentality is understandable, for isn't that what being groupies are all about: sleeping with anyone, ugly or beautiful, just because (s)he is famous? But we are talking about supposedly practical, intelligent people here. It is hard to imagine that these people will want Carolyn to hook up with Michael and believing that he and she have some love thing going when they hardly even knew these two.

The Proposition seems like a transit stop between books rather than a decent story of its own. It seems to rely on the readers' empathy for previous books by this author to fill in the gaps in plot rather than to try and tell a decent story. Short on plot, slow in pace, and definitely nothing to shout about in the romantic suspense department, The Proposition should come with a "For die-hard fans only" label. As an author with only three previous books with Arabesque, it seems a bit premature for Shirley Harrison to try to do a Brenda Jackson and alienate her newbie readers.

Rating: 62


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