Hard Lovin' Man
by Lorraine Heath, contemporary (2003)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-7434-5744-7


Lorraine Heath's first contemporary romance, Hard Lovin' Man, passes the grade easily as a readable book, but I'm not sure if I am convinced in any way that the romance can work. The heroine is especially a problematic character for me. But first, the story.

Nine-years ago, twenty-two year old Kelly Spencer was a fresh graduate from teaching school hoping to guide a new generation of students to learn and become better people, yadda yadda yadda. Nineteen-year old senior Jack Morgan developed a big crush on her and they were already blurring the lines of the student-teacher boundaries and she was already declaring true love and what not when they fought and he ended up sleeping with a junior. This disposable plot device girl announced that she was pregnant, Jack married her on Kelly's insistence, and these two part ways. Wow, just think, if this was Boston Public, they'd have done the deed by the second detention class.

Today, he has divorced that wife (bad wife, and the kid isn't even his) and is now the police chief of Hopeful. She returns to take care of her rebellious sister Madison, they meet, and sparks fly. But she has secrets and these two can't get over their school thing for the most time to get down to business.

Jack is a nice hero as he's an attractive bad boy reformed, but for the life of me I can't see why he is attracted to that whiny and judgmental twit Kelly. Kelly's "love story" with Jack in flashbacks generally sees her judging and criticizing and advising Jack: it's more like a mother treating a son than a woman treating a man she loves. Maybe Jack wants a mother as well as a wife like many men I know that do, I don't know. But even on present day, Kelly seems unable to stop passing judgments on the things Jack do. The both of them tend to repeat their arguments whenever they meet, and this exasperates me because their previous relationship doesn't seem like a world-rocking earth-shattering thing to me at all. Why can't these two behave like the adults they are and start again without dwelling too much on their past?

But when it seems that there is really no more reason why these two can't get together, Kelly's issues roar to the forefront. Let's just say that Kelly's issues are petty typical for romance novels with a conservative bent in morals and values imposed on the heroine. Kelly is a tedious and wishy-washy heroine and it is very easy for me to lose patience with her.

Because most of the romance of this book hinges on what a wonderful relationship these two had when they were a teacher and a student breaking all ethics to answer the call of hormonal scratches-and-rubs and I can't see what the big deal is about the relationship in question, I have a hard time being patient with Kelly's emotional baggages. I wonder what Jack see in her, other than a teacher that looks hot and scolds him like the mother he never had. There's a potentially good story in Hard Lovin' Man, I guess, but the author's use of typical and predictable baggages and issues prevents the whole affair from being more than a ho-hum story about a student finally getting to nail that silly but pretty teacher he has the hots for.

Karen Robards' One Summer is unbearably messy and the suspense plot is laughably inept, but that story presents a far more sexy and convincing tale of a student-teacher relationship turned love story without turning the heroine too much into a stereotypical bag of nerves and neuroses. Hard Lovin' Man could use some hard hitting freshness and emotional realism that it curiously lacks.

Rating: 75


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