Private Arrangements
by Brenda Jackson, contemporary (2012)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86244-3


When it comes to authors like Brenda Jackson, I have to apply a different set of criteria when it comes to evaluating their books. These authors - Brenda Jackson, Jayne Ann Krentz, Stephanie Laurens, Nora Roberts and company - have hit a peak in their career so much so that they are now churning out books that adhere to a very noticeable formula. Reviewing their books is now almost an exercise in redudancy, it's like reviewing the same dish I have eaten in a restaurant for a hundredth time. The final score depends on various elements that can seem almost random in nature.

Perhaps the author was in a good mood when she was writing that book, or maybe she had bought something so marvelous with her latest fat royalty check that a slight variation of the usual same old snucked itself into the book here and there. Or. who knows, maybe the author has hired a passel of ghostwriters without telling me, and all of a sudden, these books seem to be written by a completely different person so it's time to sound the church bells and get the nuns to praise God in heavens - "The book! Is not! Boring!"

Or, such as with Private Arrangements, it's another case of rehash and rinse, with the greatest challenges I face being, firstly, trying to stay awake while reading this story and, secondly, trying to think of a way of write this review without repeating myself. See? When an author starts rehashing her formula in uninspired ways, the reviewer gets dragged into the black hole of blahdom too.

Yes, it's that guy and that woman again. If you have read a few of the author's books, you should know what I'm talking about. We just change the names and the jobs of the main characters. Or, in the case of the hero, sometimes we just change the names. Nikki Cartwright is a photographer who is as talented as she is gorgeous. She is lusted after by Jonas Steele, millionaire and playboy and all-round boring cliché, who is unfortunately afraid of falling in love and is determined to just slake his lust on her and dump her when the contract period is over. Nikki, however, is waiting for her soulmate even if he makes her feel all warm and fuzzy inside and out. She tries to avoid getting tangled up with him, but he manipulates things so that she has no choice but to sleep with him and work for him.

Of course, since he's hot and sexual harassment doesn't exist in romance novels unless the guy doing it is fat and ugly, this is a charming romance. Okay, it's charming in the sense that it is unintentionally hilarious due to some awfully cheesy bedroom talk. For example, during the grand moment when tab A meets slot B, the hero actually says, "Mmm, we fit perfectly." Has someone been reading Laurell K Hamilton's books? Another set of gems: "I need to suck on them, Nikki. I need to let my tongue wrap around them. I need to lick them."

Seriously, bedroom talk is supposed to be rough and filthy. Not hilarious for all the wrong reasons.

The romance is sleazy, but the author manages to make things somewhat readable by having the hero and the heroine acknowledge now and then the sleaze they are licking and fitting in. Unfortunately, Nikki is generally passive and lets Jonas string her along despite her occasional awareness of his flaws, and Jonas is just... well, sleazy. Perhaps this is intentional - the author even brings in a character from Adrianne Byrd's House Of Kings series to spice up the evening gatherings of Jonas's Brotherhood of Sequel Baits. The thing is, Adrianne Byrd's sleaze brigade works because those dirtbags - who will shag any tail that even swishes a little at their direction - are portrayed in such an over the top manner in a series that thrive in an atmosphere of outrageous tongue-in-cheek humor. Jonas may emerge as a likable lout in those stories. Brenda Jackson doesn't do that kind of outrageous comedy in this book, however, so he just comes off as sleazy and very corny.

Private Arrangements is the same old, same old topped off with a dose of sleaze that seems to be introduced for a crossover effort with Ms Byrd's series. But such a hero and such a style are not the author's usual style, and she doesn't manage to pull these elements off comfortably, so the end result is often too awkward for its own good.

Rating: 52


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