River Of Eden
by Glenna McReynolds, contemporary (2002)
Bantam, $6.50, ISBN 0-553-58393-X


Okay, so Glenna McReynolds' hardcover fantasy deal is pretty much up in smokes. The fantasy trilogy is flawed, anyway, the flaws only magnifying in each subsequent books - these flaws include trying too hard to pander to both romance and fantasy readers and mismarketing ("historical romance" - hello?). I like The Chalice And The Blade a lot despite its flaws and deus ex machina resolutions, but the other two books are pretty blah.

The author's reinvention as a contemporary adventure romance author gets a great kick start with River Of Eden, however. Ms McReynolds' deus ex machina resolution (again) and her often tortuous style of prose don't do her any favors, but the hero and heroine just kick ass and their chemistry can cause the entire Amazon forest canopy to explode in flames.

Dr Annie Parrish - I'm still not sure what kind of scientist she is, but at last, a heroine who doesn't do bridal gowns, teach kids, or marry the boyfriend that impregnated her in high school and then skidded out of town! - has a mission. Just what, I won't tell as the Annie's mission is slowly revealed in the story and hence revealing it will be a spoiler. I'll just say she needs a guide to help her travel through the rainforest, and the lambada-dancing borderline-psycho ex-Harvard-trained ethnobotanist (ie he studies plants) Will Sanchez will be the man to do it. And do her.

Anyway, as they do whatever it is they do, a bad guy who has once tortured Annie is out to get Annie again. A personal peeve: just what is it with this author's fixation on making all the baddies fat and ugly and stupid?

But oh, the adventures! Bullets, knives, snakes, kidnaps, rescues, escapes, sex in between dangerous episodes, man oh man, this is so exciting. And the chemistry is hot, and if Will can teach you ten thousand ways to kick ass, Annie isn't too bad either as she picks up that gun and goes all Lara Croft. Of course, she's still always in danger - I guess the damsel in distress thing works better than any other plot - and she still needs rescuing, but still, I'll take Annie over those teary, whingy, psychotic small-town neurotics any day.

But there are times when Annie's actions do baffle me in their thoughtlessness. And the resolution of the whole story is pretty much a cop-out, unless we are going to see Annie and Will going at it in a sequel. But you know what? I won't mind reading the sequel. River Of Eden is fun, exciting, sexy, and yes, pretty romantic too. A perfect swashbuckling read to make my day.

Rating: 88


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