by Emma Petersen, contemporary (2006)
Cobblestone Press, $3.99, ISBN 1-60088-030-4
Since my brush with Emma Petersen's paranormal romances hasn't exactly been the most enjoyable experience I can think of, I am curious about how I will react to a more down-to-earth story by this author. Hence, Branded, a contemporary story that unfortunately comes off like a synopsis an author would submit to the editor at the Harlequin Temptation line to convince the editor to buy her amazing masterpiece in the making. Under any circumstances, the story of unexpected pregnancy will not make me raise an eyebrow given that I have read at least one Harlequin Temptation in the past, but the heroine Jennifer Gardner - nothing to do with the actress, I'm sure - is a doctor. Why is a doctor treating a condom as something that is used only to prevent pregnancy when she knows that the hero Tyson Parsons, Jr has played fast and loose with easy women in the past?
Poor Ty. He's not just stuck with his name, his father abandoned his pregnant mother so Ty has father issues. On his father's funeral, the then-teenage Ty nearly did it with Jenny, the good girl every bad boy in such stories has a crush on. Today, he meets Jenny again at her father's funeral. In the meantime he had married (and shortly after, divorced) some skank who bore a child that wasn't his and that kid died shortly after his birth, so Ty has issues after issues. However, the amazing thing about this story is Ty ends up being the mature one in the relationship while Jenny keeps acting as if she wants to run away again and again even after she realizes that she's been knocked up by Ty.
I don't think Emma Petersen is doing herself any favors with stories like Branded because this story is too short to make much of an impact on me. The storyline is simple - in between flashbacks, Ty and Jenny shag, she runs away, Ty finds her, they make up and decide that they are in love, the end. Ty is a somewhat better-written character here since the story dwells heavily on his issues, but Jenny is a flat one-dimensional character in comparison. All that build-up about poor Ty's issues is wasted when this story is quickly and neatly resolved before the storyline gets to go anywhere.
I like what Ms Petersen tries to do with Ty in Branded - in this story, she demonstrates that she can at least create a compelling tortured hero. However, with its short length, Branded really doesn't go anywhere - it ends before anything of significant import other than the love scene has taken place. So, how about a longer story for once, Ms Petersen?
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