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Friday, June 22, 2007

Falling for Rachel

****½ Falling for Rachel by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read.

This is the 3rd book in the Stanislaski series. I'm not sure why Harlequin reissued the 1st and 3rd books together, then waited 3 years to reissue the 2nd and 4th books. Odd.

Rachel Stanislaski is a lawyer and a public defender. She meets Zack Muldoon when she's defending his 19-year-old step-brother Nick LeBeck who'd been arrested for theft. Zack and Nick aren't blood relations, but they bonded when Nick's mother married Zack's father, and now that both parents are dead, they're all each other has.

Well, Nick is all the family that Zack has. Nick has the Cobras, a street gang. Or thinks he does.

The judge allows Nick to go home with Zack, but since his home environment isn't all that squeaky-clean (he owns a bar and lives above it), Rachel is tasked with keeping an eye on them and providing reports to the court.

Aside from a couple of small things that didn't make sense to me--is there really a question of a 19-year-old being tried as a juvenile?--and Rachel's conflict of interest in getting romantically involved when she's a court-appointed watchdog--Falling for Rachel is a wonderfully full story.

Oddly, it's not the romance between Rachel and Zack that pulled me in so much as the story around them. In fact, it's almost more Nick's story than theirs, an impression made stronger by the fact that the story opens with Nick's arrest. He's the one with the character arc, and it's a good one. His gang involvement, his crush on Rachel, and his eventual integration into their family--it's a great story. Rachel and Zack just happen to fall in love during it.

I'm trying to figure out why that doesn't bother me. Sure, Rachel and Zack have their moments, but the best scenes are all about Nick. The piano brought tears to my eyes, and the climactic scene where he chooses between his brother and his gang had those tears rolling down my face. Nick meeting the Stanislaskis was much more compelling to me than Zack meeting them. I guess with such a lovely story, I didn't mind--or even notice, until I sat down to write this--that the romance couple wasn't the center of the book.

Which has me thinking. It seems that the basic definition of a romance novel includes a central love story that's the focus of the book. Does that make this not a romance? Because it still feels like a romance--it begins (well, after the prologue, anyway) with Rachel and Zack meeting, and ends with them together. But they're not the focus, are they? I'm over-thinking this, aren't I?

Maybe I should have gotten more sleep last night.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book and the continuing Stanislaski saga.


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I have not read this series so really can't comment on it, but I think it's still a romance. I think most readers wouldn't see Nick's story as the central part. I really thought the Quinn stories were as much about the brothers as anything romantic. actually, the more I think about it, most of the series she's written are more about what makes it a series than the romance in each.

I've been craving a sweet falling in love story lately. Probably something in the falling in love with your best friend category. No real conflict and certainly no hidden identity. A little (or a lot) of heat is a-ok. Any suggestions? You can email me if you're rather not clutter up your blog... lharsmaATgmailDOTcom.
Oh, gee thanks. Now I'M craving for a nice sweet falling-in-love story, and I don't know if I have any like that in the TBR pile. I think I know what you mean, and it's hard to find a really good conflict-less love story that doesn't end up being dull.

A couple I've read recently that might fit the bill: The Kiss by Elda Minger. It starts with the heroine finding out her fiance is cheating on her, but then it turns into a road romance with her high school crush, and is very sweet. Not steamy, though.

Jennifer Crusie's Manhunting is practically a classic. Light-hearted and very romantic. Bet Me might work, too--though there is that conflict about the bet.

One Summer by Nora Roberts is an old category that fits the bill--"It's a quintessential romance, really. Nothing extraneous to get in the way, just two people falling in love. And what's guaranteed to grab me: they develop respect and friendship first."
Been trying to get Jennifer's Manhunting but so far have not yet....I love Bet me though :)
High school crush is always good. That review looks interesting, but the lack of steam- is there are least tension?

One Summer looks great by your review.

I'll have to go over to Paperbackswap to see what's available. In the meantime I pulled out an old romance from my college days that I've read 3 or 4 or 5 times. I wonder how it'll hold up now? (It's called Annie Says I Do by Carole Buck, in case you're curious. Silhouette Desire from 1995.)
Oh, yes, there is sexual tension in The Kiss--they just don't act on it yet because the end of the book is only a week or so after she caught her fiance cheating on her.

I'll put Annie Says I Do on my list to look for--usually, a book that gets re-read is worth a look.
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