Jack Prescott grew up with no mother and an alcoholic father who moved them around from one homeless shelter to the next. During a sojourn at a shelter in the small town of Summerville, Washington, Jack (then known as Ben) at the age of 18, met the lovely Caroline Lake when her wealthy family came to do volunteer work. Ben became smitten with Caroline and would sneak into her family's mansion while they were out for the day just to feel close to her. When Ben's father died in the shelter, he took off and was later found starving and half-frozen by Colonel Eugene Prescott. The Colonel adopted Ben, who changed his name to Jack, and trained him to be an Army Ranger. When the Colonel retired, he started a private security company, making Jack his second in command. The Colonel later died of cancer, leaving Jack a very wealthy man, and free to pursue his own dreams. Those dreams include starting a new life and career elsewhere and tying up loose ends with the one woman he has never been able to forget all these years. But first, Jack goes on one final mission to infiltrate rogue agents who are massacring innocent women and children in Sierra Leone and stealing diamonds. Jack's mission is successful in that the bad guys are all either killed or captured, but no one in the village is left alive. Not wanting the diamonds to fall into the wrong hands, Jack has no choice but to take them with him as he embarks on his journey.
In the twelve years since Jack last saw Caroline, she lost both her parents in a terrible car accident which also left her only brother, Toby, paralyzed with severe medical problems for six years, and he had just passed away two months earlier. In order to provide the proper medical care for Toby, Caroline was forced to sell off almost everything of value that the family owned except the beautiful house which is now in a state of total disrepair. She barely makes ends meet by running a small bookstore and taking in boarders, but her latest tenants just moved out a few days before. When Jack Prescott walks into Caroline's bookstore on Christmas Eve asking for a place to stay, she is a little reluctant to take in such a rough-looking man. After talking for a few minutes, Caroline feels a strange kinship with Jack and agrees to rent a room to him. That evening, the full weight of Caroline's grief and loneliness comes crashing in on her. Wanting nothing more than to feel close to another human being, she invites Jack to spend the night in her room.
Jack decides he must be the luckiest man on earth. Never in a million years would he have even allowed himself to fantasize that a beautiful woman like Caroline would even still be single much less that he would be in her house and her bed on the first night in town. Now that it has happened, Jack intends to do everything in his power to put a smile back on Caroline's face and make sure she never has to worry about anything again. What Jack doesn't know is that Deavers, the man he put behind bars for the massacre in Sierra Leone, has escaped and is making a beeline for Jack and the $20 million in diamonds that he's carrying. Jack finds himself feeling things for Caroline that he has never felt before, and when her life is threatened, it will take every ounce of persuasion at this disposal to get Caroline to trust him over the cunning Deavers.
For the second time in a row, I have finished a book and been left waffling over how to rate it, which is very unusual for me. There were things that I liked about Dangerous Lover, but quite frankly, there were also things that I thought could have been greatly improved too. Lisa Marie Rice has a very languid writing style characterized by extended passages of descriptive or introspective prose punctuated by brief snippets of dialog. In my opinion, this gave the story a rather slow and uneven pace, but I wouldn't really characterize it as dull or boring or say that I entirely disliked it. Since this is my first read by Ms. Rice, I can't say if this is her usual writing style or a peculiarity of this book, but my personal preference would have been that there be more dialog especially between the hero and heroine. In spite of being inside their heads almost constantly, I still felt like I was lacking a full and complete understanding of their feelings and motivations. Often I felt like the author was telling me things instead of showing me, and I think that at times it was a bit too wordy and simply didn't get to the point quickly enough for me to grasp it.
To say that Jack was the strong, silent type would probably be an understatement. Although I've already mentioned the general lack of dialog throughout the story, it seemed to me that Jack had the least of anyone. I suppose in some ways this added to the aura of mystery and danger surrounding him, but I still like my heroes to be a tad more talkative. Jack was a tortured hero and a hardened ex-military guy who was an ultra-protective alpha male. What I really liked about him though was that when it came to Caroline, he definitely discovered his softer side and always treated her very gently. However, what impressed me the most was his gentlemanly behavior towards her such as opening doors, pulling out chairs, etc. I may be in the minority, but I love it when a man does these sorts of things for a lady. Jack may have engaged in combat in some of the world's worst hellholes but around Caroline he was never uncouth, right down to watching his language, which I found to be a really neat dichotomy. I also found his frequent kissing of her hand to be a swoon-worthy gesture.
Caroline was an interesting heroine who is extremely kindhearted and trusting of others, but perhaps too much so. She was certainly a tortured heroine and an emotionally strong one to have lived through the deaths of her entire family, but I thought that having all her friends and neighbors basically ignore her because they were uncomfortable with the tragedy was a little overkill. I guess it added to her sense of isolation and vulnerability, but one would think that there would be a few people who would offer up some kind words or support during that difficult time. While I like a heroine who isn't afraid to let the hero take care of her, I also think that ideally she should have a little spunk as well. I thought that her previous on-again, off-again relationship with Sanders, especially when she didn't enjoy the sex and didn't really even seem to like him all that much, made her seem weak and indecisive. I also would have liked to see her defend herself a little better against his unwanted advances. Overall, Caroline was a nice, sweet heroine, but I would have preferred that she exhibit a bit more backbone.
While Dangerous Lover had quite a few romantic moments between Jack and Caroline that I enjoyed, there were also some things about the story that bothered me. I am not usually a fan of the instant "meeting and mating," but I was able to overlook it to some degree in this book since I understood Caroline's loneliness, and she and Jack had a previous connection, even though she wasn't initially aware of it. Nevertheless, I do tend to be a proponent of safe sex especially in contemporary romance, and the lack of it in this book did bug me. Even though Jack was certainly a prepared, plan-ahead kind of guy, I maybe could have lived with neither of them having any condoms available in the middle of a snowstorm, and I probably could have accepted the flimsy reasons for Caroline fortuitously being on birth control. However, when she said, "You look healthy" I couldn't help but roll my eyes and have a WTH moment, since careless assumptions like that in real life would likely end in an STD. Sometimes I can live with the condoms being left behind if there seems to be a decent reason for it, but in this case, I didn't really see any compelling rationale for the author to write it that way. The safe sex argument aside, I also found some of the violence a little off-putting. I'm generally not overly squeamish, but I found the descriptions of the atrocities being committed against the women and children in Sierra Leone to be somewhat disturbing. I think this was probably due to the realism of it and the fact that these things are actually happening on a daily basis rather than just being committed by some fictional, warped, psycho villain. Lastly, there were also quite a number of continuity errors as well as incorrect or incomplete word choices. While these errors weren't totally egregious, they were sometimes distracting and should have been caught by a good editor.
Out of all the reader complaints I've heard about Dangerous Lover so far, the most common one seems to be that many hated the ending. While I'll admit that it was pretty abrupt, I didn't find it to be absolutely terrible. This may have been due to my expectations being lower because of the complaints, so I can definitely see how those who didn't have prior knowledge of a potentially unsatisfying ending might be very disappointed or even upset by the way things wrapped up. It was happy, but certainly left a lot to the reader's imagination. For those who aren't aware, there is something of an epilogue to the story exclusively available online at Just Erotic Romance Reviews (It can be found in their Sept. 2007 interview with Lisa Marie Rice), but it doesn't really add anything to the plot of the main novel. The epilogue also isn't written in a story format, but instead, has more of the feel of a timeline documenting all the major events in Jack and Caroline's lives from the end of Dangerous Lover until they both take their final breath on this mortal plane.
Dangerous Lover was marketed as an erotic romance, but the sexual content of the book did not include anything unusual or kinky. In my opinion, the love scenes were pretty vanilla and comparable to hot, steamy mainstream romances, but sensitive readers should know that they are more frequent and do contain explicit language. In a different vein, Dangerous Lover was not marketed as a Christmas romance, but the entire story takes place in four days over the Christmas holiday which might make it an appealing read for that time of the year. In spite of that, I would not necessarily call it a Christmas-themed romance, since none of the traditional trappings or celebrations of the holiday are present in the narrative. Dangerous Lover is the first book in the Dangerous series, followed by Dangerous Secrets and Dangerous Passion which is due to be released this summer. Lisa Marie Rice does not have a website and information on her books elsewhere is spotty, so I am not certain at this time what the character or plot connections between books might be. Even though there were a number of things about Dangerous Lover that I thought could have been better, I still found it to be a worthwhile read that also had a number of appealing elements too. I liked it well enough and have heard enough good things about Lisa Marie Rice that I will undoubtedly read the next book in the series and also try some of her other books, since I already have a few on my TBR pile. Lisa Marie Rice also writes as Elizabeth Jennings.
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