Today I Read…The Kingstons

The Other WomanToday I read the Kingstons Hollywood Dynasty trilogy, The Other Woman, Just Another Pretty Face, and The Right Direction by Candace Schuler. (Harlequin Temptation # 451, 459, & 467)

Cinematographer Gage Kingston was burned by his divorce from a beautiful, manipulative actress who lied and cheated on him. So when he meets Tara Channing, Hollywood’s most notorious other woman, he is angry at his irresistible attraction to what he thinks is a woman just like his ex-wife.

Tara has a secret–while she may look beautiful and seductive, she only plays the other woman on tv. She hasn’t been seriously interested in a man since her high school boyfriend left her alone and pregnant after he got what he wanted from her. Since her baby died soon after she was born, Tara has remained alone, convinced that she is incapable of passion. Until she meets Gage.

With their attraction interfering with the movie they are making together, clearly the only logical thing to do is to have an affair–a no-strings-attached relief of sexual tension, a physical relationship only with no hearts involved. Until that isn’t enough for either of them.

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Just Another Pretty FaceHollywood heart throb and leading man Pierce Kingston is getting a little annoyed about how much his family is overreacting to a few nutty fan letters. So she said she would “do anything” to keep him from betraying her again. That certainly doesn’t mean she’s planning on killing him! His protests continue until he sees the bodyguard his family hired for him–sexy, long-legged, ex-Marine Nikki Martinelli.

Nikki has always been one of the guys from a house full of big brothers. She knows what guys really want is a tiny, pretty blonde girly-girl, the cheerleader, the homecoming queen, like the neighbour that her ex-fiance cheated on her with. Then she meets the devastatingly beautiful Pierce, who makes it clear just how desirable he finds her athletic body and her take-no-prisoners attitude.

Nikki and Pierce battle fire, unstable fans, insecurity, and snooty salesgirls on Rodeo Drive to find out that there’s a lot more to Pierce than just a pretty face.

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The Right DirectionNo matter how many successful movies Claire Kingston has produced, she is still seen as the pampered princess of the Kingston family, having gained her job through her family’s indulgence instead of her own talent and hard work. That’s why she is so determined that none of her famous family will be involved with her new movie, Desperado. The only problem is her gorgeous new director, Rafe Santana.

Rafe assumes that Claire really is the Ice Princess that tabloids report her to be, and that she will look down on his poor Mexican background, so different from her Hollywood royalty status–instead he finds a passionate, kind, intelligent, determined woman who drives him crazy both personally and professionally, in the best way possible.

But their burgeoning relationship is complicated by Dax Wyatt, the star of Desperado and the man who raped Claire when she was barely eighteen. And Dax still isn’t interested in hearing “no” for an answer.

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The problem with books set during a particular moment of popular culture is how quickly they become out of date. All three books were published in 1993- while I’m old enough to remember the celebrities of the day, several of the movie stars mentioned have passed away in the 20 years since.

All of the books follow a specific variation of the romance novel formula, common for the 1990s. Traditionally, the extremely macho, dominant man must win over the shy, young, sexually inexperienced girl, who will then marry him and quit any job she has to raise children. In this variation, while the man is still handsome and macho, he is sensitive to the woman’s needs, but also reluctant to allow himself to be vulnerable to her by being in love. The woman, now with a thriving modern career, has had some sort of relationship or sexual experience in the past but it was not fulfilling and she suffered for it in some way. She needs a Real Man ™ to awaken the Real Woman ™ in her.

The Kingstons are a good example of their kind and time period. The romance novel formula has changed slightly over time- while boy and girl must always end up together, and must be perfectly, ludicrously beautiful, the personalities and backgrounds are now a little more in line with modern views. For example, in more current romance novels, it is permissible for the woman to have had satisfying past sexual relationships, even if they weren’t her True Love. Careers and children from past relationships are more common. But the romance novel convention of using absurd euphemisms for body parts and sex acts will never stop being hilarious.

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