Bookmonger: Romance encounters run into some bumps in the road

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 13, 2014 

I love that there are authors in this day and age who not only are making their way, but also making a fine living with their writing.

Jayne Ann Krentz is one of those - a Seattle-based romance novelist of more than 50 books that have become New York Times bestsellers. Under the pen name Amanda Quick, she writes historical romances; with the pseudonym Jayne Castle she writes futuristic romance; and under her real name she writes contemporary romance. The lady puts the "pro" in prolific.

Her latest book is "River Road," a contemporary romance/murder mystery set in California wine country.

Lucy Sheridan is returning to the area 13 years after being embarrassed when Mason Fletcher whisked her away from an underage drinking party. The event was being run by a rich college kid with dangerous intentions. But after that night he vanished for good and Lucy, who had been visiting her Aunt Sara, was never allowed to return.

But now Lucy has come back to close up her aunt's estate after Aunt Sara and her partner were killed in a car accident. Sure enough, Lucy runs into Mason Fletcher again. He is taking a hiatus from the private security consulting business he runs in Washington, D.C. to lend a hand at his uncle's hardware store.

When Lucy mentions that she needs some restoration work done at her aunt's house before she tries to sell it, Mason offers to take a look at the project. Things are are just beginning to spark between the two when discover a terrible secret sealed behind the fireplace tiles.

Not too auspicious for a first date, but it seems to signify a trend - whenever Lucy and Mason get together, more calamities befall them. Even so, "...she was aware that he wanted her. That afternoon, while he was inside the lodge, she had silenced the notification chirps on her phone. It was her way of making a commitment...." Without the distractions of a constant feed of bad news, they find time to tear off their clothes and pitch woo.

The outside world can't be shut out for long, however. Lucy soon discovers that as the next of kin, she will be inheriting not only her aunt's house, but also a significant number of shares in a family-owned wine empire. As the wine ages, a family feud brews.

Krentz has certainly compiled the requisite ingredients for a book of this genre: Money, greed, sexual tension, danger and great abs.

Unfortunately, "River Road" also has a raft of problems.

While some of the characters display interesting quirks, more have the dimensionality and emotional detachment of paper dolls.

Rather than develop the plot line, Krentz doles it out in big splats. Motivations shrivel from lack of authorial attention and the narrative is anemic - within mere pages, you can catch the author reusing tired phrases.

Quantity of books written does not always add up to quality. Krentz's huge fan base should let her know they expect better.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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