From Eloisa James's "READING ROMANCE" column on Barnes & Noble Review
Courtship may seem to have no resemblance to preschool, but in fact, in both cases fairly ungovernable forces are corralled by rules that dictate everything from the first canoodle to safe sex (or, if you're a four-year-old, crayons and tantrums). "Don't Sleep With Your Boss" is probably the most important, though if you happen to be a Regency miss, you should adhere to a bigger decree: "Don't Sleep with Anyone." In short, historicals forbid unmarried sex, and contemporaries forbid sex that overlaps with work. While the contrast offers fascinating fodder for cocktail party conversation, the result is a raft of terrific romances in which the couples in question break the most important rules. They sleep with the wrong people, at the wrong time, and without (to put it formally) the benefit of matrimony.
Kate Noble's The Summer of You made me feel as if I were reliving a dazzling summer romance, the kind with delicious secrets, lake swims at night, and enraged brothers. I hate to admit it, but I never had such a romance. It takes a remarkable gift to evoke a summer so clearly that the reader feels as if she were Lady Jane Cummings, who found herself in the country and went slightly mad, dallying in secret with a lame, brooding war hero, Byrne Worth. Not only does she risk her reputation, but the whole town is convinced Bryne is a highwayman; pretty soon Lady Jane is not only sleeping around (so to speak), but she's sleeping with the enemy. This is a jewel of a book, which will keep you entranced past your bedtime, hoping against hope that Bryne is wrong to dismiss their relationship as "just a summer idyll."
In Slow Heat, Jill Shalvis sets up a similar type of secret "idyll," a passionate interlude that both participants wish to keep to themselves. And just as in The Summer of You, it's the heroine who has the most to lose: her reputation, most likely her job, and certainly her heart. Samantha McNead is the publicist for a major league baseball team, assigned to baseball's top catcher, Wade O'Riley. The fact that she's posing as Wade's girlfriend in order to bring him some positive PR doesn't mean that Samantha loses sight of the kind of man she's dealing with. Wade is the type everyone warns nice girls to avoid: a hard-partying womanizer (who's being sued in a paternity suit, to boot). Plus, he's her client. Yet even though cameras dog their every step, Samantha and Wade manage to turn a fake relationship into the real thing, and a PR gimmick into true love.
When my son started kindergarten, he used to hop most of the time. His new teacher called me up and said that he had to walk properly while in class. I've never forgotten the way his face fell when I told him. "You're trying to take the hop out of me!" he protested. Society has a way of doing that. These books celebrate women who look at social rules and realize that sometimes hopping is much better than walking -- it's closer to flying, and closer to joy. These are novels that celebrate breaking the most forbidding rules and remembering that in the end, the heart makes its own laws.