Maya Banks is one of those authors I discovered in the last year or so, and have been hooked ever since. Her stories, no matter how long or short, tend to be sexy stories full of emotion, heartbreak and happy ever afters, and, really...isn't that what every good romance should contain? I don't know how she does it, either. She has an astonishing list of books she has released, and I see no sign of her slowing her pace, and thank the gods.
One thing you need to learn about Ms. Banks. She doesn't believe in gently leading the reader into the storyline. She likes to start as if you just walked in to the scene, and it's a style that I particularly enjoy, especially with the shorter stories. In short stories or a shorter category form I sometimes feel authors take too long to give you the setup. Ms. Banks expects you to pay attention and catch up. I like it. By the same token, I have always enjoyed the Harlequin Desire books, as they are usually quick, but satisfying reads, and I am pleased to say these lived up to my expectations.
The first book, Enticed By His Forgotten Lover starts out at a cocktail party where we quickly learn Rafe has been in accident and has lost any memory of the last month of his life. Across the room he sees a woman who intrigues him and who seems vaguely familiar. He crosses the room and asks her if they've met. She slugs him and leaves him standing there. By the time he catches up, all that's left are her two sparkling shoes on the stairs. We're only on page 11. See what I mean? Rafe and Bryony (how DO you say that name?) are a great couple. She's pregnant and claims it's his. He has no memory of her. Together they try to relive their time to help him get his memory back. They fall in love and he learns it's okay to relax once in a while, and Kelly has no problems putting Rafe in his place when she feels he needs it. Trouble comes fast when he remembers...well, I'll let you learn what that is yourself. Just know that it'll break your heart.
The next book, Wanted By Her Lost Love is Ryan and Kelly's book. She's pregnant (of course) and he's not sure if it's his or not, but when he finds her, she's at risk of losing the baby and is undernourished and at her financial end. While this story made me cry on more than one occasion, I had a hard time believing that a woman with a pregnancy as precarious as hers was would be allowed to fly as often as she does during this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the final resolution in this book. Often an author will soften a consequence of actions or forgive a character who has been so cruel and unkind, but I liked that Ms. Banks, and her characters, didn't back down. There WERE consequences, serious ones, and there was very little angst or emotional conflict at doing what needed to be done.
The third book, Tempted By Her Innocent Kiss, is my favorite. Ms. Banks has been referring to Devon and Ashley as Grumpy and Sparkly for months now, and she's absolutely right. She does sparkle and he IS grumpy. Once again, Ms. Banks tosses us into the middle of the relationship and expects us to catch up. From the last two books we know that Ashley's father wants Devon to marry her before they close a business deal. At the start of the book, he proposes, she agrees, they have a wonderful wedding and now it's their wedding night, and Ashley discovers the truth about her marriage. Because of Grumpy, Sparkly no longer shines. Luckily, Grumpy is not Dopey, and figures out what he's done, but it takes him a while to figure out how to fix it. And he grovels. A LOT. Oh, boy, does he grovel. And because Sparkly is also not Dopey. She lets him. Eventually they get it together, and Sparkly gets her Sparkly Happy Ever After with her Grumpy. I wouldn't expect anything less from Sparkly.
The last book, Undone By Her Tender Touch, is Cam and Pippa. Cam comes across as a cold, unfeeling player. Someone who sleeps with women and discards them before any one of them has a chance to get close. Pippa's okay with that, at first, but once the pregnancy test comes back positive, everything changes for her. Her priorities have shifted and she needs someone in her life who will be there, no matter what, and she's not sure if Cam's that man. Cam, for his part, has his reasons for his behavior, and while they're valid reasons, it's time for him to move on and come back to the land of the living. Luckily, Pippa's just what he needs.
I'm a big believer in the theory you can never have too much grovel, and these books prove me right. Ms. Banks has no problem making her heroes grovel properly, and she allows her heroines to let the men suffer. She doesn't let the hero get away with "Oh, oops. Sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean it and it will never happen again." Her heroines don't blindly accept those apologies. The women make the men WORK to gain back the trust they lost, as they should! The heroes in these books all do things at some point that really hurt the women they claim to care for, but thankfully, they all realize it nearly immediately and know their women are worth everything they have to do to win them back. Even if it means some serious groveling.
With books as brief as the Harlequin Desires, and when you have a series of four books set around four male friends, it's easy to get overloaded with characters. Again, this is something Ms. Banks excels at. She gives us enough of a glimpse at the men to appreciate their relationship with each other and for it to feel real, but we never get bogged down with all. these. people. With Ms. Banks, it's almost like she's a minimalist writer. Rather than paint the scene clearly, she gives us an evocative sketch. She gives exactly enough information for us to connect with everyone, but not so much that the story suffers or drags. These books are fast-paced, well-written and incredibly enjoyable. I read all four in two days and loved all of them. Definitely worth the read.
But Grumpy and Sparkly are still my favorites.
Lynda the Guppy
aka Fish With Sticks