Fast on the heels of the wallpaper Bollywood star comes the wallpaper amputee physiotherapist.
Book #4 of the Bad Blood Harlequin series is titled "The Fearless Maverick" and is the story of ubermasculine
(seriously, that's how the heroine thinks of him on first meeting) multi-millionaire playboy and race car driver, Alex Wolfe.
What he races is anyone's guess (Formula, NASCAR, smash up derby, go-karts???) but there's tons of money involved. Alex crashes his car, has a spectacular wreck and partially separates his shoulder. Apparently he is distracted from his race by thoughts of his sister and really shitty childhood (see books 1, 2 and 3 in this series of 8). His doctors say 6 weeks off, but this will mean he'll miss too many races! He needs some physio, stat.
Enter the heroine, Libby Henderson, a former champion surfer who now makes her living as physiotherapist to the superathletes of the world. Or Australia, which is where the book takes place. Now, I did a bit of trolling the internet about race car driving for this review and although there was tons of mentions of races in Europe and the US, there was barely a mention of Australia. Inconvenient for the race car aspect of the plot but necessary for Libby, the quintessential Aussie surfer girl.
Barbie Libby has a secret. She was swimming near the Great Barrier Reef with a girlfriend when she was attacked by a shark, losing a leg from the knee down (I think? The book wasn't really specific. Don't ask me which leg, neither. I don't even think the author knows for sure.). Her fiance Ken, a fellow champion surfer, dumped her afterward and she has given up on love.
So, what follows is what I like to call a toothless version of Days of Thunder, only no bad guy, no Robert Duvall and no race at the end. Alex needs to race, she has to sign off, he spends the first half of the book trying to get into her pants and convince her to give him the ok to drive. He hears about her accident, she tells him she hasn't been in the water since and now we have the setup for some big sappy emotional moments.
Excuse me for a sec while I get up on my soapbox.
Granted, I read this quickly. And yes, it's a Harlequin, much maligned by other romance readers, myself included. And, finally, it is a short book so there are definite limits to what the authors have to work with.
But, for crissakes, do we really have to have characters with disabilities/attributes/ethnicities being used as a freaking PLOT DEVICE? Man, this really has me hopping.
It's like what I said about the last book, The Restless Billionaire, starring Mumbai Barbie:
the heroine was so wallpapery that if I was from Mumbai myself I might be offended. I mean, really, if you want to have the heroine be from another culture you can't just take Barbie and colour her skin, give her henna tattoos and call it a day. India has a completely different culture folks, they aren't just exotic looking Brits.
This book has a heroine who happens to be an amputee. An excellent idea, I thought at first. She would have empathy for her clients, understand elite athletes and exactly what is at stake when they are injured and help them deal with a career-ending injury. I thought it would bring a whole different angle to the romance - both from the perspective of the physical beauty of athletes and how they view themselves and as a woman. It blows "OMG he'll see my cellulite" right out of the water, and I was interested to see how the author would deal with it.
Well, she doesn't. No mention of it. Once introduced as a gimmick to to give the heroine a secret and an injury to give her something in common with the Hero, it might as well have been a birthmark. No mention of how she deals with it, nothing about her prosthesis other than the fact that she has one. Apparently she works, swims, sleeps and has sex with it on, too, because there is absolutely no mention of what happens to it when she does all of those things WHAT. SO. EVER.
Of course this begs the question, "But to an amputee it's just how life is, and part of us, and no big deal." Granted. But, the same as a Hero with sleep apnea who sleeps with a Darth Vader breathing mask, if you introduce it, you have to deal with it. To use apnea as an example, you can't tell us he has it and uses a CPAP mask, but then never talk about how it impacts the H/h.
In the case of this book, how does she run to the door in her nightie in the middle of the night? Does she put the prosthesis back on? Crutches? What? She doesn't sleep in it, does she? Shouldn't she take it off before Hero carries her into the surf? Aren't those things really expensive? Wouldn't it get wrecked? What about making love? What if you clunk him in the back with it when your knees are around your ears? Isn't it just easier to unstrap it when you take your pants off? Doesn't it get sore when you're on your feet all day? There's a lot of upkeep involved with an amputation, I've read.
Oh, God, I'm ranting. (climbs down from said soapbox)
Come to think of it, this whole thing was wallpaper imo. Wallpaper race car driver, wallpaper amputee, generic plot, forgettable characters. A few tidbits about the rest of the siblings to maintain the continuity of the series, but otherwise completely skippable for anyone reading it.
I'm putting this series away for a bit. The first two books were so well done they were a surprise to me. Sadly, the next two were standard Harlequin fare, distinguishable from the stacks of Harleys I read when visiting my favourite Grandma 20 years ago only by their offensively wallpaper heroines.
2 stars. Mostly because it managed to annoy me so badly.