Convincing Alex (1994)
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: regular NR
Stanislaski series: (1) Taming Natasha, (3) Falling for Rachel,
Book four, and I'm still loving this series. Yes, I have given this a marginal grade up from the rest, but that's because I think Bess is my favourite heroine, not because this is necessarily my favourite book of the series. I still need to read books five and six before I can make a proper, informed choice, but if they're as good as the first four books, I'm going to have to read them all again before I can even think of choosing.
Bess McNee is very serious about her work. If this means caking on make-up an inch think and squeezing into hot-pink spandex to work the streets in the name of research, then by God she'll do it. When Detective Alexi Stanislaski (equally serious about his work - no guesses here about what he does) mistakenly arrests Bess for soliciting him, Bess can't help but think that her night has only got better. Not only has she got her time masquerading as a prostitute to help her with her newest storyline on the show 'Sacred Sins' for which she is one of the writers, but if she ever needs to write an arrest/jail scene, then her research is all done!
I love Bess. She does as she likes and really encapsulates the term 'carpe diem.' She has a big heart and falls in love easily, shown by the number of fiancees she's racked up (four, depending on how you see it, but who's counting?) and is willing to help Rosalie, the prostitute she met on her first night, escape from the lifestyle that she hates. Bess wears bad colours that should clash and can't help but surreptitiously interrogate everyone new she meets 1) because she's inherently friendly and 2) for research purposes in case she gleans something she might need for a future storyline. Needless to say, Alex is crazy about her - when he's not spitting mad that she's taking her 'research' too far.
It was really sweet to see Alex fall for Bess, and fall hard. In the previous three books, while we've never met any of Alex's girlfriends, we've heard about him and his capacity for managing several girls at a time without getting himself into hot water - not that he wouldn't be able to talk himself out of it if need be. All the same, there was one scene at the end when Alex was just a complete idiot. There are no other words to describe his behaviour - who the hell calls the woman he loves (a woman, by the way, who he's told this very fact to on many separate occasions) a whore? Alex, that's who. I acknowledge that it was in the heat of the moment and he didn't really mean it, but he said it and the fact that he said it in the first place meant that this was something that he'd been thinking about, because Alex isn't someone who will hurl the first insult that comes to mind. Despite all the pain he causes Bess (and this is another reason I love NR - I swear I'll have enough to write a book) I continue to root for him, however much I despise the entire male species when I read what he's said.
I need to add a mention about this book's family 'reunion' because (i) I have done this in all the other reviews on the Stanislaski series and (ii) it was the absolute best. When we meet Rachel again and find that she is heavily pregnant, I really hoped for a childbirth scene or at least a chance to meet the baby. I didn't think that I would get it. All the snow must have got to my head (YES, this IS how long ago I read the book. It has taken me THIS long to post the review. I'm a failure; it's FINE) because I can't believe my utter lack of faith in NR: OF COURSE we were going to get to see the baby. This is NORA ROBERTS, for christsakes.
Rachel goes into labour at the dinner table and it's just pure, brilliant, undiluted NR. The men are falling over themselves hysterically like the baby is going to pop out ANY SECOND, "We don't have the tape recorder or the music ... The video camera. We've got to get the video camera," while the women are innately calm and take control of the situation. [I know this is completely sexist of me, but it's scenes like this that make a NR novel for me, so I'm not sorry for it.] Better yet, we get another Freddie-Nick snippet that had my heart thumping and my mind racing trying to imagine what Waiting for Nick will be like. Man, is he going to get whammied in their book. It reminds me a little of Roxy and Luke as kids in Honest Illusions - my favourite NR book EVER.
Bess is awesome and seriously the best friend you wish you had. I should really stop about Bess now, but I'm just typing what I've written. One last thing: she's rich. I really love it when NR heroines are rich (see Whitney Macallister, Hot Ice; Laura Templeton, Finding the Dream; Sydney Haywood, Luring a Lady; Tess McCourt, Sacred Sins, Parker Brown, Happy Ever After; Grace Fontaine, Secret Star etc) as opposed to the men (see Roarke. Need I say more? Oh, okay then, since you asked so nicely: Rogan Sweeney, Born in Fire; Gage, Night Shadow; Jedidiah Skimmerhorn, Hidden Riches; Tucker Longstreet, Carnal Innocence; Duncan Swift, High Noon etc). This is not to say that rich guys aren't a huge plus, but it's always nice to see heroines who don't have to rely on men for their money, whether they've inherited their wealth or earnt it.
A few related things to note. I've never noticed it in any other NR novel before - but this might just be because I hadn't yet read enough, or was just really dense - but I love how NR incorporated characters and other stuff from her other books. 'Sacred Sins', the show Bess writes for is the first novel in NR's 'D.C. Detectives' seres featuring the aforementioned Tess McCourt, a psychiatrist who gets involved with Ben Paris on a case he's working on. Fantastic book. Bess mentions Ariel Kirkwood, the protagonist in 'Sacred Sins'' rival TV show - Ariel is the heroine of her own novel Dual Image. And not directly related, but Judd, Alex's rookie partner reminds me a lot of Peabody when she first started working with Eve. Alex and Judd have more of an equal relationship similar to what Eve and Peabody have got going on in the books where they've got to now with Treachery in Death, but I was still reminded of Peabody in the first few In Death books. I'm pretty sure there's something that I've missed out or didn't quite catch, but I did love finding these easter eggs.
Image courtesy of bookdepository.co.uk