Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Prey by Linda Howard

Prey (2011)
Linda Howard
Grade: B+
Genre: romantic suspense
Sex scenes: enough to get your blood pumping, but not as hot as a regular Linda Howard reader might expect.
Source: library

Prey was like Up Close and Dangerous, Cover of Night and Ice all rolled up into one. Not that I mind: I think I like Prey better than all of those three, though only barely better than Up Close and Dangerous. It's like Linda Howard got a few times to practice some ideas she had in her head and I have to say, I do love the amalgamated result.

Angie Powell runs a tour guide company that she took over from her father when he became ill, taking clients through the wilderness of Montana which she knows like the back of her hand. Business was strong in the first year, but when Dare Callahan returns from the war and starts up his own rival company, Angie's business is slowly leached away. Dare had asked Angie out twice in the first year of his return, but Angie now avoids him like the plague. Angie has so little business that she has put it up for sale, though the prospects don't look good. In the meantime, she has a client booked who is looking to bag the trophy of all trophies: a bear ...

I really really really love Dare. I wasn't so sure about his name at first (I mean, what kind of parent names their kid Dare? Would they then call his siblings Truth, Kiss and Promise? I can't understand that kind of cruelty) but then his character grew on me, and his name didn't matter any more.

Reason #1 why I love Dare: his voice. His face got all scratched up from flying shrapnel during the war, and for a few weeks he couldn't talk - and more importantly - swear. This drove him, in his own words, "nucking futs." This was hilarious in its own right, but it also sounds like something rude in Chinese, making it doubly funny in my head. As a result, his voice is all deep and scratchy - the type of alpha male voice designed to send shivers up your spine.

Reason #2 why I love Dare: his constant swearing. I don't take that much offence to swearing when it is used as everyday language in an everyday context. For example, I don't swear that much, but when I do, it's usually at myself, like "shit, how the fuck did that happen?" The two guys that I live with swear all the time and are just so used to swearing that it has become part of their everyday vocabulary - it's in these situations that I'm perfectly fine with swearing. I begin to take offence when the context isn't 'everyday' i.e. with the intention that it be directed in anger at another person. Just because I don't mind people swearing doesn't mean that I like it or condone it in all situations. Back to the point: I think Dare's swearing is endearing. Everybody has their own habits and foibles: swearing is Dare's. It's part of his character and (though I struggle to think of a situation where I would use it, let alone remember to use it) "fucking nipples on ice" was a particularly brilliant Howard moment. That he starts to check himself and use other words when Angie remarks on his cussing only makes him all the cuter.

Reason #3 why I love Dare: the fact that he's loved (or at least, lusted after and didn't realise that he loved) Angie for two whole years from the time he met her, and has done nothing about it. He got rejected twice and has since done nothing except stare at her butt every chance he gets. This may seem like a man who has given up, but since he's aware that Angie has a black mark against him, it would have been likely that any more attempts would have been met with similar refusals. Talk about unrequited love or what? So when it comes down to it and they're stuck in a horrendous storm with Angie injured, he's the perfect gentleman when he has to undress her and clean her up because she can't do it herself.

Enough about Dare. Angie. Angie, Angie, Angie. Maybe it's the name: I don't like it that much and I don't love her. Added to that, she didn't nearly do enough to endear herself to me. When she's injured in the mountains, she manages to find the motivation to keep going, one painful step at a time,  but she can'd do the same for the business and work that she loves? Granted, she's had almost three years of troubles, but if Dare can think of ways to boost her business, why can't she? You would expect that a one-woman-band like Angie in such a male-dominated career would be smart, savvy and know how to steer her position as a woman to her advantage. Evidently not.

Nevertheless, I was impressed by the way she pushed herself to get to safety and it definitely made me respect her a lot more. I'm not a very outdoors-y person. I walk back-and-forth to uni everyday (an hour round trip, about 4 miles) and I like going on walks in the country and stuff, but I've never been camping and don't intend to start. Any woman who can survive a week in the wilderness on only a pack of wet wipes gets a whole lot of brownie points from me.

On the whole: it was cute. I might read bits of it again if I had the chance, and it ranked higher than some other Howard novels, but it wasn't my favourite. Dare absolutely features in my top ten Howard heroes, but the book probably wouldn't. A nice read with Howard's trademark humour in all the right places.

A note on sex scenes: not for the faint-hearted. That said, for a Linda Howard novel, I thought it was really quite tame in comparison to some of her other books (Duncan's Bride, Mackenzie series, Dying to Please etc), but it still merited a hot rating on AAR - in my opinion, Howard has been hotter.

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