Taming Natasha (1990)
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: pretty standard Nora Roberts, really. That is, for those not well versed in Roberts' books: mild and dreamy.
First thing to note: I'm a HUGE romance reader. The majority of books that I review here will be romance. So if you're a romance snob who can't get beyond Fabio covers and the identify with society's general contempt of romance as a genre, then this isn't the place for you.
On the other hand, if you don't care that you're seen in public reading what is clearly a romance novel, then I'll carry on.
Second thing: I LOVE Nora Roberts. I adore her. She's just a brilliant writer, whether you're looking for well-fleshed out characters, snappy and funny dialogue or just a good story. Nora Roberts can do it all. I've read, if my counting is right, 135 Nora Roberts books according to my Shelfari shelf. I want to read them all. Not only that, but I want to review them all. Here.
I guess I'd better get started.
I decided, last night (2 Feb 2012, I'm just typing out exactly what I've written in my notebook) when finishing Taming Natasha that I would leave the review until today (3 Feb 2012) because
(1) It was midnight and I could really do with some sleep and;
(2) I wanted some time to reflect, unlike Carnal Innocence (review coming later) where I couldn't wait to pour our my thoughts.
So here, shivering under six layers in this bitterly cold spell of 2012 which serves us right for revelling in the pre-Christmas mild temperatures with one hand curled around a steaming mug of green tea with pineapple and grapefruit (it tastes great - honestly) I'm going to write this review.
In my humble opinion, Nora Roberts' (from hereon forever, NR) first books in her many, many series are generally the best (see: Sea Swept, Born in Fire, Sacred Sins, Hidden Star, Daring to Dream, Playing the Odds etc). While there are some exceptions, I can generally state this as a rule. Taming Natasha is not an exception. I admit: I read Luring a Lady, book two, first. I normally hate doing this, especially since I own the first four books in this series. There really wasn't any excuse for me to read the second book first - except laziness. When I decided I wanted to start the series, I just couldn't remember what came first; I only knew it wasn't Falling for Rachel or Convincing Alex, so I guessed Mikhail over Natasha, not realising till half-way through when we met Natasha and Spence that this wasn't the first book, and by then, I wasn't going to stop. This being said, Luring a Lady was a very good book too - though I think Taming Natasha edges it out just a fraction.
[Sidenote: there's a reason this blog includes in its title 'ramblings.' I ramble. A lot. Get used to it]
Natasha is the eldest of the Stanislaski children and owns and runs her own toy store called 'The Fun House' in West Virginia. She's sworn off all men and the reader gets the impression that she has a lot of secrets. When Spence enters her shop one morning with his daughter and wife, looks at her with wild monkey sex in his eyes and asks her to dinner, Natasha barely refrains from slapping him.
Spence's 'wife,' it turns out, is his sister, Nina. His real wife and mother to his daughter Frederica (Freddie for short) is dead. He never really loved her in his young, spoilt and naive way, and she was a crap mother anyway. Spence also happens to be the world renowned composer taking the class that Natasha has signed up for and Natasha is ready to bolt. Spence is persistent and Natasha adores Freddie too much to ignore him.
I have to say, Freddie is probably my favourite character. Another thing that NR does brilliantly, when she chooses to, is children - see The Heart of Devin MacKade, The Next Always, Rising Tides, In the Garden series etc. - whether they are babies, toddlers or between that age of five and ten with no real moniker but 'child.' Freddie can play her father like the concert pianist he is, though she's not spoilt, bratty or selfish. Spence, making up for her first eighteen months where he practically ignored his daughter, puts Freddie first and this only makes me love him more. Perhaps one of my favourite lines in the whole book is when Freddie asks her father completely innocently just as she falls asleep, "How long does it take to get a baby sister?"
I did like this book. I failed at the piano - well, for a Chinese person, anyway - so I liked that Spence was a pianist, though there wasn't such a focus on his music as, say, Unfinished Business or Carnal Innocence. I liked that both Natasha and Spencer had pretty substantial baggage and the unravelling of all this was believable and only strengthened their relationship more. Meeting the Stanislaski family for the first time only supplemented and enriched what I had already seen in Luring a Lady, which was an incredibly close-knit and devoted family - another thing that NR does wonderfully. Is there anything that she doesn't?
It was pretty clear that Tash was pregnant - I mean: dizzy, tired, always hungry? Could there be anything more obvious? But, as ever, when NR does the obvious, it never feels trope-y. (Is that a word? Well, it is now.) This was a solid book. Cute, nothing ground-breaking and not a favourite, but solid and very enjoyable.
Cover courtesy of fantasticfiction.co.uk. I chose this cover because it's the typical romance cover, though I would have used the 2011 Kindle version if I could have found it. It's much prettier.