This week the wonderful Kate Hardy joins us to continue our Pink Heart Society series on Favourite Category Romances ......
Forcing me to choose just one is hideously mean. How can I choose just ONE category romance? I have different favourites for different moods.
But when I think about it – yes, there is one.
One I really, really wish I’d written: Liz Fielding’s ‘Gentlemen Prefer…Brunettes.’ From back in the days when the Romance line was still called Enchanted – and frankly that’s exactly what this book is. Enchanting. The kind of book that you read on a grey day and it makes you think the sun is shining. The kind of book you need when you’ve had a day where everything’s going wrong and you want the book equivalent of a hug – warm and sparkling and cheering you up. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that this book is the equivalent of chocolate. Even better, it’s calorie-free.
What’s so special about it?
Firstly, the hero, Nick Jefferson. When we first meet him, we see him through the heroine’s eyes: ‘The man was sex on a pair of very long legs, with a smile that fanned around a pair of dark eyes that she could tell, even from this distance, would make any woman feel beautiful, desired.’ [If I wasn’t married… Nick would be all mine.] And the more you see of him, the better he gets.
Secondly the heroine, Cassandra Cornwell. (‘…she was at least six inches short of his gold standard…her figure leaned towards cuddly rather than super-model slender’, in the hero’s eyes.) That woke me up to the idea that not all heroines had to be willowy and long-haired and blonde, with legs that went on for ever. Cassie isn’t any of these and she’s LOVELY. And she’s funny and she’s warm and she’s clever and she’s a fantastic cook and she’s brave and she eats chocolates to cheer herself up and she doesn’t suffer from staircase wit. (I want to be her when I grow up.)
Thirdly, the dialogue. This is vintage Liz Fielding. Snappy one-liners that really are funny instead of feeling forced or snarky. Let me give you an example: right at the beginning of the book, Nick kisses Cassie and tells her that her mouth tastes of strawberries. She tries to put him down (‘What variety of strawberries?’) and his response is so damn sexy it had me weak at the knees. (You’ll have to go and get your own copy if you want to know what he says.)
Fourthly, the food in the book. I have a habit of sneaking in recipes into all of my books and the food alone made me drool. (Sussex Pond Pudding. Chicken with sour cream and rosemary. Flummery.) (We don’t talk about calories. I’m not a member of the PHS diet club for a Very Good Reason!)
Fifthly, the plot. The man who can’t cook and wants to impress a cool, sophisticated blonde – so he buys a book from a warm, approachable, brilliant TV chef. Asks her advice when they bump into each other in the supermarket. Puts her stuff away in the wrong place (causing her major problems she won’t admit to). Rescues her. (They end up in a little bit of hot water with the police…) Does a deal with her: if she cooks the meal and pretends he’s done it, he’ll help her take her nieces and nephews camping. (Did I mention he’s very sporty? Unlike our Cassie.) And so she cooks him this fab meal (while being as jealous as hell). Except… No, I’m not going to spoil this for you. But it’s the most superb comedy. And just when you’re laughing the most, Liz slips in some little sucker-punches and a black moment that had me biting my nails and desperate for things to turn out OK.
As I said.
Romantic – and bittersweet – comedy at its finest. It’d be fantastic as a film. (I think Richard Armitage as the hero. With streaked hair. Or maybe Simon Shepherd. from the earlier series of Peak Practice.)
It’s ten years old, next year, and I think it should have a birthday party. Because it’s still as fresh as it was the first time I read it (I’m not going to admit how many times I’ve re-read it) and it still has the magic that made me love it so much in the first place. When I thought I’d fallen out of love with romance, earlier this year, this was the book I picked up – and it made me fall back in love with romance. Made my world a brighter place.
Thank you, Liz Fielding, for writing the perfect book. And may you write many more of them.
Kate Hardy writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon Medicals and Modern Extra. 'Breakfast at Giovanni’s' – a July 2007 release – is her 25th title and, to celebrate, she’s throwing a blog party with guests and giveaways. Click here to come and play.
Kate's twentieth 'medical', 'The Consultant's New-Found Family' is out in NA right now! Click here for an excerpt.