It was lovely to read a category romance as gentle and subdued as Wallace’s One Night In Provence after Yates’s and Crews’s angsty intensity. One Night‘s first half and premise set-up were wonderful, richly descriptive and chockfull of lovely banter between hero and heroine.
The scene opens in Provence with Jenna Brown, who won a silent-auction luxury trip to lavender-country, something the Nantucket-based hospice nurse could ill afford otherwise. There, she meets lavender-field owner and charming Frenchman, Philippe d’Usay, as close to French aristocracy as it’s possible to be given the French Revolution. The novel’s first half is the better of the two, with Philippe’s charming, tender pursuit of Jenna. It was wonderful to read a romance that was “romantic”: dates with delicious French food, teasing conversation, outings to the countryside and the beauties of southern France the nonpareil. Wallace did the wooing and geographic wonders justice.
One of Miss Bates’s favourite films is Frank Capra’s 1934 It Happened One Night. Barbara Wallace’s gently romantic Christmas Baby For the Princess echoes it. Wallace’s hero, Manhattan night club owner Max Brown, is a film noir buff. References to Miss Bates’s beloved black-and-white films abound, enriching Wallace’s romance narrative. Capra’s film is not noir, but its themes of class, sex, love, and HEA are certainly of the romance variety. Like One Night‘s Ellie, Wallace’s heroine, Princess Arianna Santoro, has run away from her father, King Carlos IV of the mythical kingdom of Corinthia. Arianna was near-affiancéd to Manolo Tutuola, a Corinthian businessman her father had urged her to date with the hope they would marry. Always conscious of duty, and wanting to make her still-grieving father (after her mother’s loss) happy, she did her darndest to work out a relationship with Manolo. But Manolo turned out to be a cheating rat-bastard and now, Arianna is in Manhattan for the time and space to figure out what to do next. She’s pregnant with rat-bastard’s baby and her flea-bitten hotel doesn’t afford her protection, or comfort. Out and about for some air, she finds that “her wallet was missing”. “Out of all the gin-joints in all the world,” she walks into Max Brown’s for help (Miss Bates knows, wrong film, but since we’re making vintage film references … ) where the charming maître d’, Darius, Max’s friend and right-hand man, mistakenly thinks she’s answering their help-wanted ad for a waitress. Continue reading
Miss Bates isn’t keen on closed bedroom-door romances, kisses-only yes, but not closed door. Why you say? The genre’s beauty lies in the reader’s access to every aspect of a couple’s relationship. The closed-bedroom door turns one important relationship-facet away from the reader; whereas, kisses-only doesn’t. But there are category writers who like their bedroom doors closed and Miss Bates concedes to them because they deliver in other ways. Jessica Hart is one; Liz Fielding, another; maybe Jackie Braun; some early Soraya Lane; and Barbara Wallace, after she proved wondrous in one of Miss Bates’ favourite category romances, The Heart Of A Hero. As a result, she was most eager to read Wallace’s latest, A Millionaire For Cinderella. Set on Boston’s moneyed Beacon Hill, it’s the story of housekeeper Patience Rush and wealthy attorney Stuart Duchenko. Patience takes care of Stuart’s beloved Great-Aunt Ana and they both cater to cat Nigel. Stuart’s arrival to find Patience ensconced at the Beacon Hill brownstone and even “writing checks,” brings out the lawyering suspicion in him, despite the attraction he feels for her Venus-bod. As the vulnerable and pretty Patience notes when she first sees him in the ER where she awaits news after Ana’s fall, Stuart Duchenko is “predatory,” with a “killer instinct.” His suspicions prove correct when revelations about Patience’s past put her in an entirely different light from fresh-faced and competent care-giver, painful, hurtful revelations that should urge Stuart to stay far, far away – instead he grows to like and admire Patience. Continue reading