Ann Christopher – "Risk"

26 Feb

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Dafina Books, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: I don’t know when I first read about this novel but it’s the older woman-young man angle that made get it.

The back blurb:
“Fine and fearless, Justus Robinson doesn’t hesitate to hit on gorgeous law student Angela Dennis at his brother’s wedding even though she’s the bride’s sister. That night the two share an unforgettably sexy dance, but nothing more – until ten years later when a tragedy reunites them…
Angela has barely healed from a breakup when her sister and brother-in-law are killed in an accident. Sharing their grief, Justus and Angela discover they are still attracted to one another. But when they find themselves competing to adopt their orphaned young niece, their rekindled passion is sorely tested. Justus is determined to raise the child even if it means alienating the woman he’s never stopped wanting. Reeling from loss and tormented by her desire for Justus, Angela makes a drastic move – one that will change the lives of everyone involved…”

Risk was off to a great start. I was captivated by the prologue and looked forward to what would come. Christopher made me believe that Justus was attractive for Angela despite being seven years younger than her and just 17 at the time of the prologue. I thought there was great chemistry between them and the whole prologue and Christopher’s way to write just worked. But sadly, the next pages didn’t follow up on that and it was not until halfway through the book that the story recovered some of it.

I think it started with the way the hero and heroine met for the first time after ten years without any contact. Justus’s brother and Angela’s sister are married and they meet by chance when Angela gets dropped by her boyfriend in public. Now, they live in the same town and of course they meet just when Angela gets dumped by her boyfriend in public when before they never met accidentally? And, Justus and Angela didn’t meet on at least one birthday or on Christmas or whatever even though they’re “family” now? When later in the story a great deal is made of how attracted Justus was to Angela the whole ten years? I shall believe that he never tried to meet her at birthday parties or such? I would expect a hot-blooded young male in that situation to show up at all and everything even on just the remote chance of the other person being there. There were too many things nagging at me about this chance meeting to suspend my disbelief.

Add to that Christopher’s use of dialogue tags. I try not to view this as “bad” from the go if a writer does this (and Christopher isn’t alone in that), but I sure notice it. It’s just that this story features many dialogue tags which conjure rather unpleasant images in my head and it does this often, that it spilled over on my view of the characters. Nearly all the time the characters have to say something they cry, snarl, shriek. And especially the male characters like to roar. A heroine who nearly constantly cries or snarls the things she says comes off as short-tempered and bitchy and if her character isn’t meant that way, which probably is the case for a heroine, it’s a problem for the story. It even went so far that I started to notice other words like characters creeping into a room or flapping their arms a lot. More “says” instead of “cries” and “snarls” and “roars” and I wouldn’t be pulled out of the story every other page and would had less time to think about the things not working for me.

Such as that I was a bit uncomfortable about the way the death of Angela’s sister and her brother-in-law was handled and used in the story. It’s the means to get Angela and Justus together after ten years – apart from their accidental meeting itself – and after the first few chapters and a lot of crying (tears, not words), the loss and grief are nearly non-existent. I got the same impression about the role Angela’s and Justus’s niece played in the story. Conveniently she likes to watch TV a lot (and with her 3 and a half years, she is a clever little thing who plays chess and is able to read (words) and says all kind of sentences I associate with a much older age).

Or how I only went a little “of course!” about the complete turn-around of Justus’s father at the end of the story who goes from “Justus is a complete failure and I wash my hands of him” to recognizing how alike they are, ending the story on a lovey-dovey, all thanks to the heroine, note there. The thing is, it’s not that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for this. I actually thought this development made kind of sense. It’s that I was too distanced from the story to make me really care and so it veered too much to the “happy-happy regardless of what went on before” style romance novels so often use at the end even though I knew it wasn’t really justified here.

I liked that Christopher created with Angela a heroine who isn’t perfect from the get go. As her sister said:

“When are you going to stop being so selfish? When are you going to wake up and realize it’s not all about you and your career and your romance? What will it take for you to stop being so self-centered?” (p. 45)

Also, Angela isn’t a heroine who magically knows how to relate to and connect with a child just because now there’s one in her life. She possesses no maternal instinct that automatically is switched on. Angela is a woman who focused on her career her whole life and takes her niece Maya mostly because she feels it’s the thing she has to do. It takes her some time to realize that the time she spends at work clashes horribly with her taking care of a child and behaviour that works for professional relations doesn’t necessarily work for personal relations. Angela has things to learn. Thankfully, with Justus she also has a really good man to help her who doesn’t let her get away with all and everything – he calls her “duchess” – and who knows what he wants.

Risk is one of the novels which could, with a little tweaking here and there (words used, plot inconsistencies and holes), be something I really enjoyed instead of just being okay. I liked Risk the most when the story focused on Angela and James. There, the emotions were the strongest and most “raw” and it needed the least “tweaking” in my eyes. Also, the second half of the book worked better than the first and read more smoothly. I can’t say if that’s just because I was used to the dialogue tags by then, less things happened where I had a problem to suspend disbelief, or if it actually was better written and plotted, but Risk ended on a high and enjoyable note and nearly delivered to what the prologue promised.

Would I recommend this novel? Maybe.

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 3+ / 5


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