This review covers the first four novels in the new Mills & Boon DARE Series of erotic romances:
- Off Limits, by Clare Connelly
- A Week to be Wild, by JC Harroway
- Legal Seduction, by Lisa Childs
- Ruled, by Anne Marsh
The new Mills and Boon imprint, DARE, claims to have ditched the old rules for romance fiction, presenting romances to suit the new millennium and its readers. It’s promoted as ‘the most explicit series yet’ and we’re told ‘DARE turns classic romance clichés on their head’ (Source: Daily Mail UK). It probably is the former but I don’t see much evidence of the latter in any of these four books.
DARE heroines are certainly more independent than many romance heroines, intelligent successful women often running their own businesses, but they are seemingly just as likely to forget about all that when they meet an attractive man and their hormones take over.
Author JC Harroway asserts “A DARE heroine doesn’t need a man to complete her but if she wants one as an equal partner, then that’s her prerogative’ but because these are romance novels she has to have a man in her life.” (Source: Daily Mail UK) Given the examples in these first four books, I beg leave to doubt that the heroines are equal partners.
These novels are promoted as escapist reading for today’s woman; books that still reflect real world issues and they actually do reflect real world issues: Gemma has to deal with sexual harassment and being belittled; Olivia has to cope with male arrogance and manipulation; Bette is seduced by Simon because he wants information for his business; and Evie is used by Rev to enable him to trap her brother.
I found the narratives dull and predictable, seemingly there merely to link the sex scenes. All of this strongly suggests to me that, in spite of the claims made for their new imprint, the only real difference is the sex scenes are far more explicit. That, for me, makes them even less interesting.
Off Limits, by Clare Connelly
Here we meet Lady Gemma Picton, daughter of a duchess, holder of a double first from Oxford and in-house counsel to billionaire Jack Grant. Although she is intelligent, well-educated and rich, the cliché of the man being in a more powerful position than the woman is barely disturbed as Grant deliberately belittles her, calling her an assistant despite knowing Gemma “hates it when I call her that” (page 11).
Because she desires him, is perhaps even in love with him, she puts up with his behaviour. And then we have another old cliché: he’s messed up because he’s lost his wife to cancer and, because he is grieving, it’s OK that he has an endless series of one night stands and tosses the women aside afterwards. Until – lightbulb moment – he finally realises that he feels more for Gemma than all the other women he’s had sex with.
A Week to be Wild, by JC Harroway
Another arrogant British billionaire takes the lead role in this book as Alex Lancaster meets Olivia Noble, a New York marketing consultant. The powerful man has engineered the meeting, paying Olivia’s expenses and arranging for her to present at a conference in London.
This time both of the protagonists are wounded souls; he because of unjustified guilt about the tragic death of his sister who had a disability, and she has survivor’s guilt following the death of her fiancé in a motorcycle crash. Unconsciously at first, Alex pushes Olivia out of her comfort zone while she appears to maintain some semblance of control while they each seek to ‘heal’ the other.
Following a week of new adventures and sexual experiences for both, Olivia leaves with no farewell when her business partner has her baby. In yet another ‘old romance’ cliché, Sonya decides to quit work completely now she is a mother, leaving a convenient opening for Alex to be become both a business and a life partner. Is this also a backlash suggestion, reminding women that they can’t have it all?
Legal Seduction, by Lisa Childs
This novel is set in Manhattan in a very successful law firm, but with a difference. Simon Kramer, managing partner of Street Legal and his three male partners were all street kids, teenage runaways who learned how to survive and thrive in New York.
Although the heroine, Simon’s EA, Bette Monroe had a very different upbringing being a pastor’s daughter, the two main characters are both in thrall to their background and upbringing. Simon believes everyone is motivated by money and out to get the better of him while Bette strives not to be dependent or controlled by a man as she believes her mother and married sister are.
Once again, as in Off Limits, the female employee fancies the boss and he is not as unaffected by her as he has appeared for the past two years. Bette discovers Simon’s initial interest in her because he wanted to discover if she was leaking company secrets. Their steamy sexual relationship, of course, goes awry because of the baggage they both carry.
In spite of not being able to function, to the extent that his partners come to see Bette, Simon does nothing to rebuild the relationship. It is Bette who seeks out Simon and yet another steamy sex scene, thus demonstrating yet again that the old clichés are alive and well.
Ruled, by Anne Marsh
The blurb tells us this tale is about the princess versus the rebel and it is narrated that way with alternating chapters from Evie and Rev. She runs a princess birthday party business in Las Vegas, complete with a sparkly pink RV. Evie feels responsible for keeping an eye on her younger brother Rocky, a motor cycle gang member, as she fears he is going off the rails, as did their father who is in jail. Because Evie has been working so hard establishing her business she has not had even a casual relationship in years. Just as her workmates set her up on a blind date she meets Rev.
Rev is a member of a rival motorcycle club and meets Evie when he is trying to track down her brother who is trespassing on his gang’s turf. There is a powerful attraction between them and, as in all the other books, despite previously being able to control herself, Evie dumps her blind date in favour of Rev and hot sex!
This is the only book of the four that has anything other than steamy sex, misunderstandings, more steamy sex and reconciliation. There is a thin subplot concerning Rocky and his drug dealing as Rev’s club is out to get him. But, in spite of numerous declarations from Rev that the club comes first and rules have to be obeyed, we see Rocky being arrested by police rather than receiving a beating, or worse – an outcome Evie is apparently happy with as she thinks Rocky will be safer in jail.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 10: 5
Distributed by: Mills & Boon
Released: February 2018
RRP: $5.99 each