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I have a confession to make. Exotic dancers are usually an automatic turn-off for me. Book-wise I mean (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). However, such is the awesomeness of Sharon and Tom Curtis that I willingly braved the world of male strippery in order to read this book. I wasn't disappointed. I read it in one sitting (well, I was on an airplane, but still...). Unfortunately, it didn't get me through the entire flight. This is a short novel, as it's a reprint of an old Loveswept series romance. The book was over at 56% on my Kindle--the rest being excerpts from other Loveswept rereleases. I'm putting this down on the negative side of the book--through no fault of the authors. I hate when they pad books this way. I'd rather just know it was a short book. Yes, Samhain, I'm looking at you.
Sharon and Tom Curtis have written some of the best romances I've ever read. I might be romanticizing (get it--heh), but I never fail to believe that their main characters truly love each other. Lightning That Lingers is no exception. It tells the story of Philip, who has chosen to resolve his land-rich/cash-poor problem by becoming a stripper, and Jennifer the prudish and inexperienced librarian who comes to love him. This is a common theme in romance novels--and regular ones. Yet, Philip isn't concerned about preserving his family's heritage--he cares far more about the land and the creatures that live on it. Philip is a biologist, specializing in birds of prey. He has a pet Screech Owl--who is one of the best supporting characters, ever--and tiny owlets who share his bed.
Jennifer, by contrast, is the daughter of an unwed mother. This is where you have to remember that Jennifer must have been born in the Sixties and come of age in the Seventies. I'm not entirely sure that "illegitimacy" has lost its stigma even today, but that's a discussion for another time. Growing up in such "shameful" circumstances led to Jennifer's shyness with men. Philip's sweetness towards Jennifer, and the patience and care he takes with her are touching to behold. He's the only man that could draw a woman whose fear of men is so deeply ingrained out of her shell.
As you can imagine, the sticking point in the romance is Philip's profession. He strips to keep himself--and his property--afloat. Philip deplores his job. He hates stripping, and he hates being an object of lust for so many nameless, faceless women. An interesting juxtaposition, right? It's rare to find a male character facing this dilemma and I can only imagine that this was even more the case in 1983. And what about Jennifer? Naturally a stripper boyfriend would be difficult for a woman like her. And when her mother writes that she's planning to go to the strip joint where Philip works...well, that would be difficult for anyone.
I'm a little prudish at heart myself, so I have to add this part: I would not be okay with a boyfriend who was a stripper. And I often felt that Jennifer was made to feel bad because she had issues with it. Even though part of Philip's act was kissing other women. Double not okay. Why should Jennifer be made to feel bad because she struggled to accept such a profession for her boyfriend? And while the scene where Jennifer goes to watch Philip's act is heartwrenching, the fall-out is mostly about how Philip feels knowing she's been watching and not Jennifer's, on seeing him be intimate with other women. I can't even begin to imagine how I would react in the same situation--but I do know that I would object to being made to feel bad for whatever emotions I was experiencing.
Lightning That Lingers is a sweet little gem of a novel. It's not without its flaws, but I think you'll enjoy reading it all the same. Sharon and Tom Curtis have a knack for timelessness. Though this book takes place almost thirty years ago, most of the themes and the people could easily be transported to the present day. I hope that Random House rereleases some more titles by this pair. I'd love to see what else they can do. Reply