All I Want
For Christmas

Bad Boys on Board

Casey

Caught in the Act

Duets 23

Fantasy

Gabe

I Brake For Bad Boys

In Too Deep

Jordan

Little Miss Innocent

Morgan

Sawyer

Say No to Joe?

Sex Appeal

Sizzle

Too Much Temptation

Treat Her Right

Wanton

Wild

 
When Bruce Met Cyn…
by Lori Foster
(Zebra, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-8217-7513-8
***
Lori Foster’s When Bruce Met Cyn… seemed to have everything it needed to be a five-heart romance: competent writing, convincing characters, a strong plot, lots of steamy sex. Unfortunately, its one weakness offset its strengths.

At 22, Cynthia Potter has been forced into a life style not often dealt with in the romance genre. When she was fifteen, her alcoholic mother brought home a new “boyfriend,” Palmer Oaks. Palmer smacked them both around from time to time, but it wasn’t until Cynthia matured, at age seventeen, that his interest threatened her sexually. Knowing her mother would never intervene, Cynthia took care of Palmer herself. One night, when he came into her bedroom, she bashed his head in with her bedside lamp, stole $100 out of his pocket, and ran away from home.

With no money, no friends, and no skills, Cyn (as she started calling herself) ended up working the streets. She spent five years turning tricks and saving her money until she had $2,500 salted away, enough to leave town and start over. She gets out a map, shuts her eyes, and runs her finger over the paper until it feels right. ‘Right’ turns out to be Visitation, North Carolina.

Bruce Kelly is at a truck stop, having a cup of coffee, on his way home to Visitation when he sees a trucker threatening a girl in the parking lot. The trucker gave Cyn a lift, and now he wants to be paid off with sex. Bruce runs to the rescue, only to arrive too late. Cyn has taken care of the trucker herself – he is on the ground, clutching himself. Bruce’s intervention is still needed – the trucker is down but not out – so Bruce pays him $40 to go away and gives Cyn a ride to Visitation.

On the trip, Bruce tells Cyn what he does for a living: he’s a minister. He is unprepared for Cyn’s wild reaction. Her only previous encounter with a minister has been poisonous; the Reverend Thorne castigated her and told her that her soul was as wanton as her sexy appearance. Now Cyn wants out of the car, immediately, even though they are in the middle of the North Carolina wilds. When she bolts, it takes all of Bruce’s persuasive powers to talk her back into the car to finish the ride with him.

Once in Visitation, after Bruce manages to tease most of Cyn’s history out of her, she is amazed when he doesn’t try to take advantage of her or look at her contemptuously. What she doesn’t realize is how much will power Bruce is exercising to keep his hands off her. Even though Cyn tries to play down her sexual attractiveness, there’s no denying that she is a neat little package. Going forward, Bruce will have a lot of more opportunities to practice self-control. Visitation is a small town, and Bruce and Cyn are going to be thrown together a lot, especially after it becomes clear that someone from Cyn’s past is threatening her.

Both Ms. Foster’s protagonists are unusual in romance novels: a reformed prostitute and a preacher. As such, they have unique problems to overcome, including Cyn’s sensitivity about her past. The Reverend Thorne convinced her that everybody she meets immediately realizes she has been a hooker.

With that in mind, Bruce doesn’t want to push Cyn into a physical relationship until she is ready. A commendable plan, and Bruce sticks to it until the threats against Cyn escalate, and he wants to comfort and distract her. Because of Cyn’s history, he also wants this session to focus on Cyn, and Cyn only, and her satisfaction, so it’s strictly oral…and very intimate…and very graphic.

Later on, when Cyn has gotten more comfortable with him and tells him, convincingly, that she is ready for a complete relationship, Bruce asks her to wait until they are married. I assumed that he wanted to wait for the sanctity of marriage before going any further but, if so, it isn’t spelled out. We are never told what Bruce’s personal moral code is. Does he not approve of sex outside of marriage? Is oral sex all right but penetration is not? (Shades of Bill Clinton!) Certainly I can understand a fifteen or sixteen-year-old drawing that conclusion from the text. I certainly wouldn’t want my teenager to read this book without a lot of guidance and discussion.

I had no problem with having a hunk of a minister as the hero of a romance, nor was I offended when Bruce lusted for Cyn since he also developed a love for, and appreciation of, her strength and her character. I just wished there had been some clarification of Bruce’s views on religion and morality and particularly on how they affected his sexual interactions with Cyn. Even leaving aside the impact on teenagers…and it is difficult for me to do so…this lack made me personally uncomfortable, too uncomfortable to recommend When Bruce Met Cyn… with any enthusiasm.

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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