The Heartbreaker

Lord of Seduction

Master of Temptation

The Seduction

Wicked Fantasy

Fever Dreams by Nicole Jordan
(Ballantine, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-345-46787-6
Readers who are familiar with Nicole Jordanís books expect a lot of hot sex at frequent intervals. But what if the author wants to create a plot around a heroine who is afraid of sex and a hero who is carefully wooing her? Must the hero go without? Fever Dreams answers that question.

When the story opens Alex Ryder is dreaming about making love to Eve Seymour, Countess of Hayden. Alex first fell in love with her when she was eleven and he was sixteen, and they both lived on the island of Cyrene. Eveís father, an earl, berates him because he is not of her class and is unworthy to be near her. Eveís sweetness and kind manner impress Ryder.

Eveís father is living on Cyrene because heís deeply in debt. When she is eighteen, Eve enters an arranged marriage so that her fatherís debts will be paid and her younger twin siblings, Cecil and Claire, will have a better future. Before leaving Cyrene, she and Ryder share one passionate kiss.

Eve has been living in England ever since, and Ryder has not seen her for six years. In the meantime, Ryder has made his fortune as a mercenary and joined the Guardians of the Sword, a secret society that rights wrongs and is loosely affiliated with the English Foreign Office. He is now Sir Alex Ryder. His nights are haunted by dreams of making passionate love to the only woman heís ever loved.

Ryder has maintained a close relationship with the twins who inform him that Hayden has died. He will allow her a suitable period of mourning, but Ryder is determined to make Eve his wife.

She and the twins are living in London with two of Eveís late husbandís aunts. Eve is introducing Claire into society with the hopes of establishing her in a happy marriage. Ryder moves into the house across the street from hers. The aunts are cool to the point of rudeness to him because of his common origins. Ryder quickly realizes that Claireís warning is accurate ĖEve is opposed to marrying again. He must adjust his tactics and proceed carefully.

Moreover, it seems that someone is trying to kill Eve. Who could it be? And why?

So thatís how an author handles hot sex with a heroine who wants no sex at all: let the hero have all the fun in his dreams! Well, it sure beats my Iím-taking-the-exam-but-I-never-attended-the-class dreams.

Fever Dreams is two stories for the price of one: winning Eve and finding her would-be murderer. Ryder is described as a bold man of action, but for a good part of the book, heís a sensitive beta-hero. Heís the role model and mentor that Eveís siblings lack from their parents. He courts approval from the aunts with the charm and finesse of an experienced diplomat. He works to understand Eveís aversion to sex and remarriage. Itís nice to meet a Jordan hero whose motivation comes from the heart as well as the hormones.

It isnít until the second half of the book when the attempted murder subplot kicks in that Ryder gets to do something that requires brawn. There is, however, a sense that this section of the story was tacked on because the primary plot wasnít sufficient to fill the requisite page count.

Eve is a less convincing character than Ryder. Why her husband arranged a marriage with the daughter of the self-exiled, debt-ridden earl rather than some young lovely of good family still on Englandís shores is never explained. Similarly, Eveís dissatisfaction with her marriage and her husbandís treatment of her seems false for a Regency-era heroine. On a personal note, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the sixteen-year-old Ryder fixing his interest on an eleven-year-old, but at least it is partly her character that impresses him.

This is the fourth book in the authorís Paradise series. There is less emphasis on the noble cause of being a Guardian than the previous novels which is a welcome change. Characters from previous books have cameo roles in this one, but in general Fever Dreams stands well on its own.

Nicole Jordanís many fans will appreciate her newest release. Those who are less familiar with her testosterone-charged heroes may find this a good introduction.

--Lesley Dunlap

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