Pandora's Box

Proof/Get Blondie

Justine Davis and Carla Cassidy
June 2004, Series Fiction
Sil Bombshell #2 & 3, $5.50, 304 pages, Amazon ASIN 037351316X
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

Justine Davis' Proof and Carla Cassidy's Get Blondie are two of the launch titles in Silhouette's new Bombshell line featuring "kick-ass" heroines and varying levels of romantic sub-plot. Indeed, interaction between the male and female leads in one of September's Bombshell titles is minimal.

As a teenager Alexandra Forsythe attended Athena, a little known private school that turns out women who are prepared to compete with men on every level. Alex's group of friends are known as the Cassandras and they are bound by a promise they made to each other to respond and help any Cassandra, at any time.

Alex's friend and fellow Cassandra, Rainy, asked for help but died in an auto accident before she could tell the other Cassandras what she needed. As Alex investigates she stumbles on a plot that brings her together with the famous Athena legend, The Dark Angel, and reunites her with friends she has drifted away from. Cassie Newton, a Kansas City police officer, thought she had put her past behind her. At one time she'd been an operative for a top secret government agency, but she left when she felt that her personal relationship with her partner got in the way of her job. Now Kane (the partner in question) shows up on her doorstep, asking her to help the agency one last time while they take down Adam Mercer.

Adam runs shelters and counseling centers for drug abuse victims, but has become mentally unstable and secretly plans to poison the supply of a powerful, illegal narcotic. Cassie is charged with the task of going undercover and thwarting his plans. Meanwhile, she just might learn something about her own past, and reexamine her feelings for Kane.

Linda:   Blythe, this was an unusual month for us, reading two of the Bombshell launch books. Bombshell, as you know, is something different for Silhouette, a category line that isn't romance per se. These books feature "kick-ass" heroines and varying levels of romantic sub-plot.

The results for these two launches were mixed: I really liked Get Blondie and semi-liked Proof. I also attempted to read the another book in this new line: Code Name: Dove, which I really disliked, which is unusual for me.

Blythe:   Well, I didn't even get to Dove, so I don't know how I would have felt about that. But I agree with you on one of the others. I thought Get Blondie was pretty good. However, I really disliked Proof.

Linda:   I enjoyed Proof throughout most of it but it ended so abruptly that I was left wondering if I had received all of the manuscript. I like Davis's writing style—loved last year's High Risk and really had high hopes for this one; but it did not meet my expectations. I did love the hero and heroine and really think I would have liked this one better as a single title that focused on them and came to a logical end.

Blythe:   I had the exact same reaction about the end. It sort of seemed like it was over, and I'd certainly run out of pages. I looked around for more, just to be sure. Then I felt like I had just been suckered into reading half a book. It's clearly a set-up for the series. It features a group of friends who attended an exclusive prep school in Arizona called Athena Academy. The whole point of the school is to prepare women for jobs in the government and military that have traditionally been held by men. Anyway, this group of friends calls themselves the Cassandras (which I thought was really stupid, but more on that later), and when one of their number is murdered they come together to find out what happened...except we don't find out what happened. Apparently you have to read at least one more book for that. What a rip-off.

Linda:   I kind of liked the Cassandras and thought the school was an interesting concept. But I could see the plot coming miles away and won't be surprised in the next ones to find out who the villain is. I was at least interested enough to read the next ones. But, I think the ending could have been a much smoother transition—not even one plot issue was resolved in this book—as you said a half a book. I did like the hint that there are other groups at the school—The Graces were mentioned and I liked the premise enough to want to meet more students of Athena.

Blythe:   Well, this may just be one of my quirks, but I hate, hate grown-ups who have little friend clubs and refer to them by cute little names. This has long been popular in the Regency sub-genre, and I'm not happy to see it infiltrating other areas. To me it's something people do in movies like Grease, but it's not something real people ever do. The constant repetitive use of the term, added to the already-annoying talk about Athena (the first half of the book talks about nothing but how special it is to go there and how it changes you, blah blah blah) just about did me in. I am mildly curious about how this plot is resolved, but not curious enough to read the books. I think my solution will be to ask you about them after you read them.

Linda:   LOL, I guess I will stem your curiosity, but I also think you have a pretty good idea of who the villain is too. From your dislike of clubs with cutesy names and traditions I take it you also did not belong to a sorority? I too am too independent to want to belong to these types of groups—I follow the old Groucho Marx adage: "I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me for a member." But I liked the idea of a school that did not just train a woman's mind, but also her body and helped its graduates break the glass ceiling.

As a feminist I think I would have happily sent my daughter to this type of school and I suspect she would have loved it.

Blythe:   Nope, I was definitely not the sorority type. How'd you guess? My mom was, though. She belonged to the BYU equivalent of a sorority (they called them social units) and often talked about it like it was the highlight of her life. I have often wondered if someone who was a sorority member would get into this type of thing more.

In theory, I thought the Athena Academy was a cool idea. However, I hated the way Davis wrote about it. I found the whole first half of the book incredibly slow. Very little happens, but the heroine, Alex, reflects exhaustively about Athena. I was sick of that by page 40. (I know this because that's when I thought, "Dear God, I am sick to death of hearing about Athena! How far into the book am I? Oh crap, only 40 pages.")

Linda:   Well, I will admit that she went a little overboard on Alex's mental revisiting of Athena, but I over-looked it as I really liked Alex. I loved it when she fooled her fellow FBI agent (and the book's hero) by pretending to be two people in the stable. Alex was just so resourceful and dare I say 'spunky,' that I really liked her. Since this series is about Kick-Ass heroines I thought Alex fit the format perfectly. I also liked her relationship with Kayla.

Blythe:   I could have related to her more had she been a little more kick-ass and a little less pensive. It's not like I mind a heroine with a brain, but I don't need to hear her thoughts circling endlessly like a rusty hamster wheel. The hero was a little more interesting, but he's got a dumb name too - Dark Angel!

Linda:   LOL, I liked that name—although I thought it a little far-fetched that they would have all of these instant feelings for each other based on a chance encounter that happened when Alex was 17—it didn't sound like their meeting lasted more then 5 minutes and yet they remembered each other and the instant attraction years later? I believe in love at first sight (have to since it happened to me with my husband who I married 3 months after meeting him and we will celebrate our 34th anniversary this year), but seeing each other in the dark for a minute or two does not qualify for a multi-year long passion in my book.

Blythe:   Well, I admit that my best friend and I had silly code names for the boys we liked (Fish and MX, if you are curious) but we were in junior high school at the time. Alex is still calling this guy Dark Angel, and she's what—25? 30? Do you know any adults that do this? And yes, this was carrying love at first sight a little far. Well, enough about this one.

I think we both preferred the Cassidy, correct?

Linda:   Yes, I really enjoyed Getting Blondie. This was my first Cassidy book, although I have some in my TBR pile, and I enjoyed both the story and the characters a lot. I think it also helped that this was a complete book and not just a set up for more books in a series.

Blythe:   You've read so many authors, I was sure you'd read Cassidy before. This was my first by her also, and like you, I found the characters interesting. I think what was most impressive to me was the super-creepy villain. That guy absolutely made my flesh crawl, and he was completely believable. The heroine spends some time actually living in the guy's house, and I was on edge the whole time she was there.

Linda:   Yes, Adam Mercer was a wonderfully creepy villain and I cringed every time he touched Cassie. Burt the bodyguard was equally scary and watching Cassie give him his comeuppance was great. I really liked Kane too. Cassie walked out on him five years earlier with absolutely no explanation at what was arguably the worst time in his life. Yet, he does not treat her cruelly or act like a big jerk—even if he might have been justified in doing so. I thought he was just a great hero and my only regret about this book was that it was not a long-form single title book. I would have enjoyed seeing even more of these characters—even her grouchy next door neighbor.

Blythe:   I think a longer format might have allowed for a little more romance between Cassie and Kane, which I would have enjoyed. My only real problem with the book was that the romance sometimes seemed like an afterthought. I think that's more or less in keeping with the vision of the Bombshell line though; the emphasis is supposed to be on the kick-ass heroine. That didn't bother me much since I liked the characters and enjoyed the suspense plot. That bodyguard was creepy, and he almost scared me more than Adam. I liked the scene when Cassie hacked into the Adam's computer, and had a back-up plan in place when she's caught. Very clever.

Linda:   Yes, Cassie was one of the most resourceful heroines I have read. Of course, her very survival after being abandoned by her mother on the streets of L.A. depended on her cunning and I loved her relationship with Max, the stuntman who rescued her from such a horrible life. I too would have enjoyed seeing more romance between Kane and Cassie—obviously this duo would have steamed the sheets—but within the required format of this series I thought Cassidy did a marvelous job of creating both engaging characters and interesting villains.

Blythe:   And she wrote a whole book, too, instead of half of one. :) When I read Get Blondie, I felt like I was reading the promising start of a new line. I like the idea of strong heroines who do the rescuing rather than waiting around for some guy to do it for them, and I think the Cassidy book met my expectations this way.

Linda:   Yes, my favorite fairy tale has always been Beauty and the Beast—Belle manages to rescue not only herself but the Beast as well. I do not like heroines who are like Cinderella or worst of all Sleeping Beauty lying around waiting for someone to come and rescue them. The idea of a series of kick-ass heroines sounds attractive to me and Get Blondie would certainly have me reading more books in the series. The problem is that I read part of Dove, another of the Bombshell launche titles and couldn't get through more than the first third, even though it had an exciting prologue and promising introduction of the two main characters, both of whom work for the CIA. Had you read even part of Dove one of our nation's most burning questions would have been answered for you.

Blythe:   Really? Don't keep me in suspense. What question is that?

Linda:   Why does the CIA have trouble providing the President with timely and correct information? Dove provides the answer—these idiots are cheerfully banging away with the suspects they're supposed to be watching. The supposed hero immediately starts sleeping with the suspect's secretary and the heroine falls for the creepy guy she is supposed to be spying on and even hopes he'll leave his wife for her after he's elected to office.

The title of this book should have been named after the great William Heung's version of "She Bangs" and it was just as off key. I tried to skip a little and read more, but these people just got more and more stupid. If this is how our CIA works, no wonder their info is inaccurate.

BTW, I also thought it ridiculous in Proof that Alex and Justin had a hot kiss in the lab at FBI headquarters—J Edgar Hoover would be spinning in his grave.

Blythe:   Oh, so that's why 9/11 happened. I'm so glad it's all been cleared up. Clearly our civil servants have something better to do. My grandfather worked for the FBI for most of his adult life. If he were still alive I could ask him if it was a hotbed of sexual intrigue. Or maybe that's just the CIA? I think I'll just skip Dove, then.

Linda:   Yes, I would have trouble recommending it to anyone. The plot was a mishmash of terror attacks, a mad scientist who created instant-lobotomy drugs and a megalomaniac for the villain. It seemed like the author threw in everything but the kitchen sink. The mad scientist was very creepy and pushed my squeamish buttons as did the bit of torture by the villain. Perhaps others will like this book better then I did, but I just couldn't make myself read the whole thing.

Blythe:   Well, at least the series has one solid entry so far. I'd steer any interested parties to the Cassidy.

Linda:   Yes, definitely Get Blondie and perhaps if the Davis was paired with its sequel and read back-to-back I could recommend Proof. Blythe, as you know I rarely loath or give an F to a book—but Dove is on the list of worst reads right next to Sweet Savage Love, Prophet Annie and all time worst, Patricia Lucas White's P.S. I've Taken a Lover!

Blythe:   Well, at least we both liked the Cassidy. What's up for next month?

Linda:   Another new-to-me author—Leslie Kelly's Killing Time. I read the cover blurb and this one sounds like my cuppa tea and it is also Kelly's first single title.

The best news this month is that I am now sitting here typing in my new home—we are officially no-longer-'homeless' although there isn't any furniture to sit on yet, but first things first, I am filling the bookshelves with my TBR pile! <VBG>

Blythe:   I am so glad that you are finally, officially home. You've had a long exile.

Kelly isn't new to me; I've read one of her series romances, Trick Me, Treat Me, which I thought was better than average. I hope her single title debut is even better.

Linda:   I am looking forward to the Kelly. Happy reading.

Blythe:   See you next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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