Pandora's Box

Hot Rain

Kat Martin
2002, Romantic Suspense
Zebra, $6.99, 414 pages, Amazon ASIN 0821769359

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

When Allie Parker's best friend dies in an explosion aboard a boat, she's sure there has been foul play. The police don't seem to take the case seriously, so Allie boards a boat owned by the same company and looks for her own answers. How could she know that the boat is about to set sail? When she meets Jake Dawson, she's not sure whose side he's on. He's teamed up with a gang of ruffians, and she thinks he might be involved in drugs. He's actually an undercover federal agent involved in an arms sting, and as the Allie and Jake travel across the ocean - and then through a jungle, they fight their mutual attraction and their growing feelings of love.

Blythe:   I've read Kat Martin once before, several years ago. I know LLB recommends Innocence Undone, but it really did nothing for me. Hot Rain provided a similar reading experience - characters that got on my nerves in a plot I didn't really enjoy. The strangest thing is that it starts out in a similar way to the book we talked about last month, Gibson's Lola Carlyle Reveals All. A main character (in this case, the heroine) is on a boat that isn't hers, and it takes off with her on it. In the case of Lola, it was the hero on the boat trying to escape from a drug lord who was after him. In Hot Rain, the heroine's presence on the boat is due to a TSTL moment. And it pretty much went downhill from there.

Linda:   Are you sure we read the same book? I loved this one and thought the intrepid Allie and the wisecracking Jake were terrific! For me the book book had the same flavor as Romancing the Stone. I suppose Joan Wilder was TSTL, but like Allie she was likable and quick thinking. And Jake was great - his blonde jokes had me rolling on the floor.

Blythe:   I'll admit to liking the blond jokes (don't tell everyone else in my house). And I liked the movie Romancing the Stone. But I think if I'd had to read Romancing the Stone rather than watching it, it would have annoyed me as much as Hot Rain did. Allie repeated her favorite phrase, "OhmyGod!", all the time - always as one word, and always with an exclamation point. It always drove me nuts! When Allie wasn't saying "OhmyGod!", she was flaunting her perky breasts, which I could swear were mentioned on every other page. Between the "twins" and Jake's perpetual hard-on, it was just too much.

Linda:   I did notice the "OhmyGod!" because this is about the sixth book I've read recently to use that phrase over and over. I wish authors would move on to something else. But did you pick up on the clever use that Martin made of the blonde jokes?

Blythe:   Yes, I did like the way the blond jokes were inserted - they generally had something to do with what was happening at the time. (My favorite: "Why do blondes hate making chocolate chip cookies? It's too hard to peel the M&Ms." LOL!).

The problem was that I had other issues with Martin's writing style. It did seem to get better as it went along, but there were a lot of cheesy, trite descriptions. Stuff like white fluffy clouds and clear blue skies. And then there was the matter of Allie's mysterious college degree, which she sometimes had and sometimes didn't. I hope it's resolved in the final copy. And that leads to my main problem with Allie. I always have trouble relating to characters (particularly heroines) who wander around for years, wondering what they are going to do with their lives. It's just not a type of behavior that I can understand, but that's probably a personality thing. I also thought her lifestyle would have been a little out of reach for someone living as a waitress in San Diego.

Linda:   I've known people who got a professional degree and then hated working in the field. Some waited tables or bartended for a few years while they "discovered" themselevs, so this didn't seem all that unrealistic to me. What I liked about the blonde jokes is that Martin used them to show Jake's emotional temperature. When he was trying to distance himself from Allie, he told himself blonde jokes. They disappear when they are together in the jungle, but re-emerge when Jake is trying to distance himself again at the end of the book. I thought that was both funny and clever. I really rooted for Jake. His history - the loss of his son and his father's callousness - made me want a happy ending for him. And I loved the epilogue to this story.

Blythe:   The subtle placement of the blond jokes in relation to Jake was lost on me, probably because I was so happy to see more of the jokes than I was to have to read about Jake or Allie!

Unfortunately, I didn't share your high opinion of Jake. When I start muttering, "Get over yourself, buddy" under my breath every two seconds, that's usually a bad sign. I have no patience with men that have been burned once (I refuse to count his pseudo-marriage to the cheerleader) by a woman who is a total bitch, so they decide they will never get married again, ever. Jake didn't seem to care how his anti-marriage stance was affecting Allie at all. His attitude seemed to be "Boy is she hot. Boy is the sex great. Wow, I really like her. Wow, she likes me too! Oh, I hate to see her go. Oh well, I've already decided that I'm not the marrying type, so I'll just doom us both to eternal agony." When a guy gives up this easily, I usually decide that he doesn't deserve the heroine.

And it's funny you should mention the epilogue and the ending, because I thought both were terrible! The end of the book seemed so over the top and saccharine. One particular loose end that was tied up neatly in a bow was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Linda:   I liked the schmaltzy ending and it left me with a big smile on my face; what more can I ask of a romance novel?

I loved Jake; the opening scene where he stages a rape of Allie to keep her safe and keeps saying "scream" had me in stitches. Yes, he is one of those Alpha-males from Diana Palmer country who have been burned once and are afraid to trust again, but he was up front with Allie about not wanting to marry. Plus, you just knew he was too intelligent to go away and pout forever <g>. This book was non-stop action from the opening paragraph and I enjoyed going along for the ride. As a matter of fact, while I was reading I was casting the movie!

Martin never let the couple get lost in the action - they were always front and center. I did think it funny that they stopped to have hot sex at the jungle waterfall knowing that they were in danger. It was moments like that which made me feel that Martin was going for an "over-the-top" campy feel like Romancing the Stone - complete with hissable villains - and I really enjoyed it. And I thought the dialogue was very clever too.

Blythe:   Well, you have to take advantage of those waterfalls when you can. <g> Sometimes, over the top cheesiness really does work for me on some level. Stephanie Laurens' new book, On a Wild Night features a couple who cavort all over the ton having sex, and the heroine's parents never seem to care that she doesn't come home at night. That's as silly as sex in a waterfall while the bad guys are chasing you, but somehow Lauren's book was fun to me while Martin's book was just annoying. When you come down to it, it probably has to do with the characters; I just didn't like Jake and Allie, so I didn't find any of it "fun."

Linda:   Well, if you don't like the characters in a romance, it is obviously not going to work for you. I just finished another book which had a heroine that I hated. This made it hard to want her to get together with the terrific hero <g>. I did like Allie though, and admired her loyalty to her friend in not wanting to let her death go unpunished. I also loved the secondary romance between Allie's friend, the single mother, and Dan, the police detective.

Blythe:   Okay, I'll admit to liking Allie's other friend in the secondary romance (which I thought was more interesting than the main one). But unfortunately, Allie's roommate was literally too stupid to live. "When I asked my boyfriend how he made so much money, he got really mad at me. Do you think he's doing something illegal?" Like, duh. She reminded me of a character in another book who actually wondered why her husband was taking condoms on a business trip!

Linda:   LOL, yes I agree her roommate was a real dummy - but she didn't last past the first couple of pages so she didn't annoy me.

I liked this one a lot and it sent me out to find other contemporaries by Martin and I discovered that most UBS's put the historicals in the romance section and the contemporaries in the mystery section. At least you have a whole new repertoire of blonde jokes to use after reading Hot Rain - so it wasn't a total loss!

What are we reading next month?

Blythe:   Well, we are clearly destined to "agree to disagree" on this one, and it's actually been awhile since we've had such a dramatic difference of opinion.

Up next month is Lisa Cach's George and the Virgin. Cach has garnered several good reviews at AAR, including a positive one from me for The Mermaid of Penperro. So I'm really looking forward to next month's offering.

Linda:   I have heard nothing but good things about Cach, and the plot of George and the Virgin sounds fun - since George is a professional wrestler! Other then the wonderfully campy Beauty and the Beastmaster, I can't think of another book with a wrestler for a hero.

Blythe:   Well, it will certainly be different, won't it? See you next month.

Linda:   Happy reading!

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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