Pandora's Box


Julie Garwood
2002 reissue of 2001 release, Romantic Suspense
Pocket, $7.99, 496 pages, Amazon ASIN 0671034022
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Mercy introduces Theo Buchanan, brother of Heartbreaker Nick, and Dr. Michelle (Mike) Renard, who meet when Theo throws up all over Dr. Mike's shoes! Dr. Mike has become the target of a mysterious vandal and Theo uses his Justice Deptartment connections to try to unravel the mystery surrounding Michelle before they are both killed.

Linda:  Julie Garwood has been my second favorite author (after Jayne Ann) for a long time and several of her older books are on my "comfort" reread shelf. I bought Heartbreaker the week it came out last year, but didn't read it till last week. Reason? I was afraid that it wouldn't live up to the historicals and I was afraid of being disappointed in another long time favorite's books. Well, I liked Heartbreaker a lot when I read it but I loved Mercy. Mercy has all of the hallmarks of Garwood's best books: great, smart, plucky heroine, wonderful alpha hero, humor and terrific secondary characters too. This one will go on the re-read shelf along with The Bride and The Prize, high praise indeed

Blythe:  Well, I didn't hate Mercy, but I found it disappointingly average. I was interested enough to keep turning the pages, and it was a quick read, but I never got into the characters or thought they were really in love; their whole relationship seemed forced. All I could think was that Garwood should have stuck with historicals.

Linda:  Oh goodness, it's hard to believe we read the same book because I loved it! I thought their love was real and not forced, and the author surprised me with one of the twists at the end of the book. I'm not easily fooled, but she got me on that one. Plus I loved the ending. I thought Michelle (Mike) was a terrific heroine and her long time fans will see the strengths of Jamie (The Bride), Johanna (Saving Grace) and Judith (The Secret) in her, but she is also a contemporary heroine and her heart and humanity were very real to me. It was very understandable to me that the burned-out hero, Theo, recognized the passion in her and was attracted to it. I loved the setting and the treatment of the community as well. I think Garwood's long-time fans are going to love this book and I think fans of romantic suspense will also enjoy it.

Blythe:  To me it seemed like these two met, spent all of five minutes together, and just wanted to hop into bed. I never felt like they talked or shared with each other. The sexual tension felt really forced to me, like Garwood had to tell us every five seconds how hot they were for each other, but there never seemed to be a question of whether they would hop into bed. I couldn't get into their relationship at all. I didn't feel like I got to know Mike well enough to even tell if she was like Garwood's historical heroines, but the "aw shucks, queen of innocence" works better in an historical context for me anyway.

Where I do agree with you is about the twist at the end. That did take me totally by surprise; I hadn't even wondered about the turn Garwood took as a possible option. I like when a suspenseful book manages to pull one over one me.

Linda:  I think the innocence was very believable coming from the background that Mike did and I thought she explained her lack of experience well. I felt the sexual attraction from page one and found it very believable. I loved the fact that Theo threw up all over her when they met - talk about meeting "cute." I found Mike much more believable then Laurant in Heartbreaker. Laurant was just tooooo perfect and selfless to me and although I liked the story it wouldn't be one that I would re-read. Mercy however, is one that I will re-read, I really liked Theo and Mike a lot. The witty, flirtatious dialogue had me LOL, as did the town's efforts to convince Theo that Mike was a good cook. For me this one is a Desert Isle Keeper.

Blythe:  I thought they met cute too, and I also thought the book had some nice touches and little details, like Mike operating to the strains of Willie Nelson, and Theo always wanting to eat at McDonald's. This made them a little more human to me, even though I couldn't really get into their romance. I kept wanting to tell them to slow down, since they'd just barely met. And the dialogue just didn't work for me; I didn't find it funny and kept comparing it (unfavorably) to Brockmann's.

Linda:  LOL, I loved the dialogue and laughed a lot in this book. I loved Big Daddy Jake and his cohorts. I loved the respectful way they were treated; these people were poor but prideful, not wanting charity. Theo endeared himself to me when he bought the fence for poor little John could you not love a man that thoughtful? Since I met, fell in love and married my hubby in less then 3 months I don't have a problem with love-at-first sight plots - very believable to me - as I have experienced it. I think Roger and I both knew after the first date that we were going to click.

We haven't talked about Noah yet. I loved the moment in Heartbreaker when he appeared and said "I come from a long line of lawmen" and then it was revealed his last name was Clayborne. As a big fan of the For The Roses, this touch put a big smile on my face. The physical description and his personality basically make this man Clay Clayborne's great-grandson. I didn't care for the little Roses books, but even though I wasn't crazy about Come The Spring I loved Clay. I am looking forward to Noah's book. Theo is the brother of Nick Buchanan from Heartbreaker and this book made me happy that this is a very large family!

Blythe:  I liked For the Roses but have entirely forgotten the plot of Come the Spring. I haven't read Heartbreaker, so I totally missed this allusion to the earlier Clayborne. I am of two minds about continuing to read these books. On one hand, I wasn't particularly interested in this one, so I'm not sure I want to read Garwood in contemporary form again. On the other hand, I found many of the secondary characters in this book more interesting than the main couple. I liked Noah, and I was very intrigued by Mike's brother, John Paul, about whom we hear very little. If she wants to write a book about him, I might be persuaded to read it.

And just as I preferred some of the secondary characters to the primary ones, I was also more interested in some of the sub-plots, particularly the one involving a local man who is fired from a mill. I wanted to see more of a payoff there. But I also thought some of the characters were a little too down home, especially Big Daddy Jake (I mean, come on - Big Daddy?) And does every book set in New Orleans or the bayou have to have a character named Remy? I lived in New Orleans for four years and never managed to meet even one Remy, or even see one mentioned in the newspaper, but if my view of New Orleans had been formed from romances I'd think you couldn't throw a rock without hitting some guy named Remy.

Linda:  I actually know a Remy, but he is from East Texas - which is just a stone's throw from Louisiana. I thought that "Big Daddy" fit Jake, as he was the town's father. What I really loved was the prologue when he comes to terms with Mike's brains and sees that she is able to reach her potential and not be limited by her place of birth.

I hope that John Paul will appear again too. I was also interested in the hints we see about Theo and Nick's sister Jordan who apparently started a high tech company, that seems like a natural for a book. Hopefully, we will see more of Nick and Theo in future books - I would have liked to see Nick involved in the investigation of the Sowing Club, as I liked him a great deal.

What I liked best about this book is that Garwood managed to write a romantic suspense book that kept the romance at the forefront of the book. The couple never gets lost in the turns and twists of the plot. She succeeded where JAK failed in Lost and Found - the couple is likable and I felt the connection between them.

The Sowing Club is a group of very believable sociopaths, unlike the dumb cults that JAK has in several of her books. These people are pure evil, but they are also believable and very scary. Frankly, I just loved this book and it will be interesting to see if other longtime Garwood fans react as favorably to it. If she keeps turning out books like this I won't miss the historical settings, as what I really love are her people and her humor, both of which were strongly on display in Mercy. What's up for next month?

Blythe:  I'm glad you liked it better than I did. But for good suspense and Bayou atmosphere, I would stick with Sandra Brown's classic, Slow Heat in Heaven, and for someone looking to try a Garwood, I'd steer them toward Castles.

Next month is a change of pace...we're reading The Outlaw and the Lady by Lorraine Heath. I think Heath always turns out a good book (I've never given her books lower than a B-, and there were several I loved) so I am really looking forward to it.

Linda:  LOL, Castles is not my favorite Garwood, I would recommend The Bride or The Prize myself. I have been reading the Heath series about second sons of English Lords in Texas and look forward to this latest and I think last book in the series.

Blythe:  Then perhaps it is one we will both enjoy. See you next month.

Linda:  Now where would be the fun if we both agreed on a book? <g> Dara Joy's Ritual of Proof is on the top of my TBR pile and I can hardly wait to get to it! Happy reading!

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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