Pandora's Box

Lola Carlyle Reveals All

Rachel Gibson
2002, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0380814390

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Lola Carlyle Reveals All pits former model and current lingerie maven Lola against government agent Max Zamora. Max is on the run from a powerful drug lord when he steals a yacht. Unfortunately, Lola is inside, and the ensuing scuffle leaves Max and Lola stranded in the ocean on a disabled boat. As they work to reach civilization and outwit the drug lords, they discover that their mutual attraction is based on more than just sex.

Linda:   This was the first Gibson I've read and I enjoyed it. The beginning reminded me of a couple of favorite Karen Robards books like Walking After Midnight and Night Magic, but happily there isn't as much violence. Gibson's humor also seems similar to Robards and I liked it a lot.

Blythe:   Hmmm...the only Robards I've read is Scandalous, which we talked about for an earlier Pandora's Box. Neither of us really liked it, so I can't really make a comparison. But I've been keeping up with Gibson's books since I read Truly Madly Yours, which I really enjoyed.

Sometimes I find the mental lusting of her hero and heroine to be a little much to take, but I love the humor in her books. And like you, I liked Lola Carlyle Reveals All. I was encouraged from the first sentence which has to be one of the best opening lines I've read in a romance: "Of all the humiliations Lola Carlyle had suffered in her life - and the list was quite long and juicy - seeing her naked pictures on the Internet was without a doubt the worst."

Linda:   I agree, this book grabbed me from the first paragraph. Lola was very likable and I appreciated the manner in which her bulimia and the repercussions of real women trying to look like Barbie were dealt with in the book.

Blythe:   I also liked the way Gibson handled the bulimia, too. I don't think the topic was glossed over at all, and it's true - most of us don't naturally look like Barbie. It's also interesting how some people (like Lola's slimy ex-fiance) preferred Lola to look like a waif, even when she nearly died trying to maintain that body.

Gibson's greatest strengths in my estimation are her humor and her frank style. In this regard, Lola is trademark Gibson. Lola and Max are under fire from the elements and the greedy drug guys, but Gibson keeps the tone humorous, and there is often an element of absurdity thrown in. I also appreciate Gibson’s skill with “guy talk.” This came up in our recent Susan Andersen Pandora, and like Andersen, Gibson knows how to make the hero talk like an actual male. The dialogue is convincing and charming – even though it’s also crude. I had to laugh when Max tried to find the right words to tell Lola that she’s great in bed. The words he chooses (as the lesser of two evils) are not exactly your standard Prince Charming fare.

Linda:   I loved both the witty give and take, the male dialogue, and Lola's interior monologues. What was really hysterical though was Max's one-sided conversations with "B.D.," the little chihuahua with lots of personality.

The only problem for me was with the end of the book; I kept waiting for the drug lord to kidnap Lola and have Max rescue her. I think I've read one too many dark books lately, but the ending seemed anti-climatic. I thought it was obvious that the drug lord would have figured out Lola's disappearance was connected to the murder of his son.

Blythe:  I was sort of expecting that to happen too, but strangely enough, I was relieved that it didn't. When we were reading the Foley books last month (both of which seemed to end with woman in danger type situations) I thought how tired I was of that. I think suspense plots sometimes seem to be just thrown in to fill out a page count. But in a sense this does lack closure - the drug lord is still out there, unless the feds can put him away. And he knows that Max is still alive.

Linda:   The four drug smugglers whom Max overheard during their island escape said there was a price on his head, but no one knew who he was. That's what made me think the drug lord would kidnap Lola and torture her to tell him who took her off the island when she disappeared. But, this is a minor quibble and could have been just me wearing my "mystery/suspense reader" hat.

I also liked the way that Max's childhood was described. It seemed to be a quite accurate portrayal of what it was like to be raised by an alcoholic parent and the scars that it left. Max is a wonderful hero and I believed his emotional growth.

The only other problem for me was how the couple got even with her ex-fiancee, but I guess poor Lola had exhausted all legal remedies with no help. Plus it fit Max's character that it wouldn't bother him to break the law for the right reason; after all that was his job for the government.

Blythe:  I'm often bothered by characters who pursue illegal activities; I rarely like a romance with a thief for a hero or heroine, because it takes a lot to convince me that taking something that doesn't belong to you is justified. In this case, I wasn't bothered at all by what they did. As you say, they tried everything else first, and the guy was a slime who deserved exactly what he got.

In any case, I also liked Max as a hero, and I think the conflict between them was believable. There is also a somewhat different resolution to their problems which I know some readers will really appreciate. Readers who are tired of books where the heroine does all the compromising might want to try this one.

Linda:   I thought the ending showed real emotional growth in Max, which made the happy ending believable. This is a couple I certainly wouldn't mind seeing again; because the drug lord is still out there, Gibson could conceivably write a sequel. I identified with Lola's always feeling like a "fish out of water" in her family too.

Blythe:  It's funny that you mention that, because her family reminded me of my husband's relatives on his dad's side, who happen to be from North Carolina. The family reunion definitely seemed familiar to me, and I think Gibson has a real knack for describing that type of situation.

In her short story in the Secrets of a Perfect Night anthology, the main characters are at a high school reunion, and I swear the people she describes seem like people I went to high school with. One small nitpicky thing about Lola not fitting in, I found it hard to believe that the same parents would name their daughters Lola and Natalie. They must have been expecting Lola to be the exotic one, I guess.

Linda:  Well, maybe Natalie was named after the glamorous Natalie Wood? I never expected to identify with, and like a "Victoria's Secret" model, but Gibson makes Lola a fully developed and sympathetic character. She's also very intelligent and I loved that she was running her own company. It was interesting to see how her brush with death changed Lola as well as Max. I also loved Baby Doll, Lola's dog, and watching Max bond with B.D. was hilarious. I have a small dog that loves to take on all comers, the bigger the better - but he is a real weenie when they take him up on his offer. <g>

Blythe:      Lola reminded me a little of Phoebe from SEP's It Had to be You; very feminine and flagrant in her sensuality, which is kind of tough for an author to carry off well, I think. You don't want your heroine to come across as wimpy or TSTL, or so exaggerated that she's a caricature - and I don't think Lola does. I'm not really a fan of small dogs myself (they always seem so yappy), but I did like Baby Doll and his Napoleon Complex.

Linda:   I hadn't made the connection, but Lola is a bit like Phoebe - both very likable women and both of them were bright but not perceived as such by those who didn't look beyond their physical "package."

I can see I need to dig the rest of Gibson's backlist out of my huge TBR pile where they've been languishing.

Blythe:  Well, I highly recommend Truly Madly Yours, as well as the story in the Secrets of a Perfect Night anthology (FWIW, the others are worth reading too - it's one of those rare anthologies where all the stories are worth the time). For me Lola would be a bit behind Truly as a favorite, but I did enjoy it, and I liked it more than Gibson's last two efforts, although It Must be Love wasn't bad either. Over all, Lola falls solidly in the B range for me.

Have fun with her backlist.

Linda:  Next month we are reading Kat Martin's contemporary romantic suspense Hot Rain. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Gibson.

Blythe:  I have only read one Martin book before (an historical), but I'm guessing that there will be a little more action and a little less humor. I guess I'll find out.

Happy reading!

Linda:   See you next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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