Pandora's Box

Every Breath You Take

Judith McNaught
2005, Contemporary Romance
Ballantine, $25.95, 334 pages, Amazon ASIN 0345479904

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Kate Donovan is still dealing with grief over the loss of her father when she heads to St. Maarten with her long-time boyfriend, Evan. Evan soon has to return to Chicago to work on a case, and he leaves Kate alone on the island.

Mitchell Wyatt has only recently learned that he is the illegitimate son of one the wealthy Chicago Wyatts. Already wealthy in his own right, Mitchell isn't sure he wants any part of his new family. When he goes to St. Maarten to check on a house he's building, his path crosses with Kate's. She accidentally ruins his shirt with a Bloody Mary, and agrees to treat him to dinner to make up for it. The evening doesn't go quite as planned; they end up rescuing a stray dog and ordering room service in. Over the next few days, they talk and share, and both of them believe that they have a real relationship.

When Evan returns to St. Maarten, Kate goes to tell him about her relationship with Mitchell. Things go badly, though, and both Mitchell and Kate end up thinking the worst of each other. When Kate returns to Chicago, she discovers that her brief relationship resulted in some long term consequences. Eventually, they will have to work out all the misunderstandings that have come between them.

Blythe:  Well, Linda, I have been anxiously awaiting your take on the McNaught book this month. I believe you are an extreme rarity; a voracious romance reader of many years, and a McNaught virgin, until now. When I first started reading romance (about twelve years ago now) McNaught was one of the first authors I discovered after coming online. I've enjoyed many of her books, and a few are DIKs for me. As for this one in particular, I really enjoyed it (and stayed up half the night reading, in fact), but it wasn't quite A-level. Still a solidly enjoyable read, though. What did you think?

Linda:  I would have graded the first 1/2 of the novel an A or B+. At that point I thought to myself, "Lord, why haven't I tried her before?" I compared her to my "sainted" favorite, Jayne Ann Krentz, but in the second half she slipped into D territory and reminded me of the worst of Diana Palmer.

Blythe:  Well, yeah...the second half was not as good. So does that average out to a C for you?

Linda:  Yes, but the first half was soooo good I would make it a C+ and I am definitely willing to read her again.

Blythe:  It's interesting that you would compare her to Diana Palmer, because I can't help but agree with that, at least a little. In some ways, McNaught is a guilty pleasure for me. Her characters are always rich. Well, if they don't start out rich, then they sure end up that way. And she is a master of the Big Misunderstanding. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In this case, I pretty much bought into it. The characters treat each other like crap while they are busy misunderstanding each other, but I knew they'd figure it all out in the end, so I pretty much just found them funny during their nasty period.

Linda:  Well as you know, I hate Big Misunderstandings. And not only did McNaught use the Big Misunderstanding, she utilized two more of my least favorite plot devices, one of which is the Big Separation. I can't name the second because it's too much of a spoiler to reveal. Let's just say that I found something Kate did to be unforgivable.

Blythe:  Yeah, I know. Why did she do it? It was kind of dumb, but for some reason I didn't even care. My reaction was probably similar to yours when what's his name (Lucky? Sparky? Cowboy?) throws the cake at the heroine in the Diana Palmer book. I think sometimes we can give favorite authors a little bit of a free pass on some things because we know they will make up for it later. I think I was already anticipating their tearful reunion while all this was going on. But one of the reasons this was not as much of a hit for me as some of McNaught's others is that I wanted more of that tearful reunion. The ending, when they finally got together and all was revealed, was just too short for me.

Linda:  Yes, I completely agree the payoff was not what I had expected. In this case, Palmer would have had the female groveling and they wouldn't have just kind of "drifted" back together. Callaghan is the hero who threw the birthday cake, but my reaction to that was that it was poignant, not violent. I must say though that Mitchell's payback to Evan for all the misery he caused was in the finest mode of a Palmeresque hero.

Blythe:  Why did I think his name was Lucky? I think I had melded him together with one of Sandra Brown's heroes. And yes, McNaught's heroes are not above a little petty revenge. Years ago I remember a message board discussion where one reader said she read McNaught for "the heartbreak." I could totally see her point, because I really don't think anyone does heartbreak quite like McNaught. Now, in the process, you are often going to have to put up with some serious misunderstandings, some of them believable and some of them not so much. But it's often worth it. In one of McNaught's historicals, the hero believes that the heroine has died, and he's completely destroyed by it. It's the type of heartbreak you can really wallow in. Every Breath You Take has a bit of that - there are moments when you are feeling terrible for both Mitchell and Kate, because you know they are in love but just missing the boat a bit. However, I think McNaught's heartbreak masterpiece has to be Paradise. It has a misunderstanding to end all misunderstandings, and it's believable because there's a villain involved. Actually, the hero and heroine, Matt and Meredith Bancroft, are friends of Mitchell in this book. Anyway, Matt and Meredith marry young, when she finds out she's pregnant. Meredith's father drives them apart, stealing letters and telling Matt that Meredith has had an abortion when actually she's had a devastating miscarriage. When they finally get together years later, the scene is so gut-wrenching and romantic. It's one of my favorites in all of romance. One of my favorite things about this book was seeing Matt and Meredith again - however briefly.

Linda:  I wondered if there wasn't a backstory for Matt and Meredith from what Meredith told Kate. Perhaps the misunderstanding would have worked better here if Evan appeared more and was more of a villain early in the book. But, the big difference between Palmer and McNaught and JAK is that the couples in JAK books trust each other and if they have a misunderstanding they confront each other. Frankly, I prefer JAK's approach and for the first half of the book I was expecting the same from Mitchell and Kate. It was frankly disappointing to me that two rational extremely intelligent people would behave like a pair of dunderheads. In this day and age it is extremely irresponsible for a woman to behave as Kate did - when she realized he was waiting on the pier it sealed the deal for me - and particularly cruel given her understanding of his background. Mitchell had a right to be a lot meaner then he was when he discovered Kate's perfidy.

Blythe:  Evan does seem pretty nice at first - I almost felt sorry for him, until he turned out to be a real jerk later on. Many, if not most romance Big Misunderstandings can be solved with a five minute conversation, and sometimes they almost just scream "PLOT DEVICE." In this case, Kate's fiance finally comes back to St. Maarten, and she goes off to meet him to "straighten everything out." I knew as soon as Kate left that the big mis was about to rear its ugly head. However, I did find it believable, at least at first. I could see how they both misunderstood the other's actions. But yes, when she discovered that he was waiting at that pier, the time for the five minute conversation had probably arrived. That said, I would love for you to read Paradise and tell me what you think. There's another secondary couple in EBYT with their own story (as you probably guessed). Zach, whose boat Mitchell stays on, is the hero of Perfect. That book is a great favorite of many (and was DIK'd by Nora Armstrong, if I'm not mistaken), but it was a bit of a miss for me.

Linda:  Yes, I too was afraid the Big Mis would occur when he got the call to go to Chicago and of course all of this could have been averted with that 5 minute conversation - but I do think there must be people out there who love Big Mis stories and would thus like this book better then I. But that said, I loved Kate and Mitchell and was rooting for them from the get go, in fact I think that was why I was so disappointed when they separated for three years. I guess for me, I would have liked the mystery to take a greater part in the book and had them go back to Chicago and work together to solve the murder of Mitchell's brother. The mystery set up was great, but then the denouement was sooo obvious and in the case of Mitchell's father even off hand in it's solution. But, there is much here to like and I would definitely recommend this book to others.

Blythe:  I think most McNaught fans will enjoy it as a comfort read, though it's not to the level of her best. It's also not her worst; that would be Tender Triumph (an example of an overly controlling hero on the rampage). Like you, I liked both Mitchell and Kate. I did like that their separation gave her the chance to get her father's restaurant going and really make it her own. She used her opportunities to her advantage, sucked it up, and did well for herself. I wondered, though, that Mitchell never learned about what Kate did, particularly when McNaught paints Chicago society as fairly close knit. Also, I pretty much always have issues with McNaught's character's fashion choices. Their outfits always sound too old for them to me. In this book it was the hero's black polo shirt ensemble and the heroine's water lily outfit, which sounded to me like something my mother in law (and not someone under forty) would wear. But again, it's something I can overlook.

Linda:  Yes, I thought the water lily outfit sounded like a 60's retro kind of thing - but it was presented as being au courant. I guess when it comes to these Big Mis type storylines one is not supposed to look too closely at them. One would have thought that the photo of Kate in the newspaper would have alerted Mitchell's friends and relatives?? I also wondered what would happen to the restaurant after the end of the book? LOL, one isn't supposed to analyze these stories too much I guess. I also wondered if there will be a story about Kate's roommate - I rather liked her with his bodyguard, who was an interesting character too.

Blythe:  I also thought Kate's roommate was fun. Maybe she will show up in the future. Like many romance authors, McNaught has several inter-related stories. Discussing this one has really made me wish you had read all of her other books, so we could talk about them too. Whitney, My Love alone is probably good for three hours discussion.

Well, what's up for next month?

Linda:  We are going to read Brenda Joyce's Deadly Kisses, which is part of her Francesca Cahill detective series. I have several of these on the shelf, but haven't read them - so thought we could give her a try.

Blythe:  I read the first Francesca Cahill book and didn't like it much, but that was some time ago. Maybe the author has fine-tuned a little in the interim.

Linda:  Well we can always hope. <g> Seriously, Pandora has introduced me to a number of authors that I have enjoyed and a few have even become auto-buys. I would definitely try McNaught again and may have to dig into that backlist that you love. Meanwhile, tonight I have a real treat for myself on the top of the tbr: JAK's All Night Long, and from the jacket blurb, I have high hopes for this one. Happy Reading!

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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