Review: Levelling the Score by Penny Jordan

Format: E-booklevelingthescore
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Simon Townsend
Heroine: Jenna
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 1, 1988
Started On: December 24, 2015
Finished On: December 24, 2015

Leveling the Score by Penny Jordan was recommended to me by KC on Goodreads. I had been hankering for short reads that would deliver on the romance and the angst, something that the older Harlequin novels are famous for. I had even resorted to reading some of my favorite re-reads, books that I keep on standby for occasions just like that, where I don’t want to venture into reading anything new, all because I want to indulge in a book that I know for certain would deliver exactly what I want.

Leveling the Score is a difficult novel to review. First published in 1988, this book proved to be highly readable even with all the problems I had with the story. I guess that alone tells the talent that authors like Penny Jordan wielded back in the day.

Jenna and Simon Townsend’s lives had always moved amongst the same circles when they had been younger. Simon being much older than Jenna had meant that even though Jenna crushed on him like no one before and since then, her feelings remained unreciprocated – or so she thinks. Fast forward a couple of years, and it is Susie, Jenna’s best friend and Simon’s younger sister that brings Simon back into Jenna’s life, a most unwelcome entrance if Jenna has anything to say about it.

When the story initially began, I was rooting for Jenna, without even knowing what Simon had done to her – believing it would be something deplorable like making fun of her feelings for him. But as the story progressed, I realized that whatever had taken place had happened only in the figment of Jenna’s imagination. Yes, Simon is sarcastic and a tad cruel at times, but I have read of heroes who are more cruel to their heroines in books, even books written by Penny Jordan herself.

In the end, I felt sorry for Simon. The story having never been told in Simon’s point of view meant that it was difficult to find where Simon was coming from. But, it was evident and clear as day to anyone who has a modicum of sense in them that Simon was completely into Jenna, something that Jenna in her clueless nature or I would rather say, in her attempt to be the “martyr” of her own making, refused to see. Because Simon’s thoughts weren’t part of the story, the reader needs to take his feelings for Jenna in a bit of a state of suspended disbelief. Most of the time, not having the hero’s point of view can be fun, extremely so if the heroine’s side tells of reactions on the hero’s part and if she doesn’t play the dumb card to get out of accepting what is right in front of her. Alas, the latter was the case in this story.

In the end, of course Simon and Jenna do get together, Jenna finally believing that Simon loves her and her alone. Like I said earlier, I waited to see what it is that Simon had done that was so wrong – apart from dating other girls when Jenna used to stay at their family home. I didn’t find it to be something unforgivable, all the more so because I just found Jenna to be outright silly.

Even with all those points of contention I had with Leveling the Score, it managed to deliver a story that delivered a good read.

Recommended for fans of old school Harlequin romances and fans of Penny Jordan.

Final Verdict: A heroine who gets on the nerves and a hero you try your damndest to figure out!

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Substitute Lover by Penny Jordan

Format: E-booksubstitutelover
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Gray Chalmers
Heroine: Stephanie Chalmers
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: August 1, 1988
Started On: November 29, 2015
Finished On: November 29, 2015

To think that I was barely six years old when Substitute Lover was initially published, and I am enjoying this book after so many years have passed since then, attests to the talent that authors like Penny Jordan wielded in the romance genre. Though Penny Jordan is no more, I read her older books with the fondest of memories, memories of how her books used to spin and weave magic for me, which made me want to read more of the same. My reading did move onto other circles, especially given the fact that most Harlequin titles of today just seem lackluster in comparison, few giving a reader their worth in money spent.

Substitute Lover tells the story of 28 year old Stephanie Chalmers, a widow going 10 years, who has to force herself to return to the place of her “wedded life”, a marriage that had done a number on the innocent and naive girl that Stephanie had been back then. The one thing that should calm her in the midst of the storm that is blazing to life inside of her at the mere thought of going back should be Gray Chalmers, the man who had stood by her all these years, pushed and prodded her to move on with her life, offering her the shoulder of friendship when she had needed it the most. What she doesn’t count on this time around is for her feelings towards Gray to turn towards murkier waters, surprising her by the ferocity of what strikes her, when she has an aversion to being touched by the opposite sex after the number her brief marriage had done on her.

Gray was done being patient, standing on the sidelines and watching Stephanie remove herself from even the possibility of a shared life with another. Thus brings about the charade about Gray needing Stephanie to ward off the unwanted attentions of another woman, a task to which Stephanie takes to all too well, leaving her floundering in the wake of the emotions that being up close and personal with Gray brings about.

Substitute Lover is a novel that was full of the angst of the kind that I love and revel in. I treasure old Harlequin titles for this reason. Even though miscommunication and sheer stubbornness on the hero or heroin’s part to see the truth is not what I am talking about, there is a certain kind of lure to the kind of angst some of these books deliver and Substitute Lover managed to deliver just the right touch of it. The agony that Gray himself goes through to keep his end of the bargain, the scars and horrors of the past that Stephanie has to deal with to move on were the reasons the pages kept turning into the wee hours of the night.

Stephanie’s short lived marriage is the kind of stuff nightmares are made of. To think that she had suffered through it all alone, blaming herself for failing to be the woman her husband had required her to be was one that struck an emotional chord deep within me. Gray’s pain and the secret he has held on for so long made the story that much more delicious and I loved every single moment of this wonderful story. Reading and revisiting books by an author who made me fall in love with a genre I continue to read 15 years on is my way of giving tribute to someone who has illuminated the world of so many romance readers with the wonderful hues of bright and colorful lights of lust, angst & ever lasting love. 

Final Verdict: Penny Jordan definitely knows how to deliver on the angst. Recommended!

Favorite Quotes

A thrill of some dangerous and alien emotion raced through her. Without being aware of the provocation of what she was doing she touched her tongue-tip tentatively to the dry outline of her lips.
Someone shuddered. Herself, or Gray ? She looked up at him, and trembled beneath the expression in his eyes.
‘Do that again and I won’t be responsible for what happens next,’ he warned her in a curiously rusty, hoarse voice, that trapped her attention, focusing it on the shape of his mouth.

‘I want to see what you’re feeling when I kiss you.’
Gray. No . . . don’t…’ She struggled to free herself, squirming against the almost painful hardness of his body, until she realised the effect her frantic movements were having on him.
He watched the hot colour scorch her skin with cynical detachment, demanding acidly, ‘You’re not that naive, surely, Stephanie. Rub yourself against any normal man like that and you’d get exactly the same response.’
When her embarrassed colour deepened he smiled sardonically and bent his head to her ear and mouthed softly, ‘I’m a man, Stephanie, and not a machine, and what you’re doing to my body right now is driving me right out of my mind.’

Quite when her lips parted to the subtle persuasion of his tongue she didn’t know.
It seemed as though one moment he was kissing her as though he was comforting a hurt child and the next the touch of his mouth had aroused such a storm of passion within her that she was clinging helplessly to him, responding to every passionate movement of his mouth against her own with a responsiveness that her conscious mind could only observe with awe and disbelief.
His robe had come open and her breasts were pressed against his chest, only the thin cotton of her nightdress between them.
His hands moulded her body, caressing her back, his touch making her spine arch, making her …

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: Escape from Desire by Penny Jordan

Format: E-bookescapefromdesire
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: Zachary Fletcher
Heroine: Tamara Forbes
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 1, 1983
Started On: July 8, 2013
Finished On: July 8, 2013

Zachary Fletcher is a man of privileged upbringing who had found his calling in serving the army. Aloof, ruthless and cynical, Zach is a man not to be crossed.

Tamara Forbes is 26 years old and engaged to marry the man who she thinks would serve her interests the best, though misgivings and doubts continue to plague her about their suitability as the date draws nearer.

Tamara and Zach’s paths cross when both end up taking a vacation in the Caribbean at the same time. Zach is recuperating while for Tamara its a vacation long overdue. When both of them are held hostage by a terrorist organisation after a hiking trip that goes awry, Tamara must put her trust in a man who is far too masculine, appealing and ruthless on her senses and for her peace of mind. By the time they make it back to civilisation, nothing remains the same.

Escape from Desire has a contemporary setting and takes place in both the Caribbean and London. Story is narrated from only Tamara’s perspective in third person.

I admit I’m someone who likes a whole lot of conflict and angst in my romances, not the type that makes me want to pull my hair out mind you, but the kind that makes you want to swoon into a puddle of dreaminess when all’s said and done.

I like revisiting the Harlequin romances for a reason. They were practically my first  source of adult romances and some of the authors such as Penny Jordan shaped my love for ruthless heroes and the women who fall for them with no way of turning back. And thats exactly what I was looking for when I picked this up to read and exactly what it delivered as well.

Tamara is naive, inexperienced and a bit of a reserved character; not surprising given the way she was brought up. Tamara appears standoffish to a lot of people and that starts chipping away the minute she encounters the enigmatic Zach who makes her instinctively take a step back because even with all her inexperience, she knows that Zach would be dangerous a man to play with.

I sometimes think that perhaps the reason why I am drawn towards heroes who can practically be called assholes is because real life tends to deliver alpha heroes of that variety. But once they fall, and boy do they fall; they are smitten to the point of obsession and displays of possessiveness & jealousy that I absolutely love. And Zach certainly was no exception to the rule. There were moments I wanted to slap him, and then there were moments I wanted to say ‘A-ha’ and sit back and watch with glee as he tried to wrestle with his feelings for Tamara. Though I’d have loved a bit more of the story to have been set in the Caribbean, this still turned out to be a captivating read that I finished in one sitting!

Recommended for fans of older Harlequin romances, fans of ruthless, mean, jealous and possessive heroes and fans of Penny Jordan. Its a testament to her impressive talent that even her earliest novels still holds appeal today.

Final Verdict: Angst-ridden goodness!

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber SEAL: GREAT READ!

Review: Best Man to Wed? by Penny Jordan

Format: E-book
Read with: Kindle for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Bride’s Bouquet, Book 2
Publisher: Harlequin
Hero: James Carlton
Heroine: Poppy Carlton
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: May 1, 1997
Started On: June 13, 2011
Finished On: June 13, 2011

I can almost always count on a good old Harlequin novel to take me on an emotional rollercoaster ride from which I wouldn’t want to get off. Penny Jordan is a favorite Harlequin author of mine and I am sure many fans of the Harlequin line are bound to feel the same. Though I have done most of my Harlequin crazed phase of reading prior to the start of my review site, this is one novel by Penny Jordan that I seemed to have missed, a fact I am glad that I have rectified when I started on this one on a whim today.

22 year old Poppy Carlton has had her dreams crushed when her cousin Chris Carlton who has been the man of her dreams since she had turned 12 years of age marries another. Forced to grow up and get her head out of the clouds, Poppy is horrified when her virginal body responds in an appalling manner to James Carlton’s caresses. James is her beloved Chris’s elder brother, the forbidding and formidable version to the sunny and easy going nature of Chris who occupies her thoughts night and day – or so Poppy tries telling herself.

8 years older than Poppy, James is a man who keeps his emotions close to himself apart from tearing into Poppy’s infatuation when it comes to his younger brother. When consequences of their nights of passion together forces Poppy to acknowledge her feelings towards the brother who is a match for her in everyway, Poppy fears that she might be just a little bit too late in accepting that James is the one and only for her.

I love stories where the hero has always being in love with the heroine but somehow was overshadowed by the heroine’s infatuation with another man presumably a relative of the hero’s. James is a mouthwateringly alluring hero and Poppy though at first grated on my nerves with her self pitying nature made up for it beautifully when she freely expresses her need for James bringing the poor guy to his knees.

And this one certainly managed to be an emotion wrenching read and I loved the effect the story had on my emotions as I read along. Though this might not be a feminist’s idea of how a romance should be, this is romance in its most old-fashioned form, the reason why I fell in love with the world of romance in the first place. Recommended for fans of the Harlequin genre and fans of Penny Jordan.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble | BooksOnBoard | Harlequin

[xrr rating=4/5]

Caliber Seal: GREAT READ!