Monday, February 18, 2008

The Fight Continues

Lori Foster releases her newest SBC Fighter's book: Hard to Handle.

Harley Handleman is off at his yearly cabin retreat, nursing his wounds and pondering his constant head-butting with fate. Anastasia Bradley is his landlady who is a recent magnet for dangerous run-ins with colliding cars, slick icy roads, and goons with guns. Oh, and there's an attraction between the two that cannot be denied.

The third installment of Foster's series is much in line with the previous two. Major characters from the other two books make a strong appearance in this book and Foster has taken the word 'sequel' quite literally. This series has characters that definitely trickle down from the top to the newest novel. Much like the first one where we dealt with Dean and his friend Gregor and their troubles with their own women, Harvey and his friend Barber will find their own happy endings. In my opinion, though labeled about fighting, these books are about strong men who have gentle dispositions that are ready to fight with their fists for both their profession and their dignity or in defense of their women. This story does not escape the path of the others and the plot deals with a bad guy out there who has it in his head to maim the heroine. 

However, this novel didn't hit the emotional depths like Causing Havoc did, and that book wasn't all that deep either. While the side story of Barber and Jasmine served as comic relief, it was done way too late in the story and resolved itself amazingly quickly. With Causing Havoc, while Gregor was the supporting character, the reader felt for him and Jacki even when Gregor makes the mistake of taking in her good looks and accidently makes a quick assumption about her personality and past. 

Another roadblock for Hard to Handle in becoming as good as the others was the main relationship of Stasia and Harvey. He's all about control and that constantly gets in the way. Written as a character flaw of sorts, while the reader can understand how Harvey is letting his need for control, control everything else, it's hard to really blame him, and therefore, hard to see it as a fault. The constant touching on the topic of him having an affection for light bondage was repetitive and did not really resolve itself. Stasia's constant refusal was also redundant and was not done with an effective pen. It was as if Foster didn't have much in mind for these two and had to stretch out what she had to bulk up the paltry pages. 

Overall, while enjoyable, this was not the best Foster. It was not on par with what's to be expected of this wonderful author. It seems that her name has become too big and the publishers are demanding too much too soon. She doesn't have time to cultivate her plots and characters. 

2.5 out of 5: Fun, quick read but no real emotions evolved. Sex was formulaic and uninventive in terms of the scene itself and the emotions shared between characters. Plot did not have enough steam to make the reader care beyond just reaching the last page. Will keep copy because it adds to the collection of the previous two but definitely not a re-read copy.

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