I have this on-again, off-again relationship with Linda Howard's books. Her writing ticks all my boxes (no bad pun intended and if there was, what's with the plural?). It makes me go OhhHHhh in all the right places and once I begin reading one of her books I have trouble putting it down until the end, sleep be damned.
Aaaand then I start thinking about my VIEWS on sexual politics and gender. That's about the time I back away whistling, hands in pockets, trying my best to channel a seventies Robert De Niro leaving a mob hit. The problem here is not only that my jeans are too tight for the nonchalant hands in pocket thing. The main problem is that I can't get away from the fact I genuinely enjoy Howard's books.
I know she's old-school and yes, über alpha male characters who were a little bit rapey were considered to be just fine in the eighties and nineties (even though they're seen as a little squicky these days). And yes, now all that alphaness has just been transferred over to consensual SM erotica, because that's what readers were probably looking for in the first place. But still... she went through this phase in the nineties where her heroes were so alpha it was a wonder their noses didn't run with pure essence of testosterone.
ANYWAY. If you like an asshole-redeemed (sort-of-ish) hero and a find-her-backbone-behind-the-couch heroine, Howard's late nineties work is the reading stuff for you and Shades of Twilight is the place to start.
The book is essentially an unrequited love story with a murder thrown in. It's set in Alabama and revolves around an orphan, Roanna Davenport, and the heir to the family empire, Webb Talent, who just happens to be the husband of Roanna's cousin, Jessie. (All very incestuous but not-quite.) They all live in an old plantation house presided over by their Chanel-misted grandma, the matriarch of the family.
Roanna's always loved Webb. Webb is in an unhappy marriage with Jessie. Roanna makes a move on Webb the same day Jessie is murdered (gasp). Everyone's a suspect, particularly Webb, but there's not enough evidence to charge him. He storms off in a hissy fit to start a ranch somewhere, leaving Roanna to look after the family fortune.
Snap forward a bunch of years and Roanna goes to get him back. The Chanel-spritzed grandma is dying and unbeknownst to our hero and heroine, matchmaking. Oh, and there's still a killer prowling around with a predilection for bludgeoning people with blunt objects.
I don't need to tell you the rest but lets just say that Shades of Twilight has all the attraction of a well-done Dynasty episode with hot sex. In fact, this is the kind of book I could see an eighties Joan Collins frolicking about in being delightfully wicked and well dressed. Actually, the book's a lot like Joan. It knows exactly what it is and revels in it. If you like that kind of thing, give it a read.
As for me, I really should back away for good one of these days but... nah. Anything this much of a guilty pleasure is worth keeping on the shelf.