3.5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – A Coral Kiss by Jayne Ann Krentz

A Coral Kiss

With twenty-two New York Times bestsellers and millions of readers, Jayne Ann Krentz is one of the most popular romance superstars of our time. Now treat yourself to her deft and incomparable brand of riveting and sexy suspense in her classic tale of a woman, a man, and destiny’s many unexpected twists.

Successful author Amy Slater had a life in need of mending. And Jed Glaze proved to be the right man for the job after the pair hit it off as fabulously good friends. Then one day Jed shows up with a mysterious injury of his own—and suddenly dark, confounding, yet utterly irresistible Jed becomes a lot more than “just a friend”.

Now it’s a time for not only mutual healing and delightfully sensuous nights but for sharing secrets that could prove a little dangerous for them both. On a jaunt to a Pacific island paradise, Amy and Jed will unearth the key to the unsolved murder that has haunted Amy’s nights—and discover how surprisingly and exquisitely fated two seemingly mismatched hearts can be.

Yeah, so reading Secret Sisters prompted a re-read. Luckily it’s available on Openlibrary so I have a good excuse for reviewing it here. (Why I need an excuse, I don’t know. I mean, it’s my blog, I can review what I want. But I never said I wasn’t neurotic.)

In any event, my usual Openlibraryu disclaimer applies, if you’re checking out the book from OpenLibrary, then you need to check out the PDF…unless you enjoy playing the bad OCR game. I can’t verify the quality of the scan because I’m reading my personal copy, but most of the time they do a good job.

Basically, I re-read this specifically because when I was reading Secret Sisters this was one of the books that came to mind when I was thinking “Wait this isn’t any darker, grittier, or edgier than…“. And I remembered liking it. So bear with me, because there are going to be comparisons between the two books. I can neither guarantee that if you haven’t read either book you’ll either understand the review or not be spoiled. I’ll try to be clear, that is kind of the point. And I’ll try not to spoil people. But no promises, feel free to step off the crazy train if needed. Also, I always have a bad habit of not referring to characters by name, and that is much more likely to be irritating here when I am actually talking about two or three sets of characters, mea culpa.

The first thing I noticed was how much more comfortable the dialogue felt in this older novel. That could be due to a couple of reasons. One, it could be due to the fact that I have read this before, maybe it feels more comfortable because I am more familiar with it. Or two, it could be because these characters already have backstory, which then the other component may be that it was a purposeful stylistic choice she made in the newer novel in deference to the fact that they don’t have as much backstory.

The second thing I noticed was how much more of the focus was on the characters and their thoughts and feelings in the older novel, compared to a greater focus on events and dialogue in the newer novel. I agree with Krentz’s assessment that the focus IS different in her latest novel. The older is more romance with suspense whereas the newer is more suspense with romance. Let me try that again. The older novel, the main focus is on the relationship, and while there is significant suspense and mystery, much of it is couched in how it affects the characters, their perceptions of each other, and their relationship. The newer book is more about the mystery and the twists and turns, and the relationship is more along for the ride, it wasn’t that is was merely appended, but that their relationship wasn’t the lens through which we viewed the mystery.

There are significant similarities between the two books though. For instance, both heroes are super masculine, highly capable, associatied with governmental investigations that give them negative views of the world, AND they each have one softening feature that leavens their character and that they rely on to ease the stresses of their lives. The newer book utilizes cooking while the latter has the hero make fancy bird cages as a hobby. Of course the older book the dialogue seems a little snappier and makes me giggle snort rather than it feeling defensive.

“When I decide to get an agent, I’ll consult you. In the meantime, no more sneaking around behind my back buying birdcages without my permission, understand?”

I don’t know, it just made me laugh.

As for our two heroines, they both have had traumatic pasts that impact their lives. I suppose one could say that having terrible events happen in childhood, as Secret Sisters does, makes it darker, but that isn’t my perspective. The thing that strikes me though, is how much more agency the character in A Coral Kiss had, she does creates action she does effect (or affect) the outcomes. The heroine in Secret Sisters has things happen to her and around her, but she does comparatively little to shift the events of the narrative. So while the more current heroine is nominally written more feminist, it seems more surface and window dressing. And the heroine in the older novel is written much more feminine and nurturing outwardly, but that again is more surface when underneath it all I’d say the older heroine is actually the stronger character, in this respect. It is an interesting dichotomy.

But here’s something remarkably, I don’t know, “meta” from A Coral Kiss. The heroine is a writer and the hero is thinking about her book.

“The tone had seemed darker than the others, not as adventurous and lighthearted in its dealing with the perils faced by the hero and heroine. In a way it had been a better book, richer in detail and characterization, but there had been an uneasy edge to it that set it apart from the others.”

How’s that for some sort of cosmic sign that I picked the right book to compare Secret Sisters to?

Things were going asking swimmingly, and I came to a screeching halt. How did I not notice this when I read it previously? How did I not remember it? The heroine slaps the hero because she’s pissed at him. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t mind the somehow dated sex scenes and dated man/woman interactions, but that’s almost a deal breaker. I guess my perspectives have changed, which in this case is all too the good. So I reminded myself this thing was published in 1987, so almost 30 years ago, a lifetime in the publishing industry, and was on my merry way.

In any event, bottom line, I disagree that there is anything darker in the new one. I think this is classic Krentz, the sort of thing she does so well, maybe with more emphasis on the suspense, but the overall bones are the same.

A Coral Kiss

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