A fabulous lost Amazon city once inhabited by women warriors and containing a rare red diamond: it sounded like myth, but archaeologist Jillian Sherwood believed it was real, and she was willing to put up with anything to find it — even Ben Lewis. Ruffian, knock-about, and number one river guide in Brazil, Ben was all man — over six feet of rock-hard muscles that rippled under his khakis, with lazy blue eyes that taunted her from his tanned face. Jillian watched him come to a fast boil when she refused to reveal their exact destination upriver in the uncharted rain forests — and resolved to stand her ground. Neither of them could foresee what the days ahead promised: an odyssey into the fiery heart of passion and betrayal, and a danger that would force them to cast their fates together, immersed in the eternal, unsolved mysteries of love….
River of Eden made me do it. I couldn’t not go back and read this after reading that. I’ve re-read this probably a ridiculous number of times. And besides being an old favorite, it goes into two special blog categories: Openlibrary (read legally for free-just get the pdf not the epub unless you like to play the bad OCR game) and Shame Files. As I said before, the Shame Files category isn’t really meant for being ashamed of reading it, but somehow I have lingering shame about recommending them. Maybe because I fear how others will judge me?
There really isn’t non-consent here, it is more that if I look at it objectively I think I SHOULD find Ben Lewis skeevy as hell, but I could just eat him up with chocolate sauce. And there is a problematical power differential with him leading the expedition and taking some advantage of his power in this situation. He’s certainly a character who is a product of his times, 1993 which is practically medieval in Romancelandia time lines. I mean he embodies so many of the traits that completely skeeve me out about old school womanizing alpha male heroes. Seriously, we first meet him when he’s drinking and setting up a rendezvous with his evening entertainment. And despite that, when he first meets out heroine he comes on to her and is ridiculously dismissive of her as a human being. And as they travel together he is pushy, and touchy, and lies about their relationship to the others in their party. Just a big old skeeveball.
But he is also a hard worker, he is smart and crafty, and very protective-and once they get going he really isn’t dismissive of Jillian’s skills at all. It doesn’t take him very long to start seeing her as a capable person. And when the shit hits the fan, his eyes really get opened to how he sees her.
For Jillian’s part, she’s smart, a real fire-brand, and she takes no shit off Ben. She’s also sneaky and sarcastic and perfectly willing to let Ben lead himself into muddy waters. Their banter is hilarious because Ben keeps making assumptions. I like her. She isn’t perfect, she is single minded to the point of stupidity at times, but you get her reasons. And she has a very practical sort of attitude.
As for the story itself, it is straight up romantic suspense, no paranormal elements at all.
And when we get to the end, instead of Jillian changing for him, when she realizes that their goals don’t sync up, she straight up leaves him. She cuts her losses. And Ben, rather than trying to push, or cajole, or do something underhanded realizes that he wants her as she is more than he wants the other thing, and so he gives it up in a wonderfully extravagant romantic gesture. Jillian didn’t try to change him or ask him to change, she just drew her line in the sand and that was that. I can get behind that sort of relationship shake-up. And when you add this to the fact their relationship didn’t turn sexual until the group power dynamic was essentially resolved, well it gives me (personally, YMMV) a guilt free foray into dominant old skool alpha-hole that I can live with.
Justification? I don’t know. But it was the heroine and her actions and reactions that made it work for me. If she had been a mealy mouth doormat then I don’t think I would have been comfortable with it. In any event, if you are looking for some old skool type alpha-hole hero to dig into, this might be one to try.