A Lover's Vow (The Grangers #3) by Brenda Jackson
Brenda Jackson’s A Lover’s Vow is the third book of the Granger series - following the three sons of the wealthy and powerful Granger family.
A Lover’s Vow revolves most centrally around Dalton and the woman he (allegedly) despises more than anything - his new sister-in-law’s sister, Jules. Unbeknownst to their respective families, the two have a past. Once upon a time, you see, Dalton hit on Jules at a club, and was rebuffed. When he pursued her, intent upon making his cause known, he was rebuffed again. Scandal! Anarchy! How dare a woman leave Dalton Granger - rich, handsome, catch-of-the-year Dalton Grange - with his pants fully zippered and nowhere near his ankles!? What fresh madness is this, when a woman doesn’t elect to have sex with a man just because he asked her to? Next thing, they’ll be wanting to read, and wear trousers on public transportation on a Sunday. Unacceptable.
I realize that this sounds a touch pedantic, but it really sort of ruins the whole novel. The whole source of their tension is that Jules rejected Dalton once, and his response is “UNACCEPTABLE. I MUST BONE YOU. NO ONE REJECTS DALTON GRANGER.” That, first and foremost, is just not an okay way for a guy to behave. I don’t care how great you think your chemistry is, or how great her boobs look tonight. If a lady repeatedly, unequivocally tells you that she has no interest in a round of pelvic tango, the correct response is to accept that and move on. Even if you’re handsome. Even if - and I know, this sounds crazy - but even if you’re rich. Just walk away, Dalton Grangers of the world. Just. Walk. Away.
More damning than Dalton’s fuzzy grasp of consent, though, was that the relationship didn’t evolve clearly or sympathetically enough for me to forgive all the creepiness. I understand that novelists stumble sometimes when trying to come up with a good reason for their hero and heroine to stay separated. It’s difficult to toe a line between convincing the reader that there’s a true obstacle there and not having one (or both) of them seem like an absolute failure of a human being. If you absolutely have to make your hero a misogynistic, controlling dick to keep your characters apart, though (and you really shouldn’t have to) then the romance that brings them together had better be believable. Unfortunately, though, there’s never any point at which you’re made to understand why Dalton and Jules actually fall in love. Sure, there’s a lot of sex. It’s even, apparently, totally mind blowing, crazy-pants sex. But that’s all it is. Dalton’s attempts at romance are just controlling, like the abrupt pronouncement that he won’t allow another man to touch Jules ever again. I don’t mean to repeat myself, but that is not an okay way to treat a woman. Even if she has, like, just the best boobs you’ve ever played with.
All of that being said, Jules herself isn’t exactly endearing. Again, I can see what Jackson was going for with her character; the world-weary, cynical former cop who just doesn’t believe in love, etc. It’s pretty standard. Jackson conveys this, though, by having Jules be openly irritated that her widowed father has found love again in-between bouts of being generally dismissive of the lovey-dovey couples she’s surrounded by. (This is somewhat forgivable, though, in light of the fact that these couples are just disgustingly, wretchedly in love. I read romance novels all the time, and I was still put off by the overall “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” vibe given off by literally every single side character. The sheer number of lingering, understanding lover’s looks was enough to fill an entire season of your average telonovela; although it’s possible they only seemed overly sentimental in contrast to our two rather wooden leads.)
The sex scenes were pretty good, if you aren’t bothered by, or can skim past, all the scenes where Jules says “don’t put your tongue down my throat,” and Dalton responds with “I’m sorry, I can’t respond to that right now, my tongue is in your throat.” The action is pretty steamy, thankfully, and is fairly well-written to boot. Hooray for pelvic tango!
Overall, it’s difficult to separate the rest of the novel from the leads. After all, this is romance; without that central, defining relationship, there’s not much to hold the story together. The general plot is a murder mystery of sorts - who killed Sylvia Granger, and who is sabotaging Granger Aeronautics? It’s fairly engaging, but if you’re after a sexy mystery romance, there are plenty of other novels out there that do a better job, in my opinion. Jackson is certainly a talented novelist, and I think that A Lover’s Vow is a rare misstep for her.