Fever by Charlotte Lamb
!!!Huge Big Misunderstandings!!!
The Heroine: Sara Nichols is a twenty-four-year-old artist in London, who makes an okay living painting pretty pictures of landscapes for bored, rich white people to put up on the walls of their country manors. She lives with her more well-known and successful step-brother Greg Halliday, with whom she was raised, and they've taken care of each other for years and love each other as true siblings. Sara is a very outgoing city-girl who likes to attend art exhibits, chat up all sorts of people, and have a gay, old time just as a young attractive Londonite should have every right to do.
The Hero: Nick Rawdon is a few years older than Sara, runs in more sophisticated circles, richer than he knows what to do with, and a good-looking devil to boot. He can also usually get whatever he wants (and that includes the laaaadies) with the snap of his fingers, but for some reason, that's not happening with Sara Nichols. Nick encounters Sara at an art exhibit one evening, and from the moment he lays his eyes on her, he is hooked. Unfortunately, Sara practically dismisses him that night and barely pays attention to him when they are introduced because she is so wrapped up with this Greg Halliday, a drunken sot of an artist, but in the brief moment Nick clashed with Sara, he knew he wanted her and would do anything to get her hands on her.
The Plot: Sara is sooooo not into Nick Rawdon. Okay, she is, but he's so mean and rude and kind of a dick and also kind of rapey (this was published in 1979, you guys). Like, the day after the art exhibit, he finds out where she lives, and just drops by in her backyard. Hello, stalker?! So naturally, Sara is wigged out by this because she's a normal person ("Umm...you're that super intense guy from last night? I kind of blew you off because you were all Grabby McGrabberpants and now you're in my yard. I am beyond charmed!"). He asks her all sorts of personal questions that are kind of accusatory and would probably be unsafe for a woman to answer from a stranger, so Sara admits that she lives with Greg and leaves it at that because she doesn't feel like she has to justify her life or her actions to this very rude and very intimidating man who just showed up unannounced at her doorstep with already preconceived notions about artists and their bohemian lifestyles, anyway! She also doesn't mention that Greg is hopelessly in love with a very good friend of hers whose wheelchair-bound husband has a degenerative disease and could die at any moment because honestly--why would should she?! Nick Rawdon already thinks she's a dirty bohemian trollop living in sin with her stepbrother and thus deserves every sexual harassment that comes her way.
Also, on the night of the exhibit, Sara was especially watchful of Greg because he was mooning over her friend Lucy and tended to get drunk when he was in such a mood. Since they were in an event where Greg could potentially meet new patrons, Sara couldn't allow him to get drunk and make a fool of himself. But why would she have to explain that Mr. Daddy Big Bucks Rawdon? She didn't owe him tiddlywinks.
Of course they meet again at another party and this time, Big Dick Nick decides to go on full seduction mode and won't take no for an answer. In full anticipation of this, Sara tells Greg she basically told Nick that they are more than roommates but also loooovers, so if he could stay around and play referee, that would be great. Greg is none too happy to do this, but he cares about Sara and he's heard about this Nick dude who's supposed to be a well-known heartbreaking playboy. Not that any of this matters because the second Nick corners Sara and pressures her to go to dinner with him, Sara breaks like toilet paper in water and ditches Greg looking like a jackass.
Anyway, Nick and Sara end up in Nick’s penthouse (because of course he has a penthouse) where he proceeds to wine and dine her before leading her to a dimly lit room with some easy listening music and over-stuffed velvet couches, the dirty dog. They get down to some major hanky-panky until Nick is convinced he’s going to hit the kitty when the telephone rings and that infernal Greg Halliday is on the wire, demanding Sara be put on because of some emergency. All of a sudden, Sara is no longer in the mood to be made love to and demanding to be taken home and Nick is pissed off because he’s got the kind of blue balls only rich entitled white dudes get when deprived of their favorite prey, the white virgin ingenue. Nick proceeds to call her all manners of names and accuses her of being a dicktease (I’m paraphrasing) and says she’s nothing more than Greg’s whore. They angrily say goodbye and that’s it.
…of course, Nick could have asked Sara why Greg called his house in a panic, demanding to speak to Sara, instead of flying off the handle like a maniac but what kind of rational person would do that? Not that Sara had to explain herself or anything, not especially to a guy she’d only met twice (and one who’d been particularly obsessive about her personage at that), but Greg DID have a big reason for calling her that night and it’s this: remember the lady that Greg is in love with? Her husband DIED that night and Greg was in a panic and didn’t know what to do, so he really needed Sara by his side. Lucy (the lady with the husband) is also Sara’s best friend, so yeah, she would definitely be number one on Sara’s mind over hormone-monster Nick who just wants to imprint Sara with his penis and implant a million babies in her or something. Nevertheless, Sara still has Nick in the back of her mind because for some reason, she cares about what he thinks about her (like, she’s not a whore) and would like to explain.
Lucky for her, fate throws them back together again. Not for long, though, because Nick has a knack for thinking the worst of Sara, and soon the vicious cycle of name-calling and dumping starts again. He even yells at her to get out of his car at one point. What a guy.
The Verdict: I get it. Nick sees Sara for the first time and thinks to himself OH MY GOD I MUST HAVE THAT WOMAN OR I’M GOING TO DIE MINE MINE MINE MUST POSSESS CAVEMAN MUST POUND MUST HAVE MUST OWN!! MINE MINE MINE!!! Or something completely insane like that. That is a natural affliction of a Romance Novel Alpha Male. He can’t help it. But this guy is unbelievable. He doesn’t know the first thing about this woman except that she’s beautiful and vivacious and that she has an entire life outside of him, which involves a lot of male admirers, so naturally for him, that means harlotry and whoredom. He doesn’t understand why this one simple girl has bewitched him–when many other women in the past had failed to do so–so naturally, it is this woman’s fault and she must be a Jezebel of some kind. What kind of twisted logic is that?
In a lot of these early Mills and Boons books, the heroine is often some wide-eyed ingenue who doesn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground and in a lot of respects, Sara is pretty much Bambi in the woods. Still, she is self-aware of her attraction to men and at least aware of her sexuality. She knows what Nick makes her feel is special and she doesn’t feel it when she’s with other men, so she is quick to discourage them and refuses to lead them on. Another thing that I really liked about Sara is that she doesn’t just sit around, mooning over our so-called hero (though she does that a lot, too); she really cares about her art, too. We actually see the heroine in action, painting here and painting there. She cares about the quality of her work. She has a career! She has a full life outside of the hero and I got the feeling that even if the two of them didn’t get together at the end, Sara would have been okay and Nick? No. Nick would not have been okay.
The Groveling: In spades! Nick’s sister arranges it so that Sara and Nick would both end up at her country estate (who DOESN’T have a country estate) because she gets sick of Nick being such a complete ugly bastard to her and her kids. Our couple finally gets to sit down and talk, which they really should have done months ago–literally, months do pass–so that Sara could finally let Nick know that the reason she ran out on him that ONE night months ago was that her best friend’s husband died and her step-brother was flipping out and also needed her. Nick was like, oh, I’m so sorry, I’m a fucking jealous asshole for no reason at all and I’m a rat bastard for calling you a trollop and a whore, will you marry me. Sara says yes. Once the two of them iron things out, everything gets all cutesy and sweet, and hopefully, Nick has learned the lesson about jumping to the worst conclusions. Just kidding.
Classic Charlotte Lamb. 90/100.