Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker

January 5, 2015 Contemporary, Reviews, Romantic Suspense 11

Book cover for Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker. A bearded, light-skinned man in aviator sunglasses looks at a light skinned black woman. The book title is hot pink in a blocky font. The bottom half of the cover shows pink and white flowers and the Grand Canyon.

After our recent guest post by Jill Flower In The Desert was Twitter nominated as the second entry in our Let’s Read A Damn Book series. Lavender Parker is a new to me author but this cover was to die for. While disappointed it wasn’t a 1970’s set historical, there was just enough left of the carpeted Econoline van to keep me reading. Stylistically the book is divided into two sections, one a survival tale in the desert and the other a more traditional will they or won’t they in the city. I found the first half of the novella far more engaging than the second. Ruby’s efforts to survive and Jase’s compulsion to find her reminded me of early Linda Howard or mid-career Sandra Brown. The stakes were clear and the actions logical and considered, even when unwise. Parker had a good hand on the suspense. Ruby and Jase in the desert took on a timeless feeling despite being set in the here and now.

I was less enamored of their return to civilization. Ruby and Jase became less about their importance to each other and more a conventional erotic tale. Jase stands by Ruby, while also deciding he knows what she needs better than she does. Ruby accepts Jase’s frequently unfathomable actions without questioning them. Both build a relationship with the person in their head instead of open discussion. It’s hard for me to stay with a story where the hero and heroine decide they know what the other is thinking by visual or physical cues instead of clear statements of intent. I felt the ending was unearned and unexplained. A major life change is made without exploration of what that will mean to the most affected party. One partner essentially gives everything up on a whim.

As long as I’m quibbling, Parker also deploys one of my least favorite romance tropes – the meat craving vegetarian. Ruby became a vegetarian for weight loss (disguised as a health concern) because she has major body issues. Once stranded in the canyon, she dreams of meat and reflects not on how she denied herself a food group for reasons of vanity, but on the irony of her desire. Nope. Nopity, nope nope. It felt off to me.

Strange that in the middle of a waking nightmare, she craved meat. If she’d been in a more humorous mood, she might have laughed about the irony of it. As it was, she didn’t question it. She just dreamed of eating her imaginary lamb chops and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt. – Parker, Lavender (2014-07-22). Flower in the Desert (Kindle Locations 274-276). . Kindle Edition.

There is a subplot concerning Ruby’s son that is dropped too early. It doesn’t make sense and hints of cut scenes or dropped plot points. I also objected to a scene where Ruby, who has previously explained why not changing her name at marriage was important to her, does a complete reversal and seeks a name compromise. Jase hasn’t asked for it. It’s a little bit of an eye roll at the close of a downward spiral. If the first half of Flower In The Desert had matched the second, I would be waving my Lavender Parker fan club card high. All in all, still a read worthy of it’s amazing cover. Ruby may not have a HEA in Jase, but she deserves the HFN she leaves us with.

Final Assessment: Quick tale of survival and love between an FBI tracker and a capable woman. A-

Source: Purchased Copy

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Meoskop

Meoskop's first non-compulsory book review was in 1973. Although a hit with the 3rd grade, concerns raised by the administration necessitated an extended hiatus. Reviews resumed in 1985 but the concerns are ongoing.

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11 Responses to “Flower in the Desert by Lavender Parker”

  1. SonomaLass

    You pretty much nailed how I felt about this book. I really liked the first part, but I didn’t feel that the relationship they forged in the desert translated well once they were rescued. I wanted them to work harder, talk more, figure out the details of how to make it translate, in order to really believe in their happy ending. But I’m glad I read it and would read more by this author.

  2. Tina

    I also agree the first half was fantastic and the second half…I needed something more. It chalk it up to length strictures. I think if she had written a longer second half she might have made it stronger.

    One of the strengths of this author that I found in two of the other books of hers that I read is that she is really rather good at showing rather than telling. But you need the room to do it. And I think that is where the second half suffered a bit.

  3. cleo

    This was more a B read for me but I agree completely with your assessment – the first half worked much better for me than the second half.

    I wanted it to either be much shorter or longer. I’d have been happy if it ended after Ruby was safe, with a hint of an hfn.

    @Tina – what other books by this author do you recommend?

  4. Tina

    @cleo:

    I really liked ‘Kiss of Fire.’ It is an Interracial romance but it is the class and age differential between the protagonists that is the source of conflict. She is younger, rich and cheerful. He is older, grumpy and solidly blue collar. My only quibble with the book is I think the early chapters are too preoccupied with the sexual attraction. But once the story settles down into itself and the romance begins to unfold the story moves really well. Also I love that the heroine is the one that does most of the pursuing. It is my experience in IR romances that the hero does most of the heavy lifting. Also the story is set in New York City and the author uses NYC as a great background.

    I also enjoyed Stone Cold Knockout. The main parts of the story take place in a real old skool boxing gym. The heroine in training to box in a city wide tournament and convinces the hero to become her trainer. The romance between the H/h is sexy and adult and is swimming along and then in the middle of the book the author throws in a little twist that requires the romance to reset almost from the beginning. Interesting story.

  5. Roslyn Holcomb

    I enjoyed Stone Cold Knockout tremendously and am breathlessly waiting for the sequel. My only beef with this author is that she doesn’t have her books up at ARe. I don’t like to buy at Amazon because I read on my iPad and prefer epub format (Yeah, I have Calibre) but then I have to buy on my computer download it, hunt it down on my hardrive, move it to Calibre and convert. Too many steps for my taste. Plus I like ARe’s Bonus Bucks. Okay, enough griping.

    Stone Cold Knockout has a heroine I could really sink my teeth into. She’s sassy and spunky. And yeah, I get tired of that, but this girl has gone through some real shit and has grit for days. There’s a plot twist that sneaked up on me, which was surprising because usually I can see those a mile away. I’ve added this one to my TBR pile.

  6. Liz Mc2

    I agree with everyone (wow, what’s going on here?). But like Cleo, the second half problems would make this more of a B- kind of read for me. I thought Parker paced the drama and action so well in the first part that I was surprised she managed to write courtroom scenes without any real drama–although it did seem like something with the son was planned and then dropped. Ruby was a great character; she seemed really well-developed and her actions in the desert were realistic, not super woman but not TSTL, either. Jase was mostly a cipher, though. I didn’t think her other books looked appealing to me, but Tina might have convinced me otherwise. . . .

  7. Tina

    @Roslyn Holcomb:

    Yeah, plot twist in Stone Cold Knockout came out of nowhere. I remember thinking “huh, well this is different.” Then I enjoyed how she developed it.

  8. Bona

    I was reading this review and I told to myself -this looks like a very interesting book, and it’s got several tropes that I love, for instance the survival tale part.
    But you know what? I’m a vegetarian and I simply can’t stand books that get this personal option so completely wrong. I don’t like that mythical creature the vegetarian that secretly desires meat. Or its first cousin the vegetarian that secretly eats meat when nobody is watching.
    I find it an awful and disrespectful cliché. And I’m not sure it was even necessary for the plot.

  9. Meoskop

    @Bona: There are several vegetarians in my life I thought would be turned off by this. It’s a peeve for me too and I’m a devout meat eater. Parker is less offensive than many because she positions the heroine as a weight loss vegetarian rather than an ethical or religious vegetarian, but the story didn’t need it at all. I think the intent was a question-my-priorities moment, mark was missed.

  10. Meriam

    Thanks to this review (and Tina and Roslyn’s in the comments), I downloaded all three of the books mentioned and did a big old binge read. I loved Kiss of Fire, for all the reasons Tiny mentions in her summary. Despite a rough, uneven start, there’s a real emotional punch to this story; heart in throat, will these crazy kids work it out, type thing. I loved it, and the vivid NYC setting.

    Stone Cold Knockout – also great. I liked the romance, liked the setting and the two protagonists (though what was Mikhail doing in that gym in the middle of Queens in the first place, is that ever addressed?) Even though the THING that happens partway didn’t quite work for me in execution, it was still a really good, solid read.

    I liked Desert Flower the least. It felt rushed and carried a lot less emotional weight than the other two. I liked the setting and pretty level headed heroine, but not much else. I’m glad I read it last, in fact, because I may not have continued with the author on the basis of this story.

    Overall, am a newly minted Lavender Parker fan girl – so thank you!

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