There’s a certain class of book I get out of the library when I’m using mass transit to commute to work. For one thing, when I’m commuting via New York City’s subway system, paperbacks are a definite plus, as holding a hardback in one (not very large) hand, in a crowd of people, while hanging for dear life onto a pole with the other hand, is, well, not optimal. But in addition, at the end of a sweaty trip on the subway, after a long day at work, sometimes I just feel like something not terribly challenging over dinner, to rest before working out, reading that law journal piece I’m supposed to be editing, writing that law school paper I’m supposed to be writing . . .
The most recent three books I’ve been reading were checked out of the library with this in mind. Only one of them is new to me, Jayne Ann Krentz’s Lost and Found; though currently in hardcover, it otherwise fits the mold well, though a little more brainlessly than most.
I suppose I should back up a little. In my adolescence, I read genre romance novels indiscriminately—in much the same way I read everything else then, really. There are a few authors that I still get out of the library, as part of my “guilty pleasure” stack: Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard are the major ones. Unfortunately, it seems that when romance novelists make the move into mainstream hardcover fiction, they feel obliged to throw in murders and paranormal stuff and goodness knows what-all else to justify the removal of that killer word “Romance” from the spines of their books. I’ve never quite understood this, but it seems rather a pity, particularly in Jayne Ann Krentz’s books, which I read for the characters and family dynamics.
Lost and Found is set in the decorative arts and antiques world; Cady Briggs is an expert on authenticating pieces, Mack Easton runs a company that traces and retrieves lost and missing pieces, and they end up working together to investigate a death in Cady’s family. The book follows the general pattern of a Krentz novel: Her protagonists are generally business men and women, stubborn, loyal, a bit wary after being burned in the past, with a tangle of demanding, complicated, and, dare I say it, quirky, familial relationships and friendships. They meet, sparks fly, they fall into bed (for really rather brief bouts of sex; I’d quote, but I don’t know who might come across this. All I can say is I had no idea there were so many people satisfied by wham-bams, such that they keep showing up in these books.), they have spats, they fall into bed some more (for even briefer bouts), they figure out whatever external problem brought them together, they smooth out the longstanding tensions in their familial relationships with the aid of the other’s insight, and then they live happily ever after.
This sounds cynical, but they’re soothing and fairly entertaining reads. Krentz does have a sense of humor, and the emphasis on family is a good touch; many of the romance novels I devoured in my misspent youth (TM) seemed to imagine that the protagonists existed in vacuums, with other characters appearing solely as plot devices or convenient receptacles for exposition. Unfortunately, as with many prolific authors, the energy level and freshness of recent books has declined. If the general pattern described above sounds appealing, I recommend reading one of Krentz’s early books, like The Golden Chance. Lost and Found certainly served the purpose of occupying my mind during a Sunday morning when I was feeling slightly ill, though, so I don’t regret carting it home from the library. (I regret having to go back to the library because I’d left my wallet there, but that’s another story.)