Reviewed by Kati Dancy
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Adam’s Rib; James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window; Vivian Leigh and Clark Gabel in Gone With the Wind; George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight. What do these couples have in common? Amazing sexual tension. When we watch them interact on screen, we’re desperate for them to consummate their relationship, we want the happily ever after for them. It takes a deft hand to write sexual tension. And in my opinion one of the romance industry’s greats at it is Linda Howard.
When I dive into a Linda Howard book, I know that I’m going to get three things: an amazing sense of place, a fully alpha hero who will knock your socks off, and love scenes that will make you reach for a cool drink. Shades of Twilight is a perfect example of Howard’s gifts.
When we meet Roanna Davenport, an orphan, she’s seven. After her parents and beloved aunt die suddenly in a car accident, Roanna and her older cousin, Jessie, come to live with their grandmother at Davencourt, the family’s ancestral home. It’s no secret that of the girls, Jessie is their grandmother’s favorite or that Jessie will marry Webb, Roanna’s second cousin and heir to the family fortune. Webb is Roanna’s only protector against Jessie’s spoiled and mean behavior. He often runs interference between the two girls and seems to be the only one who can dominate Jessie into behaving. As Roanna grows up, she learns that she can get by with just Webb loving her.
When we next meet Roanna, she is seventeen, and is still living at Davencourt with her grandmother and Webb and Jessie, who have now married. Jessie is as nasty as ever to Roanna. Roanna spends her summer days in the stables with the horses while Webb is building upon the family empire, and protecting Roanna where he can from Jessie’s fits of nastiness. One day, Roanna follows Jessie as she leaves the family home on horseback. It is there that Roanna finds Jessie in a secret tryst with another man. Roanna is furious and appalled as she sneaks away. She resolves not to tell Webb as she loves him and knows it will hurt him to hear that Jessie is cheating on him. That night after being sent from the dinner table for being a smart mouth to her aunt, Roanna sneaks into the kitchen to scrounge for food. There she and Webb meet up and he gets after her for causing trouble. She confesses how upset she is, and he takes her onto his lap to comfort her. Roanna innocently kisses Webb in gratitude and love for him. Needless to say, the moment becomes quite heated as Webb acts upon the realization that Roanna is a young and attractive woman. Unsurprisingly, Jessie catches them in the act, and full-on drama ensues. Jessie accuses Roanna of being a whore and slut and of trying to steal her husband. Of course, the entire family witnesses the drama and hears the fight that follows between Webb and Jessie in their bedroom. Webb finally storms out of the house telling Jessie to go ahead and get a divorce — he’s done with her anyway.
Later that night, Roanna, feeling horrible about the rift she feels she’s caused between Jessie and Webb, goes to Jessie’s room to apologize and hopefully convince Jessie to see reason. She steps into the bedroom and finds Jessie bludgeoned to death on the floor. The police are quickly summoned to the house, and it is determined that Webb is the most likely suspect. Webb is angry with Roanna for what has happened between them, and Roanna, bereft at the idea that Webb no longer loves her begins to withdraw. On the day of Jessie’s funeral, Webb is cleared of the charges and leaves Davencourt, and Roanna for good.
Ten years later, Roanna’s grandmother is dying. When Webb left, she had re-written her will to make Roanna her sole heir, but she realizes that they really need Webb to come home and take over the family holdings, but more than that, she needs to make peace with him before she dies. She dispatches Roanna to find Webb and convince him to return to Davencourt. Roanna is torn about finding Webb. While she still holds a very strong torch for him and has never loved anyone else, she realizes that he is probably still furious with her and may very well tell her to go to hell when she asks him to come back with her.
She goes to
This book is definitely old school. The hero acts as a bastard for a good portion of the book. But Howard gives us enough of a look into the workings of his mind that we understand that Webb is tortured by what happened to Jessie, how his family reacted, and more than anything by his reaction to Roanna. But Webb is this wonderful, autocratic alpha male. He’s all dominance and sexuality. He’s bowled over by Roanna’s lack of awareness of her appeal. And he spends a lot of time, once he’s back at Davencourt trying very hard not to act upon what he perceives as her vulnerability to him. What he comes to learn is that Roanna is strong and self-reliant if much changed from when she was a child. The book has a great mystery/suspense angle to it too, which actually surprised me the first time I read it. But more than that, it features delicious tension between the hero and heroine and also this wonderful sense of the southern way of life.
Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read one of her books, I’d really recommend giving one a try. Many romance readers I know cite Mr. Perfect as their favorite Howard. Mine is Dream Man, but Shades of Twilight is another sure thing too. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any Howard book. Her work is guaranteed to help pass many steamy, entertaining hours.