Saturday, August 13, 2011
More than Paradise by Jennifer Fulton
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Jennifer Fulton has written an adventure romance that is topical, fast paced and lushly descriptive. The most intriguing aspect of the story is the amount of research that was obviously done into the world of what were once called mercenaries, but now travel under the umbrella of "private security firms."
Dr. Charlotte Lascelles has been offered the adventure of her life. A pharmaceutical company has hired her to join an expedition going to the Foja Mountains of New Guinea to hunt for new plants and animals that could hold the secrets to solving many illnesses. Charlotte's life in the US is sterile by any calculations. She has her friends, but an experience with an abusive partner as taught her to wall most of her emotions behind of façade of cool professionalism. She's ready for a little excitement with the chance of making an important discovery. Unfortunately, she finds herself sharing a tent with Ash Evans, former military officer, soldier of fortune and womanizer par excellence. Charlotte has seen Ash in action and she represents everything she finds unappealing in a woman, except that she is so appealing. Ash is hoping to make enough off of this job to finally retire to her plantation and she certainly isn't looking for a relationship, but she can't seem to keep her mind off of Charlotte and has serious doubts about them spending so much time together. As they work through what is developing between them, the story follows them through steamy bars into steamy jungles and finally into steamy passion. People who like romantic adventure will find plenty of it in this book.
The story in More Than Paradise follows a predictable development for lesbian fiction - women meet, women have conflict, women deal with whether or not they will be able to overcome the conflict. What makes this book worth reading more than some others is everything else in the story. Fulton has done a remarkable job of explaining the shadowy world of private security companies and how they are playing a role in world events, from Blackwater Security in Iraq to the part these companies have played in numerous civil wars and suppressions of native people in Asia, Africa and Latin America. She has also captured the struggle that is going on between environmentalists, developers and governments in the battle over preservation v. economic interests. Then there is the issue of disappearing rainforests and the race to discover what they hold before they disappear. Fulton doesn't harp on these issues, but reveals just enough to make the reader want to go to other sources to find out more about what is going on.
One of her most clever devices is a character named Bruce the Roo who sounds very much like a Steve Irvin-type character gone slightly mad from waging his crusade for the environment and indigenous people. The scenery is ultimately what sells the book though. Fulton's description of the jungle with its vegetation and animal life is intense and paints such a vivid picture that you can practically smell the orchids and feel the mist coming off of the waterfalls. It's a perfect setting for a story of a woman who is slightly untamed herself and the other woman who definitely needs to release her inhibitions and learn to live.
Fulton has published a number of books under various pen names. This is one of her best.