The Reluctant Lark, a Bantam Loveswept romance by Iris Johansen, is an over-the-top ride! It contains (possibly) offensive themes, which added to my perverse enjoyment.
Imprint or Line: Loveswept #24
Book Series: The Reluctant Lark #1
Published by: Bantam
Genres: Category Romance, Contemporary Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
MILD SPOILERS 😉
Iris Johansen‘s The Reluctant Lark is one of those insanely stalkerific category romances from the 1970s and 1980s that may turn off the younguns—and some of us oldsters, too.
This Bantam Loveswept was their 24th entry in the line, published in 1983, and was just what I expected to get in this kind of book.
The heroine of The Reluctant Lark is a young Irish-American singer named Sheena Reardon, also known as Ireland‘s “Mournful Dove.” She is famous the world over for her dark eyes and haunting, beautiful voice.
Sidebar About Sheena’s Moniker
Have you ever had the misfortune to hang out all day with doves? They coo, coo, coo constantly. It’s so annoying and not pleasant to listen to! Why not call Sheena Nightingale or Songbird?
For goodness sake, doves are pigeons who grew up in the suburbs instead of the city. And pigeons are the mice of the skies. (No, pigeons are not rat-birds. Seagulls are the rat-birds!)
I don’t care how much Nikola Tesla loved his pigeon wife. I prefer the sweet song of a robin any day.
Back to the Story
Her tyrannical uncle manages Sheena’s career. He has Sheena trapped under his controlling thumb when she meets Rand Challon. Rand is a handsome, wealthy, and powerful man. He’s also one of her biggest fans… and has been stalking her for years.
So Annie Wilkes—pardon me, I mean Rand—kidnaps his idol. He takes her to his mountain retreat in Canada, far away from any other human beings.
And, get this–this is where the plot gets cracktastic–by holding her captive, Rand teaches Sheena to spread her wings and fly free. LOL.
Under his sensual tutelage, Sheena finally becomes a whole person and is fulfilled. Oh, you wonderful old-school category romances! What nonsense, and yet Iris Johansen made this bizarre plot so entertaining.
Rand clearly worships Sheena and longs for the day when he can make her his. Of course, Sheena resists him–at first.
But his overbearing- sorry, I meant caring–and loving personality, plus his virile, masculine nature, makes her surrender to him.
The book contains hot kisses, lovemaking, revelations about painful pasts, and lots of running away and getting captured again, making it a contemporary successor to the bodice ripper.
The Reluctant Lark is a wonderful example of a so-bad–it’s-good romance. The book is full of clichés and predictable events. Even so, it kept me hooked with its melodramatic story and intense characters.
Rand’s stalking and kidnapping of Sheena make the story seem crazy, but Johansen manages to present it as romantic.
Of course, Rand is older than Sheena. He has to be experienced in the ways of life to guide her, right? He is twelve years Sheena senior, which isn’t too bad of an age gap for a retro romance. I imagine most modern readers would consider Rand–a 30-something male in love with a woman in her early twentie–to be a word I often confuse with the Latin term for “foot.“
The Reluctant Lark was not the greatest of the greats, but it was a fun ride. I’m ready to search my bookshelves and read more of Johansen’s backlist.
Final Analysis of The Reluctant Lark
Overall, The Reluctant Lark is precisely what I expected to get from an Iris Johansen 1983 category romance: some disturbing, non-PC, crazy fun.
Or, as they say in modern parlance, it’s a “problematic read.”
How I enjoy these! This was hella entertaining, like watching some cheesy flick like Swim Fan, The Crush, or some other movie where obsessed characters pursue, harass, or torture their idols.
Rand is like the Michael Myers of romance. He’s never going to stop until the final girl does battle with him–but in this case, the battle is based on love, not killing each other,
The Reluctant Lark is well written—Johansen is a deft storyteller, after all. The characters are engaging, despite their mental issues, which might make this a “guilty pleasure” read for some. Me? I have no such guilt.
If you’re not fond of the stalker and kidnapping tropes, this Bantam Loveswept romance might not be for you. But if you have a high tolerance for “problematic” novels, then The Reluctant Lark could be a treat.
|Rating Report Card|
Her dark eyes and haunting voice earned gypsy -Sheena Reardon fame as Ireland’s mournful dove. Yet to Rand Challon, the young Irish-American singer was not just a lark whose brilliant plumage was obscured… but a flesh-and-blood woman whom he desired with all his heart.
Rand barged into her life at a moment of crisis and whisked her away to his mountain retreat, where he wrapped her in his passionate tenderness. Under his sensual tutelage, Sheena became a whole person, fulfilled at last. Rand knew he’d taught her to spread her wings and fly free, but would her flight take her from him or into his arms forever?The Reluctant Lark by Iris Johansen
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2 thoughts on “Category Romance Review: The Reluctant Lark by Iris Johansen”
Ok, but if she’s the “Mournful Dove” why is the book about a “Lark”???? These bird metaphors make no sense.
Also, seagulls are more like sky raccoons: bigger, scarier, and even less afraid of humans.
I feel like I read this one but I can’t find any record of it. That drives me batty.