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Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: Aerie by Anne Riley

I met Anne Riley at an author event at Jan's Paperbacks in Portland, Oregon this past summer.  We shared a table, talked writing and sold some books.  She's a very interesting and pleasant lady with roots in the area, and I have to say in the past year involving promotion of my own work, that one day in July was probably the best day possible.  At the end of the day we exchanged purchases of work.  Anne read and reviewed The Favorite, and I read Aerie with every intention of reviewing it.  I'm horribly late.  That introduction (and a hearty apology to Anne) aside, here's my review of Aerie.

Aerie by Anne Riley

Okay, I don't do romance novels.

I'm not normally for overtly sticky stories about longing and temptation, about the internal struggle between what you want and what's good for you, about the normally melodramatic reasons why a hero or heroine would deny themselves the right person that's standing right in front of them.  Nothing against the genre, but I always found those stories to be kind of hokey.  So, all things being honest and equal, it's hard to say that I opened the book with an open mind.

It didn't take long to convince me.

Aerie tosses aside the normal convention of impossibly many hero and damsel-in-distress, and instead plays a budding romance against a strong workplace drama and with legal and techno elements.  It's sounds like a weird recipe that shouldn't work when you say it out loud, but like a peanut-butter bacon cheeseburger the first bite is surprisingly satisfying of all tastes.

The story centers on high powered systems analyst Cara Larson, whose tech firm Pyramid is contracted by Liam Scofield, CEO of an outdoor-wear company, to help develop a computerized distribution and payment system for his company.  The year is 1991 and the system is quite literally ahead of it's pre-worldwide web time.  The potential of this system to revolutionize the way business is done is recognized by Cara's bosses at Pyramid as well as the lawyers working for Liam's company WindWear, so when they systematically try to cut Liam out of his potentially billion-dollar idea, Cara and Liam work frantically to save it.  In the midst of this is the love-at-first-sight drama between Cara and Liam, the potential romantic rival in Liam's lawyer Lauren Janelle, and even a heaping helping of corporate greed.

Anne Riley's mastery of the tech aspects of Aerie draw you into a realistic world of pre-Internet computer jargon that is easy enough to follow even if you don't have a degree in computer engineering.  She makes that part of the world she's created plausible and accessible, which is no easy feat, making us care about the product everyone is fighting over.  However that would mean nothing without good characters.  Ms. Riley's leads, Cara and Liam, are very well-developed and even if you are like me and not a romance buff, how and why they're into each other makes sense, even though for much of the book their organizations are pitted against each other.  It's very West Side Story.

Anne Riley has created a very appealing romantic story that, like the movie Jerry Maguire, slips the romance in under a Trojan Horse of typically guy stuff, like money and tech.  Even though the romantic part seemed a little hokey to me, I really enjoyed this book.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars.