In many ways Pinnacle Lust, a first novel written by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre, is a classic, steamy romance. You have the impossibly-handsome married doctor with six-pack abs and a killer smile. You have the smart and beautiful nurse, pursued by many men, who loses her heart to him. You have lots of hot, super-erotic sexual encounters. You have the ultimate heartbreak of a forbidden love between star-crossed lovers.
You even have the teenage daughter coming to grips with the fact that she is the precious fruit of this passionate-but-doomed love (no spoiler here – this is obvious by the third page). And all of it is very well executed.
What really sets this book apart from others in this otherwise fairly predictable genre is the fact that it is set in Israel during Operation Desert Storm, and was written by an Israeli native who was a nurse with a career very much like that of the main character.
This means that you get a powerful firsthand look at what everyday life was like in Israel when most Americans were watching Shock and Awe on the 24-hour news channels. You experience what working life is like in the Israeli medical system, right down to the super-strict religious regulations in a Hasidic hospital (it is a sin and therefore illegal to be alone in a room, or even an elevator, with someone of the opposite sex “for more time than it takes to boil an egg”).
You get a taste of what it’s like to live in a country where everyone performs military service in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), and where a SCUD missile occasionally takes out the building next door to where you work.
The cultural subtext in this book is never self-conscious or contrived. It is simply woven into the story line, so that as you read it you have a feeling of actually living in a relatively non-religious settlement, or of visiting a friend in the Golan Heights. You experience the hot, dusty summers in a country where air conditioning is more a necessity than a luxury.
Romance is not my go-to genre, but I really enjoyed this book. Pinnacle Lust more than lives up to its sexy title, with the added huge benefit that its story is written across the canvas of a culture that will be both strangely familiar and utterly foreign to most American readers.