Harlequin Presents, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-373-43037-6
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Avenge Me is the first book in the Fifth Avenue series. Maisey Yates authored this one, while the remaining two books would be handled by different authors. This one, however, has enough closure to make it a decent self-contained story if you decide that you do not wish to read the remaining two books. And yes, the cover price listed here is correct – this book, like the rest of the series, is released in trade paperback format.
Anyway, we have three dudes who between them have every Harlequin Presents trope covered. Here, our hero is Austin Treffen, the obligatory billionaire, who is looking all blue and emo because he realizes that his father is a sexual predator despite his public advocacy for female equality and such in the workplace, and his friend and colleague Sarah Michaels’s recent suicide was due to his father’s relentless attention. Sarah tried to tell Austin that his father was harassing her, but he was too self-absorbed to pay attention back then. So when she leaped off a ledge to decorate the pavement below, he was shocked. And now, he is blue because he wants to take his father down, but it also means that he would have to tear his family apart in the process. Falling in love with Sarah’s sister, Katy, doesn’t make things any easier, and Katy is determined to make sure that Austin’s father pays for what he has done to her sister as well as his other victims.
The premise makes this story seem like a romantic suspense tale, but it’s actually closer to a Fifty Shades of You Know What clone with the plot inserted mostly as a baggage to justify the hero’s control freak personality. Katy is an interesting heroine in that she actually has a sense of humor and she is willing to go through with her plans to take down Jason Treffen. Unfortunately, she is crippled in some ways by the need to conform to popular Harlequin tropes. So yes, she is a virgin who has never seen an actual naked person in real life before, but like every virtuous Harlequin Presents heroine, she puts out to the hero in what seems like one hour into their initial meeting, because that’s what heroines do when they need an excuse to keep the ball rolling, if you know what I mean.
The hero dishes out some angst about how he’s his father’s son, but he won’t do the obvious like being nice to women, oh no, as that wouldn’t get readers all breathless with excitement. He goes all raging beast on the heroine, and it is only her virginity that causes him to pout the morning after. Oh, he has “ruined” a good woman! He really is like his father, oh the horror. He won’t stop doing the raging beast on Katy, however, because moaning is easier to do than keeping the zip closed, which is less fun too. It says a lot about how overwrought Austin is that he equates him being a randy goat to a man forcing his sexual attention on women who can’t fight back, if you ask me. Austin can get creepy, however, in his mental monologues about how he needs to sexually dominate Katy so that he can feel in control of something. He also doesn’t hesitate to remove Katy from her job and make her entirely dependent on him so that he can “protect” her. He’s creepy, giving me the vibes of a man who would take a baseball bat to a box of cornflakes because he couldn’t tear open the flab.
Still, Avenge Me does have its moments. Some quiet moments that are free from contrived angst are pretty nice to read, and Katy is a refreshing kind of heroine once her by-the-numbers “virgin needs to get laid ASAP” act is over and out of the way. For the most part, though, the organically enjoyable moments are submerged in a sea of contrived behavior, and the author’s handling of Austin’s angst is often laughably hammy than anything else.