by Jane Beckenham, contemporary (2011)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-489-3
Jane Beckenham's Secrets And Seduction has a plot that is staple of contemporary romances and TV movies. We have another widow, Leah Talbot-Grainger, whose late husband Curtis left behind a huge pile of gambling debts that now threaten to leave her and her disabled daughter Charlee homeless. Fortunately for Leah, the rescue fantasy comes from Curtis's brother, Mackenzie, who is conveniently enough a billionaire with enough money to rescue at least twenty romance heroines from penury. Mac's last email from his brother had him convinced that Leah is a plague on all men, and he now intends to get to know his niece better. Leah is worried that he is going to take her daughter away from her, but how is she going to fight him when he holds the mortgage on her farm and he can kick her out any time?
There is nothing more romantic than a romance where the hero holds all the power and the heroine has to pretty much put out or be thrown out of the house, I tell you. But Mac isn't that unreasonable, fortunately. It's just that he needs to be on the stupid side in order for the plot to kick into action, and he has to remain dense for about the first quarter of the story before turning into a more reasonable fellow. So if you read this story, I'd recommend having some patience and just roll up your eyes when Mac does or says some silly things that are pretty obviously wrong even to anyone who is meeting Leah for the first time.
Things get really better - and sweeter - in the middle part of the book. This is a rescue fantasy through and through, make no mistake, but still, it's hard to resist a story of a woman being pampered and cherished by a rich bloke with unlimited money. The pampering part is hot, but that "lots and lots and lots of money" part is even hotter.
Unfortunately, things get bogged down again late in the story, when Leah's tendency to hog secrets, her insecurities and inability (or perhaps, unwillingness) to see the obvious, and Mac's own tendency to go full steam ahead instead of talking to Leah first all collide and culminate in a series of "it's only business, I know you don't love as much as I love you, so I'd just make the whole painful drama continue longer than necessary" conflicts. Still, I have to admit, the story closes on a sweet and romantic high note.
Secrets And Seduction has some very nice moments, but on the whole, it is bogged down by tedious and often clichéd internal conflicts that rely heavily on the characters either deliberately not talking or being bewilderingly obtuse. It's not a bad read, like a better written formulaic Harlequin Mills & Boon story with a hero who is far less an asshole than the typical billionaire hero of that line. It would have been a better read, though, if the hero and the heroine hadn't been so clueless so often.
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