Harlequin Presents, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-373-43039-0
Contemporary Romance, 2014
Avenge Me closes the Fifth Avenue trilogy and, while it stands alone, it has a premise that is carried forward from the first book, Maisey Yates’s Avenge Me, and continued throughout Caitlin Crews’s Scandalize Me. Basically, three men discover that one of their fathers is running a prostitution ring staffed by his unwilling female staff, and all three men refused to pay attention when one of their friends tried to approach them for help. This woman, Sarah, flung herself off a ledge one Christmas evening, causing the three men to pull their asses out of their heads and say, “What…? Oh, is it our fault that she died? Okay, we’d drown our sorrows in wine and women until one of us has evidence that his daddy was responsible, so now we have a trilogy to sell to you ladies! Come admire our alpha peens!”
In this story, Alex Diaz is poised to finish off what his friends have started. Evil Jason Treffen had been cut off from his family and law firm, and all Alex needs to do is to administer the coup de grace. Jason is going to be interviewed by Chelsea Maxwell, the host of one of TV’s top talk shows of today, for damage control purposes. If Alex could persuade Chelsea to ambush Jason and expose his sins on her show, Jason would be ruined – forever, muahaha! So Alex dresses up in his best suit and waits in his limo for Chelsea one fine evening. He is ready to tell her of his plans…
Wait a minute, he needs to adjust his pants first. Hold on, he needs to shag her first. Wait, maybe he should shag her again just to be sure that it is as good as he thought. You know what, a great idea would be to shag her into submission so that she’d do everything he say. His penis is so amazing after all, I think it can do mind control just like an evil Jedi. Hey, had he told all of you about his sad past? It’s really sad, like, awfully sad and, you know, really sad, so sad. It’s so sad, he’d tell you again.
Simply put, Expose Me has no story. It pretends to have a story, but the author is just stalling for time until she has met her word count. Alex could have told Chelsea what he is up to, but he spends a hundred pages dropping vague allusions and acting like he wants to date and shag Chelsea, until Chelsea is understandably sure that he’s just some guy looking for an excuse to get into her bed. And then, after he’s slept with her, he still can’t come clean to her. I have no idea why he can’t. She is a pragmatic talk show host, not some bleeding heart interviewing owners of sick ponies for the sake of making a big bowl of chicken soup for the sad and lonely. She doesn’t need to be “manipulated” by sex into doing his bidding. She’s a woman who is used to having sex for the sake of having sex – Chelsea is almost a rarity in this line by being a woman who has been around and doesn’t care if you think of her as a slut because of this – and Alex hears of the rumors that she slept her way to the top. What makes him think that she’s some weak-willed doe that needs a mighty man’s penis to poke her into making a decision that benefits the man?
And when Alex finally tells her what he is actually about, oh, about halfway into the story, she goes along with him. See? Making me slap my palm against my forehead is that, by that point, I learn that the heroines of the previous book are more than happy to guest on Chelsea’s show to tell their story.
Alex could have just saved everyone the trouble by meeting Chelsea in a professional setting, tell her that he has a scoop on Jason Treffen that would cause the ratings of her show to skyrocket and maybe even get her some awards, and he has the guest stars to back up his story. She would have agreed, and this story would only be 20 pages long. Okay, maybe he then decides to ask Chelsea out like a sane man would, show her his bank account book before the brand of the underpants he is wearing, and they’d have a great time in bed. She’d be more willing to, because she knows right away what he wants and she wants it too. So maybe we can add another 20 pages, and this book would be 40 pages long.
Instead, the author chooses to have Alex act like a creepy idiot. The fact that he somehow needs to use his wee-wee to “dominate” a woman makes him seem more unnecessarily nutty than he deserves to be. And, really now, all this talk about both he and Chelsea wanting to be on top, and the author doesn’t follow up with bondage gear, studded gloves, and leather harnesses? This is a classic case of leading the reader on, like a hot guy doing a slow striptease only to reveal, at the agonizing end, that he has warts growing all over his genitals.
It’s a shame. Chelsea breaks all the rules that Harlequin Presents heroines normally follow – gloriously – so she deserves a better story than this one. Expose Me takes the word “filler” to new heights, as much of this story is unnecessary. Worse, the author also has the main characters working themselves up over the same thoughts and emotions again and again, so that the whole thing is practically filler squared and quadrupled to the point of no return. As much as I want to like this story for the heroine, I can’t in good conscience try to even pretend. Expose Me has nothing worth a second glance.