First up is one of my favorite Harlequin Presents author, Helen Brooks. Last month’s release wasn’t a favorite of mine but The Billionaire Boss’s Secretary Bride (I know, the title) is delicious. Gina Leighton is leaving her job as the personal secretary to the founder of an agricultural-machinery firm in Yorkshire to move to London. Her boss, Dave Breedon, has been wonderful but his son, Harry, is taking over.
Gina has loved Harry forever and she just can’t take another minute of being near him yet knowing she can’t have him. The story is sweet and a bit funny as Harry genuinely likes Gina. He wrests from her that the true reason she is leaving is because some man broke her heart and goes on and on about how he isn’t good enough for her, never realizing he’s insulting himself. As a warning, though, to those not familiar with Brooks’ books, she has a strong overtone of career girl v. home and hearth girl. B
Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis. Zach Thomas is a firefighter in Santa Rey whose family is his fellow firefighters and Brooke O’Brien is a temp EMT with no family at all. She’s not into permanent connections and her job as a temp EMT allows her to enjoy her work without settling down. Brooke and Zach share a strong immediate attraction and Brooke starts to believe that she fits into the small firestation family that is created. The tension between Brooke and Zach is very sexy as the story allows them time to flirt and engage before falling into bed together. The fire station is very colorful with good natured ribbing, hazing, and spots of funny, inappropriate behavior. There’s a Backdraft type plot that moves the story forward. The end of the story has a strange extended conflict between Zach and Brooke that felt artificial but overall, this was a pleasant diversion. B-
The Desert Lord’s Bride by Olivia Gates. Olivia Gates used to write for the now defunct Bombshell line and I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for her books so I jumped at the chance of reading one of her books. Shehab ben Hareth ben Essam Ed-Deen Aal Masood was made heir of Judar when his brother, Farooq, abdicated so that he could be with the love of his life. Shehab must marry Farah Beaumont in order to bring peace to the region. Shehab is terribly resentful of this (at one point has very negative feelings toward his brother’s wife for putting him in this position).
From the outside, Farah Beaumont is considered to be the ultimate social climbing gold digger but a union between her and Shehab must happen even if neither of them want it. Once he meets Farah, however, Shehab realizes that the rumors about her are untrue and he is fascinated by her.
Farah isn’t the smooth, cold sophisticate that society presumes she is and the picture she cultivates. She tends to blurt out the first thing and is quite blunt. She was almost gauche. I don’t know how the reputation could ever be sustained. There were alot of inappropriate moments that kept jarring me from the story such as Farah sharing her bitterness over her mother’s cruelty to her in her first meeting with Shehab. While I liked Farah and Shehab, I did not believe that the conflict was natural. The characterizations and setup seemed quite forced. C