REVIEW: Tempting the Negotiator by Zana Bell
Dear Ms. Bell,
It’s usually Jane who is trying to tout the contemporary but after reading “Tempting the Negotiator” I’m going to give it a go too. This is a solid, well written novel with characters I want to root for acting in believable ways in a plot that doesn’t ask me to suspend my disbelief in any way.
Sass Walker knows she’s up for the negotiating challenge of her career as she arrives in underdeveloped Whangarimu, New Zealand to try and salvage the deal her company is trying to push through to build Aroha Bay Vacation Resort. The previous guy ballsed it up and now she’s got to sooth ruffled feathers and try to come up with a win-win situation that will bring jobs and a future to the area without ruining the natural beauty of the land.
From the beginning she’s known she’s up against some staunch opponents of the resort and after meeting Jake Finlayson, she realizes that going toe to toe with this gorgeous Kiwi surfer will be even harder than she imagined. Jake’s smart, funny, and after some initial hostility, easy to get to know. But both resist their attraction since Sass is only going to be there for a short time. But will the waves, the people and Jake work their magic on Sass, as she does on them?
The conflict begins with the resort but then carries on through the background you’ve invented for Jake and Sass. I love that nothing feels contrived and you don’t pull a last minute misunderstanding out of your hat to prolong the action. Nor do the characters suddenly start changing the way they behave to further the plot.
Sass is dedicated to her job and to seeing all sides of the issue. She does manage to keep it separate from her personal life and truly is interested in trying to deliver the best ending for everyone. What a relief it is not to see her ‘deep six’ anything by letting her emotions run away with her. I can believe that she’s a smart lawyer because she acts like one.
Jake starts out resenting Sass and what she represents but quickly starts acting better when she doesn’t rise to the bait. He also eventually does listen to what she says in her report and gets on board with some smart suggestions she makes – and agrees with his brother that she’s one smart lady. While he also takes the time to get her to loosen up, learn to surf and enjoy the beauty of the land around her.
But I really enjoyed watching these two strike sparks off each other with each winning about half of the time, while the loser ends up enjoying himself anyway. As well, it’s nice to watch them grow as people and learn more about themselves through the eyes of the other. They aren’t static as characters, stuck in ruts and blindly in denial about their faults. There’s a good yelling match where they let it all hang out but then they think about what was said and build on it.
I also like that the book concludes with an open ended romance. Nothing is carved in stone yet and there’s some things which will need to be taken care of but there’s no forced, neat wrap up that negates the issues either one still needs to work out.
It was fun to read about the clash of cultures even if they didn’t clash all that much. As a matter of fact, it was even better for not being open warfare as some authors might be tempted to do in similar circumstances. Adults behaving as adults, what a joy.
So, why the B grade? Well, something about the heroine’s sex life irked me. I find it a tad hard to believe that her lifestyle would have affected it the way it’s written and that she never…well, that she never. But I do like the way the hero takes it to heart and examines his own performance.
I can’t find any other books of yours listed at eHarlequin but after enjoying this one. I’ll be looking for more. Good job and thanks for the enjoyable read.