Dear Ms. Kennedy:
I keep trying your non Samhain titles in hopes that I can find another winner but while this book started out with promise it fizzled after the first 1/3. The hero, Luke Dubois, is staking out a club and falls for one of the strippers. Olivia Taylor is thought to be the mob boss’s girlfriend by Luke’s team and with good reason. The mob boss, Vincent Angelo, is in love with Olivia and she has maintained a certain distance from the mob boss by playing on his belief that she is pure and innocent and must be kept in that state. It’s okay for Olivia to take her clothes off for a living but not sleep with the villain before marriage.
Luke watches the heroine and is immediately convinced by her hair swinging, hip swiveling, dick hardening dancing that she is an innocent in need of saving. After all, Luke points out that she takes care of her mother and hands out change to homeless people. A woman like that cannot possibly be sleeping with a bad guy. His gut convinces him to tell Olivia the truth and thus draw out Olivia’s confidences.
One of the strangest things in the story is that there was very little daylight between the actions of the good guy, Luke, and the actions of the bad guy, Vincent. In some ways, Vincent was more deferential and respectful of the Olivia than the Luke. But because Olivia wants the attention of Luke, Luke’s behavior is sanitized.
Olivia is one of those selfless martyr heroines. She is stripping to pay for her mother’s cancer treatments and attending NYU to get her degree. Unfortunately for Olivia, her boss Vincent took an unhealthy interest in her. Worse, Olivia believes that she may have killed a patron and that Vincent covered it up for her. She’s angry at Vincent’s attempts to treat them as a couple even though she is pretending to be his fiance. Vincent is supportive of her emotionally and tells her that if her mother’s cancer comes out of remission, he will be there to support her. He pays for her tuition, takes care of her mother’s medical bills, provides a supportive shoulder for her to lean on. Instead of being grateful, however, Olivia is repulsed.
At one point, Vincent speaks to her in crude sexual terms believing that she is in love with him and that she wants him. After all, she has come on to him and says that she loves him. She views his crude language with disdain “Jeez, were these the kind of sweet nothings he whispered in the ears of his bedmates? If so, no surprise he was still single.”
But when the hero says something sexually provocative, it’s a turn on and she replies with her own dirty banter: “What happened to this only ending with you buried inside me?”
While the hero’s language maybe wasn’t quite as graphic, it was certainly in the same spirit and vein. While I think it was unintentional, it seemed to show that the hero and villain weren’t very different characters at all. It’s not that Vincent wasn’t horrible. He was. He murdered people, drugged women up and sent them to be horribly misused by his “clients.” Actually having him feel tender toward Olivia would have made him more nuanced. Instead, I felt like the text tried too hard to make everything he did seem awful and skeevy.
I also disliked the play on innocence here. Olivia is stripping for money yet that has to be clenased by what a genuine and innocent girl she is. “Lord that innocent temptress combo she had going on was a huge turn-on.”
The last 40%, though, really unraveled the story for me when Olivia convinces Luke to try to take down the entire mob with her. Just the two of them. These darker and more serious Elle Kennedy books don’t work as well for me but I’ll probably keep trying. C-