Dear Lynn Raye Harris:
My biggest problem with this story is that I was unprepared for the emotional reactions of the characters. They were two steps ahead of me and the whole time, I was internally thinking “wait up.”
Anna Constantinides is the jilted and humiliated bride who learned of her fiance’s perfidy in the tabloids. Because she has been raised to be proper and polite, she attends the engagement party in order to show that there are no hard feelings. She should have hard feelings. I have them for her. There she meets the brother of the woman taking her place, Leo Jackson.
Leo comes on to her, calling her darling and looking at her passionately. Anna responds immediately. But I’m wondering why Anna doesn’t hate him and all men? The next moment I’m told she does hate all men but Leo’s wicked grin still makes her core clench or so she tells me. Leo gets Anna to agree to show him around the island. Anna, you see, is the quintessential doormat who can’t say no even to the brother of the woman who is marrying Anna’s fiance.
And the next morning Leo greets her in dishabaille. I guess I’m supposed to find this sexy – him in his unbottoned shirt, with lipstick streaked across the collar. When he is part of the family that humiliated her shouldn’t he treat her with more care?
Anna is described a stereotypically uptight, easily blushing by Leo’s suggestive comments. It is Leo’s purpose during this next day to unwind her. Because that is what males are created for – to loosen the uptight virgin.
Unfortunately, I’m not ready for his advances or her lust for him.
When Leo diverts from an Island tour of the heroine’s home to Sicily, over her protests, and suggests that they should make love, I’m appalled. When he tells her she is too uptight for all the deliciousness he has to offer, I want to tell him that he needs to back off.
The look he gave her jolted her to her core. Dark, sensual, breathtakingly intense. “We could have fun in Sicily, Anna. Hot, decadent, pleasurable fun.”
Her heart was thrumming. “Please stop saying we. We aren’t doing anything together, Mr. Jackson.”
He laughed again. “Back to that? Have you ever considered, sweet Anna, that perhaps it’s time you let your hair down a bit? Time to let go of that buttoned-up perfection you try so hard to project and have some fun?”
This isn’t sexy, this is harassment and kidnapping. He’s known her all of five minutes and he is telling her she isn’t dressed appropriately and he knows better? Gah.
“You’re grabbing at straws,” she said calmly. “I am well aware I’m not perfect. And I like the way I’m dressed.”
“It’s not a bad way to dress if you’re chairing a board meeting,” he said. “But it’s not your true style.”
“I don’t think you have the first clue about my style.”
“I’m not sure you do, either,” he said. “But we could start with naked and go from there.”
When the story moves to explain Leo’s motives, I’m already lost as a reader. Sure he’s trying to make up for the harm his sister has done, but his peremptory, patriarchal behavior is one step away from a chest beating caveman. That Anna finds this sexy is disappointing as is the non stop stereotypical portrayal of her as the uptight babe that gets shown how to live by the sexy hotel magnate.
This exchange kind of typifies the book for me:
“Perhaps you need a little promiscuity in your life,” he replied, very aware he was being self-serving as he said it. “A little fun that’s about you, not about others or what they expect from you.”
“You’re only saying this because it would suit your purposes if I agreed with you. Stop trying to seduce me, Mr. Jackson. It won’t work.”
But Anna is an easy mark because not only is she a virgin BUT SHE’S NEVER KISSED ANYONE BEFORE. Oh lord. Her sexual awakening comes about and it’s just so sudden and unbelievable.
I know HPs have a certain formula and there are certain expectations one should observe when reading them, but I just could not lose myself in this book. Every page caused me to raise my eyebrows and tug my hair in frustration.
I almost wished the book had started with her sexual awakening instead of having that mid book because although it was only a matter of hours from the meet to the deflowering, it was a long time in the book itself (1/2). The second half of the book then was a completely different story as it attempts to incorporate more HP tropes (marriage of convenience, secret baby, blackmail).
When Leo sheds his know it all air and Anna has a little more backbone (she never gets much) the story turns around a little for me but it’s hard to win back a reader lost at the opening. C-