Dear Ms. Anderson:
Over time, the Australia/New Zealand Harlequin Presents (HPs) have become my favorites mostly because I feel that the women are slightly more emancipated in these stories (not always of course). Pleasured features the requisite millionaire but the heroine isn’t a virgin. Instead, she’s provocative and proactive.
Sienna, on vacation in Sydney, is drawn to a band practicing in a club. Inside she finds not only a band but “Mr. Utterly Attractive.” She wants him and after seeing the mutual attraction in his eyes, she sets out to get him. Sienna is determined to abide by her new motto of “living in the moment.”
The target is Rhys Maitland, millionaire in disguise. He’s taking a much needed vacation from his medical career by hiding in this less ritzy, touristy part of Sidney. Rhys is constantly pursued by women and the tabloids as he is an heir to a large Sydney fortune. His attraction to Sienna is surprising, a little unwanted but still invigorating.
Sienna and Rhys have secrets that they keep from each other because neither of them want to divulge personal information but for differing motivations. They both fear that the other will react differently if they knew the truth. Sienna fears pity from Rhys. Rhys wants to get to know Sienna without the interference of his money and notoriety might cause.
The conflict rests some on their mutual secrets, some on a standard HP trope of mistrust and misunderstanding (Rhys accuses Sienna of selling their relationship out to the tabloids), but more interestingly on Sienna’s need to test herself and be autonomous and Rhys overbearing concern for her health. Sienna’s trip to Sidney and parts far aflung was for the purpose of escaping the bonds of those who love her. One of the things that I appreciate about this HP is that it took turns that I didn’t expect. Sienna’s decisions regarding her relationship with Rhys, in the end, were predicated less on the wrong assumptions that Rhys made about Sienna and more about her fear of ending up in the same type of relationship she had escaped.
Rhys was less interesting. He plays the mistrusting, cynical alpha male role found in many of the HPs. Of course, the standard characterization is partly the reason that we read HPs but given that Sienna was a little unusual, I felt something more could have been done with Rhys. He was quick to forgive and forget and there is a big dramatic ending which was enjoyable, but I felt there could have been even greater emotional connection had Rhys been a more vibrant character.
In the end, I found the reliance on the old HP tropes were unnecessary and leached away part of the uniqueness. For all that Rhys’ standard alpha male shtick was mundane at times, Sienna’s vibrancy made up for it. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more Natalie Anderson books. B-