Dear Ms. McAlister:
This was an unexpected surprise in the HP line although I should expect it from you by now. You do not write the traditional HP hero or heroine.
Sebastian Savas is the oldest son of a wealthy man who married, divorced, and procreated at an alarming rate. One thing that the patriarch does not do is parent. Sebastian has been the father figure of his far flung family and his latest duties include funding and shepherding the wedding of his half sister, Vangie. While Vangie is prattling about whether to have silver or rose color boxes for favors and what kinds of edibles should be placed in those boxes, Seb is trying to land a big project for his company.
Seb is pulled in both directions trying to make his sister happy while she plans "The Wedding That Ate Seattle" and impress the owner of the company, Max Grosvenor. Seb would like nothing better than to forget his familial responsibilities for once and focus on his work. Seb’s plans for stepping into Max’s shoes as head of the company gets more complicated when Max seems to take up with a young space designer, Neely Robson.
Max was Seb’s role model. Maz used to be driven; dressing immaculately every day; the first one to work; the last one to leave. Now Max is sailing in the morning, showing up hours late for work, and taking afternoons off. It’s clear that the time is being spent with this Neely Robson and it’s even worse for Seb when Max brings Neely onto Seb’s project.
Through fairly believable circumstances, Seb and Neely end up staying at the same houseboat. (A co-worker is selling the houseboat and Neely arranges to lease it. In the intervening time, Seb actually purchases it outright. Seb is trying to escape all the various half siblings that have descended for The Wedding).
Neely and Max’s relationship isn’t quite what Seb thinks it is, but the assumptions that he draws are too delicious for Neely to correct right away.
Seb reminded me of a Jayne Ann Krentz hero–one who takes on the responsibilities of his large and extended family but gets nothing in return. I hated his sister and his family, at how they used him, and how it seemed like a symbiotic abusive relationship. He needed them to feel important, partly because it was a way to get back at his father. He’s the better man because he provides for his family. But the family members take gross advantage of this. Vangie, for example, is constantly bothering him about the details of her wedding but repeatedly asks that Seb contact their erstwhile father so that the father can walk her down the aisle.
His family uses him without regard for his feelings, forcing him time and again to pay for their pleasures, taking on the role of the father and not returning appropriate dues.
I was also disappointed that Neely didn’t stand up for him more, particularly in the face of the family’s demands. She plays the free spirit to Seb’s rigid personality. Her character is perhaps more predictable, more of a foil for Seb’s conflict, but even Neely’s view of relationships are challenged by her relationship with Max and Max’s rekindling of feelings for Neely’s mother.
It was a more nuanced story than you often find under the HP covers and I liked it for that reason even if I thought Savas’ entire family should be pushed into the lake.