Ever read a book that you know you should really dislike and yet...you don't? I can count on one hand how many times it has happened to me, but happened it has. And now I have a new title to add to my list of examples: Parker's Price by Ann Bruce. In this instance, I credit the author's skill for keeping me engaged in the story and a jaw-droppingly, sexy-beyond-words hero.
Parker Quinn is working overtime to make sure her charity auction is a rousing success, but instead she's dealing with an ex-boyfriend who just won't catch a clue. She counts her blessings when a devastatingly handsome stranger comes to her rescue, but then she finds out that said stranger is none other than Dean Maxwell. The same Dean Maxwell who knocked up her sister and abandoned her. Talk about a mood killer!
Dean's a little confused when the sexy woman he was flirting with immediately turns cold after he tells her his name, but he's not about to take no for an answer. So just as the charity auction is about to wrap up, he drops a very tidy sum of money to win a date with Parker. She's not happy, but is effectively cornered and there is no way to extricate herself. He immediately puts on the full court press in wooing her, and in doing so, Parker begins to question what she thinks she knows about the man.
Essentially what readers are going to get here is a category romance. If I were to label this one, using the print Harlequin lines, I would say this is a cross between a Harlequin Presents and a Silhouette Desire. Somewhere in that ball park at any rate. Dean certainly fits the mold of those types of heroes. He's Alpha all the way, sexy as sin, with plenty of money to throw around, and is also protective and persistent. Readers who generally gravitate towards hero first, heroine second, are going to be very happy with this guy. Yummers!
What didn't work so well for me in this story was the biggest aspect of the conflict and Parker's reaction to it. She's confronted by the guy who supposedly knocked up and abandoned her sister. What does she do? Nothing. Seriously? OK, unless you think your sister is a skank-tastic ho bag and you essentially have no relationship with her, who does that sort of thing? Dean tries to ask her about her cold shoulder and she brushes him off. Really? Really? Granted I love and adore my sisters, but even if we didn't have a strong relationship, had I been confronted by a guy who did something like that to them the very least I would have done is toss my drink in his face and let loose a string of expletives that would make a Marine blush. Parker does nothing. She stews. Oh and she spends time with him, flirts with him, and barely manages to keep her panties on around him. And I mean....barely.
Now, blessedly, this doesn't drag out for the whole story. And I do like that when confronted by aspects of Dean's personality that don't mesh with what she thinks she knows about him already, Parker does begin to question. But her not confronting him immediately with this perceived douchebaggery just did not ring true to me. At all.
With that aspect of the plot dealt with, the author throws in a suspense sub plot that is pretty light in the pants, but does keep the story moving along. While Parker does have trust issues, this isn't a real angst-y internal conflict driven read. Dean is blessedly free of stereotypical hero angst (OMG, a hero who had a happy childhood?!) so the job of keeping this story moving is thrust on Parker, the external conflict, and some smokin' hot love scenes that bring sexy back.
So what does that leave me with? A yummy beyond words hero (seriously, to die for), a heroine whose conflict response didn't ring true for me (at all), sexy love scenes, and external conflict that did the job, but didn't light my world on fire. Yep, we're left with a mixed bag.
Final Grade = C
This title can be purchased at Carina Press and other fine digital book outlets.