Front Page Affair by Mira Lyn Kelly
The Particulars: Harlequin Presents Extra #136, 2011, Out of print, but available digitally.
The Review: Outside of the TBR Challenge, I have been crap for reading books out of my TBR this year. But I'm working on a little project right now, which required me to read some Presents, and voila! This particular book by Kelly was one I picked up at a Borders going-out-of-business sale (::sob::) after I read this nice review by Lynne Connolly over at TGTBTU. I didn't love it as much as she did, but I did find it to be a very solid, enjoyable read.
Nate Evans is a big time business tycoon-y type (because, aren't they all in Presents-Land?) who needs to get the paparazzi off his scent. There was a wee bump in his personal life some months back, something he settled quietly, but his absence from the social whirlwind has been noticed. What he needs is a distraction. To give the wagging tongues and cameras something else to feast on. Enter stage left, Payton Liss.
Payton is from an Old Money Family and knew Nate as a kid. Hell, she had the mother of all unrequited crushes. But alas her brother and Nate had a falling out, which meant as a casualty Nate started staying away from her. Well now, here they are, at the same society wedding and he's proposing a most outrageous proposition. He wants them to pretend that they've been having a clandestine affair for months! Payton wants to tell him no, but she's sorely tempted. Yes she wants hearts, flowers, marriage and babies - but this is Nate. And even if he tells her in no uncertain terms that he's not the settling down type? Wouldn't it be delicious just to have a taste? Especially since she's tired of always being the "good girl" in the family.
What follows in Nate and Payton striking a bargain, having a good time together, and naturally having their stupid, stupid feelings get in the way. It's a classic set-up for most any friends-to-lovers story and Kelly infuses it with likeable characters that are honest with each other. They like each other, they have fun together, there's a nice playfulness to them when they aren't burning up the sheets. Then Stuff Happens at the end, the heroine blessedly stands firm and doesn't allow the hero to railroad her (Huzzah!) and it all comes to a close with a nicely done emotional finish.
What didn't work quite as well for me was the set-up to this whole affair. I'm willing to roll with a New Money Businessman getting followed around by the paparazzi (but even that strains a bit). What I wasn't quite as willing to roll with was why Nate wanted to keep the past several months a Big Huge Secret. Uh, especially since HE DIDN'T DO ANYTHING WRONG! I get that the court of public opinion is going to tar and feather you anyway you slice it - but when there is irrefutable evidence (as in, good enough to hold up in a court of law) - I just wasn't entirely buying it. Although at the end of the day, it does illustrate that deep down, underneath the New Money Tycoon exterior, Nate is a decent guy.
So yeah, if you can buy the set-up and adore the friends-to-lovers theme as much as I do (ZOMG!), this was a quick, fun read. Kelly is now on my category-reading radar.
Final Grade = B