Avery Scott has built an extremely successful party planning business with a client list full of the rich, famous and powerful. One of those clients is Crown Prince Malik of Zubran, who wants her to plan a lavish party to celebrate his upcoming nuptials to a (seriously, hand to God) virgin bride. No problem, right? Wrong-o. Because Avery and Malik once had a hot-and-heavy affair, lasting a whole year, until his overpowering ways and her fear of all things emotional got in the way. In short, he broke her heart and now she has to watch from the sidelines as he marries another woman. Which honestly? She thinks she's happy about. I mean, it's a whole lot easier to not pine after a married man, so the sooner Malik is married, the better. Except for one teensy, tiny problem. Yeah, his intended bride? Just up and went missing. As in, ran away. That just won't do, so Avery decides to help Malik find her, you know by spending time alone with him the desert. Sure, that'll work out just fine......
Morgan is so smart in the category format and here she really milks it to maximum effect. She peels the conflict back, in layers, like an onion. We know going in that Avery is a smart, independent, ball-busting sort of woman. She built her own business, she's given her life to that business, and when Malik threatens (so she thinks) her independence, she bolts. She's not about to let some high-handed Alpha male tell her what to do or what to feel. Naturally as the story goes on, we see what really was behind the demise of the affair. What Malik felt and thought, what Avery felt and thought, why they had these feelings and thoughts, the emotional back-story that led to both of their broken hearts.
It's all very, very smart, but in a longer book I think Avery would wear out her welcome with some readers. This is not a cuddly sort of romance heroine. Frankly, she's very driven, very single-minded, and is more likely to steamroll over the hero before he has a chance to uncover what's really driving her insecurities.
"'You never need anything, do you, Avery Scott?' His voice was soft in the darkness and she squeezed her eyes tightly so that the tears didn't fall. She couldn't believe she was actually crying. She could just imagine what her mother would say to that.And that's Avery in a nutshell. She is the way she is for various reasons, it's up to the author, and Malik to coax those reasons out over the course of the story. Then it's up to Malik to teach her that she doesn't have to be afraid. In short, these two people who are used to being "in charge" need to learn to trust each other, but it won't be easy since they both have baggage.
'Sometimes I pretend to need someone, just to stroke a masculine ego.'
'I doubt you have ever stroked a man's ego in your life. Knifed it, possibly."
I liked that the author didn't make either character solely at fault for anything. Both Malik and Avery make mistakes, and they both have to own up to them. I also liked that the author doesn't morph Avery into a pod person to make the happy ending work. She's independent, she's a businesswoman, she's smart, has her own opinions etc. Which means, thank you sweet baby Jesus, she doesn't morph into a subserviant handmaiden just because she finally realizes that she loves Malik and wants to spend a lifetime with him.
This is a good solid Presents that bucks the opinion, held by some, that the heroines must all be dishrags while the heroes must all be Alpha jerk-wads. This book features two headstrong people who learn from each other and recognize that their relationship is going to take time and effort - effort that in the end will be worth it. Because honestly? They love each other and are perfect together. Hey, this is a romance - what could possibly be better than that?
Final Grade = B