Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Sold To The Enemy
When you read a good category romance, it's the purest form of the genre.
There's also the magic of finding an author who writes the format well, which is what Sarah Morgan does. She's really smart with category. She takes classic themes and tropes, populates them with interesting characters, and then peels her conflict back slowly, like an onion. She's very good at what I call the "slow reveal," and Sold To The Enemy is no exception.
Selene Antaxos has spent all of her young twenty-something years living on an isolated, inhospitable Greek island with her terrorized mother and a monster for a father. Selene's one goal is to get both her and her mother off the island and away from her father, who perpetuates the myth that they're a "perfect family," while secretly behind closed doors he smacks them around. While her father is off the island visiting one of his many mistresses, Selene disguises herself, thwarts his security team, and lands on Stefan Ziakas doorstep. Stefan is rich, powerful, and many years ago was nice to Selene at a party she attended with her father (you know, to perpetuate the whole "happy family" thing). Her father's reach is so far that she knows if she wants to get her business proposal off the ground that she must go to someone who isn't under her father's thumb - and that's Stefan. The two men loathe each other.
Stefans' not really sure what to think with Selene shows up at his office unannounced, but he does pick up on the fact that she's sexy and sweet, wrapped up in one forbidden delectable package. What driven Greek tycoon can possibly resist that? Sparks fly, Selene cuts loose, and a good time is had by all until reality intrudes with the harsh light of day. Stefan may have just unwittingly unraveled Selene's carefully constructed escape plan for her and her mother. Oopsie!
On the surface what we have here is your classic young, fresh-faced, virginal (naturally) heroine paired up with the ruthless, worldly tycoon. This story is a staple in romance and the Presents universe, but Morgan takes it and infuses it with some fresh ideas. Selene may be young and virginal, but she's got gumption. You'd have to have gumption to defy her father, and she's smart enough to realize that if she wants to escape him, and save her mother, that she's going to need money, which means needing help. Stefan has a long-standing reason for hating Selene's father that dates back to his childhood. What I liked about him is that he uses his brain. He does make assumptions about Selene and he does think he knows what's going on. However when things go to hell, and he's alone thinking back on the turn of events - it hits him. Selene's got a secret, and he's going to swoop in to rescue her.
A Rescue Fantasy is at the heart of this story, and you need a hero like Stefan to believably thwart a man as powerful as Selene's father. What I really liked is that Selene is constantly pushing back. She doesn't want to escape one prison only to walk into another, and she doesn't entirely trust Stefan. Plus it quickly becomes apparent to her that Stefan is a man who is incapable of dealing with emotions and being honest about them. She's spent her whole life tip-toeing around her father, saying one thing, meaning another. She's not about to enter into a relationship with a man where she has to tip-toe around her feelings for him just because she might say words like "love" or "forever" and scare the bejesus out of him.
As quickly as this story read, and as much as I liked the main couple, I did have quibbles. For someone who has been ruled over with an iron fist for roughly some 22 years, Selene's relentless optimism was a little hard to swallow. Honestly she was a little too well-adjusted, which seemed odd given her monster of a father and a mother who was more wraith-like shadow than woman. And speaking of Dear Old Mom, that aspect of the story could have used some help, although admittedly a big road block in the way is the category format itself. Morgan does what she can with it, and certainly writing Stefan as fabulously wealthy with power and resources helps to grease the wheels.
However, quibbles aside, it's still a good story with classic themes and a fairy tale twist. If you like Presents, this one is a good one. And heck, if you think you don't like Presents? This is still a good one.
Final Grade = B-