"And suddenly she realized what a clever strategy that was. Because he didn't appear to hide anything, no one looked deeper. No one suspected there was anything more to expose...."Quick. First response that pops into your head when I say "Harlequin Presents." Go.
I'm going to go out on a limb that more than a couple of you probably said, "asshole heroes" or "innocent, virginal heroines." Or, you know, a combination of the two. That's what makes An Invitation To Sin by Sarah Morgan such a good read. It's not necessarily what a lot of readers would think of when you say "Harlequin Presents." Oh sure, you've got an Italian hero who is a demon in bed. And, oh sure, you've got a glitzy Italian backdrop where the actress heroine is filming a movie. But not only is this book glitzy and sexy - it's also fun. And besides the fun? There's also a decent amount of angst floating around.
Taylor Carmichael has been an actress since she was a child. Her mother was your stereotypical stage mom, until at 17 years old Taylor fired Dear Ol' Mom as her manager. That, naturally, generated some headlines and it also led to events that continue to haunt Taylor. It got so bad at one point, the pressure built up so much, that she literally went underground for a while. Well now she's back. As much as she abhors the public spotlight, the constant intrusion of the paparazzi, she loves acting. She just needs to prove to everybody that she is a good actress, and not just a pretty face with a habit of causing train wrecks. She's landed a juicy part, which is why she's in Italy - attending a wedding with the film's producer. He's preaching to her to be on her best behavior, no negative publicity, yada yada yada. And then she stumbles across Luca Corretti hiding out in the garden with a bottle of champagne.
Luca is hiding from last night's entertainment. Our hero is a bad boy with a great head for business, and a well-honed taste for fast cars and faster women. Unfortunately the last fast woman he took to bed is acting like she wants a "relationship" ::shudder:: which Luca does not do. Then he meets Taylor Carmichael, movie star. Her reputation is almost as bad as his, but unlike Luca she tries to repress her true nature. That just makes our boy sad. I mean, what a waste? Flirtation follows, banter ensues, and before you know it - the press gets a photograph of Luca and Taylor sharing a passionate kiss. This is not good, for Taylor at least. And frankly she's so annoyed that she figures since Luca got her into this mess? He's getting her out. There's not a faster way towards respectability than crying "engagement," so that's what she does. Luca, at first, balks, but quickly realizes that this fake engagement may also work to his benefit as well. So the charade is on!
What we have here is a bad boy with vulnerability issues he hides very well and a bad girl heroine who is desperate for respectability and to be taken seriously. Taylor also has a Big Secret and massive trust issues. Essentially Taylor and Luca are a lot alike, they just choose to go about dealing with fame and the trappings of it in different ways. Luca refuses to hide from anybody, this is me, this is who I am, if you don't like it I don't really care. Taylor is more insecure about it, although she does her best to put on a brave face - it's just hard sometimes when some pushy paparazzo is shoving a camera up your nose.
Like all stories of this ilk, naturally the fake engagement leads to something more. Our bad boy hero who has sworn off commitment falls hard. Our heroine who is running scared finds a way to stand on her own two feet, in part because of the support she gets from the hero. The banter is fast and furious, the sexual tension is sizzling, and I loved the pairing of bad girl meets bad boy. It's slick, it's charming, and it's sexy. And better still? Even though the story is fun, the author slips in just enough angst and baggage to give her characters depth - meaning that the whole time you're reading slick, charming and sexy? You aren't likely to dismiss the book the moment you hit the final sentence. If the rest of the books in the Corretti Dynasty continuity series are even half as good as this one, romance fans are in for a real treat.
Grade = B+