A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence. I mean, how could I not download this? But you know what they say about wishes, horses and best intentions. Yeah, issues. I haz them.
Samantha Davis needs a job. She got fired from her last place of employment when she had an affair with her boss (who she didn't know was married and whose wife worked for the same company - oopsie!). Her godmother is getting ready to go on a month-long vacation and convinces her boss, the mysterious Brody Eden, to hire Sam for the month. Basically it's one part secretary (the usual office stuff) and one part gopher (she'll have to pick up his dry cleaning). Since Brody tends to hide himself away in his office like the Wizard of Oz and the salary for one month's work is obscene, this should be the easiest gig ever. But, of course, Sam (also known as Little Miss Fixer) can't help herself from rattling the beast's cage.
Brody was put in foster care after his father went to prison for abusing him (and his mother stood by her man). This abuse left Brody with scars down one side of his face and body. That's right kiddies! Not only do we have a Virgin Hero and Boss/Secretary we also have a Beauty and the Beast trope! Let's take a moment, shall we?
He takes one look at Sam and is a goner. But oh noes! He has scars! He lives his life in seclusion even though he's the CEO of a Super Mega Software Company. For once the Virgin Hero in the contemporary setting is the least absurd thing about this book. The obstacles Brody goes through to keep his seclusion in check (when he's Bill Gates) caused quite a bit of eye-rolling on my part.
The story starts out fairly well. Sam has been burned badly by an office romance before and Brody is brooding and mysterious. Unfortunately it slides south almost immediately. Given Sam's past the fact that she meddles almost immediately and jumps whole hog into wanting Brody's sexy, sexy bod smacks dead center into Too-Stupid-To-Live territory. You get fired from your last job because you slept with your married (even if you didn't realize that fact) boss. Maybe this is just me, but I would stay far, far away from men for a while - and my next boss? H-E-to-the-double-L no. There's a nanosecond of hesitation on Sam's part and then it's like she can't get her panties off fast enough.
I also realize this is a Desire, so we're looking at a really short word count, but there's literally no tap dance between Sam and Brody. Once she gets him out of his office, they meet in person, it's like wham-o! Now we're in bed burning up the sheets. Tap dancing can be done in short word counts. It's hard. It's not easy. But it can be done. Category readers can give you a laundry list of books that pull it off. This one does not.
But again, Beauty and the Beast, Virgin Hero and Boss/Secretary. This was firmly in the C range before it happened. The series baggage showed up and it's straight up I Know What You Did Last Summer. This is book two in the Secrets of Eden series involving foster kids raised by the Eden couple. One day an older boy shows up and he's "bad news." Steals money from Mom. Starts leering at the 13-year-old girl. Then one day when Dad is sick in bed, the kids are doing farm chores, something happens, and Bad News Older Boy ends up dead (it's not disclosed, but my guess is one of the boys - not Brody - finds Bad News Older Boy attempting to assault the girl and accidentally kills him). They're scared foster kids so they bury the body on the parent's land. That portion of the land has just been sold (which happens in the first book) and now Bad News Older Boy's Sister comes sniffing around.
Really, there's so much wrong with this I don't know where to begin. Justifying murder in your romantic couples is always a tricky business, but hey - Convict Heroes and Wrongly Accused are their own dang tropes. But the whole "he was bad news" and "we're scared foster kids" thing? Sorry, not buying. Yes, I'm unfeeling, but these kids had options. Especially since the Edens were apparently Magically Extraordinary Foster Parents. Suspense can show up outside of Harlequin Intrigue, but sandwiched in with Beauty and the Beast, Virgin Hero and Boss/Secretary? In the Desire word count (around 180 pages)? It's too much. Way too much. And it felt completely off-tone from the rest of the story. Also the impression I got that Bad News Older Boy "deserved" to be murdered? Yeah. No. Just....no.
The lesson here is be careful what you wish for. I did inhale this book in one sitting, but quite honestly? It's kind of a hot mess. I was mentally editing and rewriting it as I went along. Mores the pity.
Final Grade = D