Wednesday, June 21, 2017

#TBRChallenge 2017: The Millionaire Meets His Match
The Book: The Millionaire Meets His Match by Kate Carlisle

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Silhouette Desire #2023, Out of Print, Available Digitally, First book in series.

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?:  Carlisle is a local author and I've corralled her for a couple of library events over the years.  My copy of this book is autographed, so my guess is I probably picked it up at an RWA Conference.  Plus, this is a boss/secretary romance and they're my catnip.  Yes, yes, I know.  I'm part of the problem.

The Review: Carlisle is better known for her cozy mysteries but from 2010 to 2013 she wrote half a dozen books for Desire.  This is the first in a trilogy about three adopted brothers who are doing their darnedest to avoid their mother's matchmaking schemes.

Adam Duke is the CEO of Duke Development, an outfit that specializes in luxury resorts.  He's in the midst of a huge project when his very capable, very indispensable assistant quits.  Just walks out and quits.  Apparently being three months pregnant, planning her wedding, and working around the clock for Adam wore her down to the nub.  The head of HR, who also happens to be his mother's BFF, says don't worry.  She'll get someone from the "floater pool."  Adam thinks this is a terrible idea, even if their floaters are a cut above.  She sends him Trish James, sexy, curvaceous, and a dynamite PA.  He's quite pleased with this new development until he realizes - wait a minute.  His head of HR is his Mom's BFF.  His Mom who keeps harping on marriage and grandbabies and....OMG, is Trish a plant?!

Trish is not a plant.  She's a spy.  She was raised by her grandmother who owned an antique shop in a quaint shopping center.  The other people who owned businesses in that center became like family.  Then the owner died, his kids sold the building to the highest bidder, and that was Duke Development.  They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.  Trish's grandmother had a heart attack and died, and the other business owners are having a rough time.  Trish just KNOWS Duke did something underhanded.  So she uses some connections to get a job, and is using this opportunity as his temporary assistant to dig up some dirt on his "shady" business dealings.

This story is filled with Magical Thinking.  I liked this spin on the boss/secretary trope and I tend to love it when the revenge trope is initiated by the heroine.  Romancelandia is littered with heroes who want to get revenge against the heroine's father - so to have a heroine motivated by revenge puts a different spin on things.  But Trish is just - well, blind.  Look, it sucks that your grandmother's rented shop space gets sold out from under her and torn down - but that doesn't make it illegal.  And there is literally NO whiff, at all, that something sneaky happened here.  The business owners wanted to apply for historic landmark distinction, but they didn't own the building.  And when the owner died, his kids, quite frankly, didn't give two snits.  Take the money and run.  And Duke offered the money.  This sucks - it's not illegal.  But the fact that Trish is SO convinced that something OBVIOUSLY not kosher went down is, well, absurd.

Adam seems like an OK guy until his brothers' paranoia about their Mom (seriously, they seem to think she's the Professor Moriarty of Matchmaking) gets to him.  Then he jumps to all sorts of conclusions about Trish even though he has absolutely no proof.  For his mother to be behind Trish being his new PA would literally mean she pulled off the Tet Offensive of Potential Matchmaking.  It defies logic.  But Adam, supposedly this super smart business dude, totally buys into it and runs with it.  Well he'll show that gold digger Trish!  He's sleep with her, have a grand old time, and then dump her like a hot potato.  THAT WILL TEACH MOM!!!!


None of this works.  It also really strains against the tone of the writing.  Carlisle has a lighter tone and style - a nice change of pace for the Desire line.  There's small touches of humor in this story, even if a lot of that humor fell flat for me because it revolves around Matchmaking Mama.  That said, as unsavory as I found the train of thoughts by both hero and heroine - it could have been more so if this story had been written in a heavier tone.  Like, say, in a traditional Presents style.  The character motivations didn't work for me, but the author's style did make this story readable even as I was frustrated by the authorial story choices.  There were also what I would call traditional elements here that didn't work for me.  The baggage of the adopted brothers to set up the angst for the trilogy.  The virgin heroine.  The fact that Adam ends this story smelling like a rose because even though it was HIS company that tore down Trish's grandmother's business, well - Adam didn't know anything about it and see - he's a really good guy!  Dude.  It would have been way more interesting if Adam had said, "Yeah, I tore that mother down.  I needed the parking space."

None of this worked for me but - it was readable.  Faint praise, entering stage right.

Final Grade = C-


Jill said...

I've got to be honest, I miss the old Desires, where people could be "plain folks" so long as there were sexy times ;-) I miss Jennifer Green's writing for that line and I've tried very few since then. Reading "American Harlequin Presents" just doesn't do it for me.

For my TBR challenge reading, I read "My Dearest Enemy" by Connie Brockway. It ticked a lot of comfort reading boxes, historical, enemies to lovers, Connie Brockway, and epistolary romance. It sadly fell short of my expectations.

Avery Thorne and Lily Bede are ensnared in a will where they're both fighting for ownership of the same house. Avery leaves to explore the world in a huff (essentially) and he and Lily communicate by letter for a few years until he comes back to claim his home. Avery considers himself the traditional English gentleman, Lily considers her a feminist that could never be shackled by love and marriage. Of course they fall in love.

The setup was really tantalizing and clever and I wish I could say I loved it, but I just didn't. Part of the problem is "the book in my head" I thought this would be just was very different from how it turned out. The letter writing was cute, but only a minor part of the book. The tension between the characters never really took off for me.

There was also some things about the book that I found kind of distasteful. Lily takes on only pregnant maids that have been abandoned and are going to be single mothers. Then instead of being well-rounded side characters, the maids were always swooning over the handsome hero and fainting so he had to carry them. I think it was meant to be. . . funny? But the tone felt off. The heroine was always frustrated and annoyed by them and it felt very much like "I have to save these dumb 'slutty' women from themselves because they're so dumb and boycrazy." I cringe even saying that, but it was the feeling I got and it colored my perception of the whole book.

I doubt that was the author's intention and I think it was something that just didn't age well. It's almost 20 years old, so a lot has changed even if it was a historical. There was also some other things about Englishmen exploring "exotic" cultures that was a little cringey but that was a very small part of the book compared to the maids subplot.

The best part of the book was Avery and that's saying something because I usually read more for the heroine than the hero. He was a sweet, sheltered guy who grew from a weakling with asthma to a man of the world. He thinks of himself as "typical English gentleman" but he's really something quite unique.

I'd give the book overall a B- and some of that might be due to my fondness for Connie Brockway.


Wendy said...

Jill: Back when I first started reading romance, Desires were my favorite category line (Jennifer Greene! Elizabeth Bevarly!). But yeah - I hear you on the American HP thing. I didn't read them for years because of that. In my old age I've come around a bit more to HP and ergo Desire - which seems to be the opposite from most romance readers. They got hooked on HPs when they were younger...then drifted away. I stayed far, far away from them until, oh, maybe 5 years ago? After I'd been reading romance for over a decade.

The closest Desire author I've found to "the old Desires" is Sarah M. Anderson. That said - she's been known to do wealthy heroes. Still, the "feel" is there.

My Dearest Enemy was one of the very first romances I read and I remember liking it - but like a lot of Brockway's work - it's had no staying power with me. I have zero recall on that book. Granted I read it in 1999 - so I'm not sure how much recall I was expecting to have. Same thing with All Through the Night. Most memorable thing about that book? The ending. Other than that? I got nothing.

Lynn Spencer said...

Yeah, this one would probably drive me bonkers. I like boss-secretary stories sometimes, but I have my limits on the crazy stuff.

It's funny. I actually do like HP (they're something of a guilty pleasure for me), but the revamp of Desire just hasn't worked for me. Like Jill says above, it's basically American HP. I think it could work better if it was something like the oddly marketed/packaged Kisses (RIP) line was meant to be. Sexy stories that felt modern.

Wendy said...

Lynn: I never could wrap my head around the KISS line, and I think that was the problem. The line never seemed to have a strong marketing identity.

You know what I think it is? HPs appeal to me because they're essentially fairy tales. And it's easier for me, as an American reader, to fall into a fairy tale when it's taking place in some fictional Mediterranean country. The Desires don't seem to capture that for me - even with all the billionaire tycoons and millionaire cowboys. Also, too many babies. I'm fine with kids in romance, but Desires seem to feature a lot of babies.