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." But....no.
None of this worked for me but - it was readable. Faint praise, entering stage right.
Final Grade = C-