The Tycoon's Socialite Bride by Tracey Livesay is a contemporary category romance that was published by Entangled in 2014. I missed it back then, but discovered it recently thanks to a gorgeous cover refresh (seriously, I LOVE this cover so much!). And while I'm so over tycoons and billionaires in erotic romance, I can't seem to get enough of them in category romance. I think because the category romance format just lends itself better to the "fairy tale" aspect of the trope (even though I feel cheated that hot, non-oily billionaires are apparently NOT a dime a dozen. Thanks for the unrealistic expectations Harlequin!)
Anyway, I inhaled the first half of this book the Sunday before RWA, resented the fact that I worked on Monday, and didn't inhale the second half until Tuesday when I was on the plane to Denver. Ladies and gents, it was time well spent.
Marcus Pearson was a poor kid who grew up to be a real estate mogul. With steely-eyed focus, everything in his life since he was a teenager has been to achieve the goals of 1) getting rich and 2) destroying David Holcombe and his boutique Washington DC hotel. A single mother, Marcus' mom was a maid at the hotel and David Holcombe's response to something bad that happens to her there is...well, just as awful as you can probably imagine. Word is the hotel is for sale, and that's Marcus' in, but Holcombe won't even read his proposal - he suspects because in upper crust DC society Marcus is a "nobody" or in more polite terms "new money." What he needs is a boost.
That boost comes in the form of Pamela Harrington, a D.C. socialite from a prominent political family (her fathers casts a long shadow). And, as luck would have it, she wants something that Marcus has. Seems Marcus' "people" bought a building in an gentrifying area of the city. Currently a women's shelter is occupying the space and Pamela does not want to see them evicted. So she tracks down Marcus on the golf course looking to work out some sort of deal. She didn't plan on him proposing a marriage of convenience!
Pamela's connections and pedigree are just what Marcus needs to move his revenge plan for Holcombe forward. Pamela has very strong feelings about the women's shelter and having just broken off an engagement (much to her father's chagrin), temporarily marrying Marcus isn't the worst idea she's ever heard. She thinks he's giving her name too much credit, but if it means saving the shelter? She'll do it.
We all think we know what's going to happen next, but Livesay throws a curve ball to spice up the proceedings. Namely, once word gets out of their engagement things don't go entirely according to plan. Namely, Pamela's father, who is "not pleased" although he's much too dignified and well-heeled to show that displeasure to anyone outside of the family circle. The fact that his daughter has not stepped into the perfect society role carved out by his late wife and broken off an engagement to a perfectly suitable young man continues to displease him. Now she's marrying some...well, upstart! With no breeding or dignity or a drop of blue-blood to recommend him.
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this story. Livesay hits all the right emotional beats, infuses some fantastic father/daughter angst, and sets the story up so that Pamela and Marcus become "a team" fairly quickly. Of course, it cannot all be smooth sailing. Marcus desperately wants his revenge and The Black Moment is courtesy of when he has to make a choice. How badly does he want that revenge? Because in order to achieve it, he will surely lose the woman he has come to care about.
And Pamela? Bloody fantastic! She's strong and determined without being pluckily annoying. I'm not sure pluckily is even a word - but you get my drift. She's smart, hard-working, has her head screwed on straight, but has a complicated relationship with her stony father and family legacy. Pamela is a woman who knows what she wants, but it's the navigating around the society she's in that makes it tricky. She's smooth as silk, but still looking for affirmation and support. She wants a man who sees HER, not just what her name can do for him. And even though she agreed to marry Marcus because he needs her name, that doesn't make it hurt less when he fails to see HER.
Sigh, this is a really well-done category romance. The D.C. setting is well-played and for readers who cannot deal with fictional politicians right now (not that I blame you....), this romance is set in the D.C. world without featuring political main characters. It's got a nice sense of place, a dynamite heroine and a hero with plenty of angsty baggage. I obviously need to read a lot more of Tracey Livesay.
Final Grade = B+