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Philadelphia Lawyers Have Never Been So Sexy: Case for Seduction by Ann Christopher

25 Oct

Case for Seduction (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #1 – Jake and Charlotte’s story) by Ann Christopher (Kimani Romance, August 21, 2012)

It seems like it’s a Harlequin phenomena to have a series of books, usually based around a family, where each book in the series is written by a different author. I don’t know how I feel about this – granted I’ve read a few series that this worked (like The Notorious Wolfes, aka Bad Blood in the U.K., which was AMAZING) but they are more the exception than the rule. The danger is that you’ll love one author and her description of the family and then have to switch to another author whose perspective isn’t nearly as compelling. Not fun.

Since it was the first in the series, I was happy to take the plunge when I saw the NetGalley notice for Case for Seduction by Ann Christopher. I hadn’t read a book in a long time where the lawyer wasn’t a villian (and certainly I haven’t read about one who was a hero for an even longer time span) and it seemed like a great angle, particularly from an author who worked as attorney before becoming a romance writer. Bracing myself against possible disappointment, I took the plunge and started reading.

I could not put this book down! From the moment when Jake Hamilton meets Charlotte Evans in his local Starbucks to the final page featuring their Happily Ever After, this was a beautifully written, emotionally compelling book. A little longer than a lot of category romance, Christopher gives us three-dimensional but lovable characters, a host of family members, and a great family law firm in 224 pages. I heart her.

And I love Jake and Charlotte. You have to cringe a little at the way attorney Jake Hamilton has been living his life. He’s totally a man-whore, sleeping with plenty of women and facing one messy situation after another as a result. Meeting Charlotte in his local Starbucks, he ignores the flirting of the barrista to try and get to know the gorgeous, gray-eyed beauty he accidentally mowed down. She’s certainly attracted to him but is trying to focus on her law books since she’s got work to do. Hearing that she’s in law school and holding down a job to boot, he’s filled with admiration – Jake is aware that his family’s wealth has given him a lot of advantages and he’s beginning to realize that he’s not given back nearly as much as he’s been given. Looking at the woman who is trying to maintain a professional distance (why?), he’s determined to get to know her better.

Evidence of Desire (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #2) by Pamela Yaye (Kimani Romance, October 1, 2012)

Charlotte realizes soon enough that Jake has no idea that she works for his law firm in the secretarial pool. She’s been more than aware of his jaw-dropping good looks for months now, but he’s never looked at her twice, so why the sudden interest? Clearly the man is used to women falling all over him, as evinced by the pissed-off Starbucks employee he rebuffed and now some woman who loudly accuses him of sleeping with her three times and then never calling her again. Charlotte’s life is complicated enough without some womanizer trying to score, so she packs up her homework and heads out, determined to never think of him again, and she doesn’t bother letting on that she works for him. In the bowels of their offices, she’s bound to go back to being anonymous once more.

All those good intentions fly out the window when the surgeon father of her little two-year-old, Harry, blithely drops her son off in the middle of day, claiming an emergency call. Arguing with him in the reception area, who walks in on them but Jake. Jake is stunned to see the woman he could not stop thinking about for the last few days and the realization that she works for him hits him like a punch in the gut. No wonder she was angry! He surprises himself with both the jealousy toward the man with whom she was clearly involved at some point and with the instant liking he has for the little tyke in the feet-in pajamas. Although Jake knows he can’t pursue a relationship with someone who works for him, a law student is being wasted in the secretarial pool. He offers her a paralegal position, which comes with a 50% pay raise, an impossible proposition to pass up when it’s so hard to make ends meet. Charlotte makes clear that nothing can ever be between them and takes the job.

Legal Attraction (The Hamiltons Laws of Love #3) by Jacquelin Thomas (Kimani Romance, October 16, 2012)

Her presence in his life begins a transformation for Jake, and really, it’s more about Jake evolving than about Charlotte, although she obviously has to begin to trust him. A nice introduction to the Hamilton family takes place, and to the rivalries and sibling tensions throughout the clan, and this sets the class tension rather well. There is a constant conflict of Jake being confronted again and again with women he slept with (and often can’t remember their name), humiliating Jake and reminding Charlotte all too well of what a bad risk he is. My only criticism is that the sex scenes, while hot, seems to be cut off abruptly in spots – I don’t know if this is a Kimani rule or if the author or editor just wanted to spend more page space on the relationship. With writing this tight, I can settle for that compromise!

I adored watching Jake take in the sudden realization of how empty his life is and how Charlotte suddenly brings light and fresh air into it. It was easy to believe his rapid fall into love because she is so worthy of it – he sees her hard work in the face of adversity and she never seems embittered by the obstacles life has thrown in her way, yet she’s no goody-two-shoes. Her son Harry was an adorable little boy (although his language skills seemed really precocious for two and half) and all the minor characters lived up to being contributors in their own right rather than being cardboard cutouts simply inserted for dialogue purposes (the hallmark of the bad Harlequin novel).

The other two books in the series aren’t rated quite as well as this book, but I still think I’ll give them a try since I liked this family and their world so well. I would suggest going to Ann Christopher’s Goodreads page since it’s easier to navigate than her personal website – I discovered she’s got a romantic suspense series I have got to try!

Many thanks to Ann Christopher for her great writing and getting this series going with such a tremendous start. :-)

Surrender My Heart by Kayla Perrin Misses Tugging the Heartstrings

18 Jul

Surrender My Heart (Harts in Love #2) by Kayla Perrin (Kimani Romance, June 1, 2012)

I love books about professional athletes, probably due to the fact that they are often the modern equivalent of the Regency rake. Talented, usually wealthy, with women throwing themselves at their feet, these beautiful men are ready to be reformed through the love a good woman. At least in books. :-)

But this personal preference of mine relies on an author who can make the world of professional athletes come alive, like Jaci Burton. Whether from choice or editor’s decision, Kayla Perrin not only doesn’t dwell on this aspect, but she misses the emotional mark in terms of her two characters in Surrender My Heart.

Natalie Hart Cooper is reeling from her husband’s betrayal. He has left her for her supposed best friend and now the tabloids are saying that they are engaged to be married. Consider that the divorce papers she received unexpectedly in the mail are barely dry, this is a blow to Natalie’s self-esteem, but she’s got bigger fish to fry.

Her sister, Callie, was just in a car accident resulting from the Hart sisters attempting to find their mother. She left all three of them over twenty years ago and the women want to know what happened. Callie fell in love with cop Nigel in book #1 in the series after the three sisters reconnect after a decade of estrangement. Successful singer Deanna and Natalie had a falling out over a guy and not even mother hen Callie could keep the three of them together. The catalyst for their reunion is the death of their beloved Aunt Jean and as they gather for the funeral and to help their uncle, wounds are healed.

The backstory is well-done, not feeling heavy-handed or drowning you in exposition, and you certainly feel Natalie’s emotional betrayal when she gets the divorce papers. Her lack of pondering whether or not she still cares about her ex-husband Vance has the reader wondering if Natalie is ready to be the heroine of a romance or if she runs the risk of simply having a rebound relationship. I could have used some more insight as reassurance.

Heart to Heart (Harts in Love Book 3) by Kayla Perrin (Kimani Romance, July 1, 2012)

When Michael Jones spots Natalie shopping near a restaurant he owns he immediately turns on the charm. With little physical description of either of them, the reader is still given the impression that he’s a gorgeous wide receiver and she’s built on the side of curvy supermodel. But Natalie blows him off, her professional athlete “player” bell dinging a warning, and he’s shocked and intrigued. When fate throws them together in the form of a local charity asking Natalie to help plan a benefit gala (she was a very successful fundraiser in Texas with her ex), she can’t say no. Michael and Natalie end up spending time together and she begins to thaw toward him, frightened by her physical attraction, but willing to take a chance.

One of the reasons I enjoy romance novels is the chance to have two points of view. Unfortunately, practically the whole book, with only a few memorable exceptions, is from Natalie’s standpoint even though Michael seems like the more empathetic character. Natalie is undoubtedly a caring, elegant woman but with all the time she spends comparing Michael and her ex-husband, I’m worried about the success of her relationship. And how did she become a successful fundraiser after a mere two years of marriage to a professional basketball player? Did she have a degree in marketing beforehand? What kind of job did she have before getting married? If she thought her husband was cheating on her six months into her marriage, did she insist on counseling? Hire a private investigator?

What comes across is that Natalie is a very private, almost uncommunicative individual, scarred from her mother’s abandonment when the sisters were children. Aside from her good looks and competence as an events organizer, I actually don’t see why Michael is attracted to her, other than her telling him “no”. He doesn’t really ask her any questions about her marriage, which would had offered an opportunity for him to discuss his own past and condemn cheating in a relationship, or we could have seen Natalie playing with her young family members and Michael thinking about what a good mother she would make to gain a little insight. A real opportunity missed would have been for Natalie to meet Michael’s brain-damaged mother – I can see a sweet scene of Natalie rubbing lotion into the older woman’s hands or caring for her that would have revealed her nurturing character while also showing him her softer side.

I also was dismayed that so little was actually said about Michael being a professional athlete. I assume it wasn’t football season since there was no discussion of his actually playing in games, but what of his training schedule? Professional appearances? No mention of a personal assistant? In this case, it seems making him a professional athlete is more of a trope designed to help the reader understand why Natalie would assign Michael a character of being a playboy and not trust him, rather than to lend a depth of understanding into his character. Since athletes are often disciplined, college-educated individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds, this is also a missed opportunity to flesh out Michael’s character.

From a writing standpoint the dialogue frequently felt stilted. I’m not saying either character had to be a poet, but sandwiching everyday conversation with descriptions that tap into the five senses would have helped me understand the underlying attraction better between the two of them. The search for the Hart girls mother is a clever story arc that clearly does a good job tying the books together. When Michael drives Natalie on the spur of the moment from Cleveland to Philadelphia to follow up on a lead about her mother, it shows a great side of his loyal character (but sadly a rather unattractive and withdrawn side of Natalie, as much as you understand intellectually what she’s going through).

In the end, I came away with the impression that Kayla Perrin’s editor had stripped out a decent amount of description in order to meet a word count or that Ms. Perrin wrote this book really quickly and was unable to give it a couple more revisions that would have added in layers of emotional depth. This is a shame since the story potential was quite good, but in the end, it didn’t make me Surrender My Heart at all.

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