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.
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.
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.