Reviewed by Helyce
I really enjoyed this 3rd book in Ms. Lemmon’s Billionaire Bad Boys series. Eli is home after a devastating injury following an explosion where he lost part of his leg. If that wasn’t enough, he lost two men from his team and he suffers that loss even more than he misses his leg. He can’t wrap his head around the fact that he survived when two men had to die, both leaving behind wives and one also leaving behind children. To cope, he’s burried himself in his work and prefers his solitude. In an effort to draw him out, his dad and his brother’s and their wives force family dinners on him once a week and during this time they try their best to get him to agree to come work with them at the family business, Crane Hotels. Toward that end, his eldest brother Reese has contracted a personal assistant for him. Eli doesn’t need or want a personal assistant and he quickly gets rid of each one the agency sends over by being mean and gruff and in many cases, making them cry.
After the 10th person gets “fired” Isabella Sawyer, owner of Sable Concierge, has no choice but to take on the beast that is Eli Crane herself. She’s tough and she’s determined and she cannot fail. The contacts she can make from a successful association with one of the Crane Hotel owners is too important to her business. So, she passes on some of her responsibilities to her own assistant and arrives at Eli’s home to take over.
Eli has no idea that Isa is actually the owner of the agency that has been sending over assistants. When she shows up, he’s his normal gruff and irritating self, but Isa sees right through him. She is not about to let him run her off. Eli, soon realizes that Isa is not going to cry and run off like the previous assistants. And that makes an impression that he quickly decides that he likes. Isa, too, feels it…but she does not like it.
“The crackle in the air this time wasn’t a buzz of warning but of something else. Something heavy and weighted. Unwanted attraction.
The kind you feel for a man when you know that you shouldn’t. The kind packaged to be tempting, but when you get close, learn that the enticing beauty is laced with deadly poison.
The feeling was so strong, the pull so palpable, Isa struggled not to advance a step.”
Eli is the quintessential tortured hero and Lemmon writes him beautifully. Eli is alive, but he can’t shake the guilt he feels that he survived the explosion and two men on his team died while saving him. He’s done all the PT needed to master his prosthetic leg and he’s in great shape, but he still suffers bouts of phantom pain so debilitating it literally takes his breath away. It was simply necessary to fall for Eli and feel every ounce of his angst.
Isabella is a force of nature and I really liked how Lemmon portrayed her. Isa comes from a family that came with certain expectations of her. She did as she was told, went to the right college, studied the right curriculum. She went into the family business. She met and dated the kind of man that she was expected to and everything seemed to be going according to plan until she realized the plan wasn’t hers. So, much to her parents disappointment, she left the family business to strike out on her own. Her business is doing great and so is Isa.
Eli and Isa get off to a bit of a rocky start, but it quickly moves toward something physical when Isa lets her guard down and starts to temp Eli. They find that they are very compatible in more ways than one. Though they discuss everything and are open and upfront about what they are looking for, they do realize that they have something special–they just take a cautious approach to it.
Eli and Isa have more in common then they realize as far as relationships go. Eli’s previous girlfriend didn’t stick around long after he came back injured. Her parting comment…”this is what I signed up for”, truly did a number on Eli and you can see deeply it affected him. So much so, that it affects how he is with Isa. Even as he realizes how much she means to him, he’s pushing her away.
The conflict that breaks the blossoming relationship was expected, but perhaps necessary to push the couple past their relationship hangups. What was unexpected was who actually caused the conflict. I find in romance reading that the hero is often the one who makes a mistake that sends the heroine packing. But in this instance, it appeared that Isa jumps the gun and then is disappointed in Eli’s reaction. She immediately blames Eli, and when she realizes her error, she’s the one who has to apologize. Everything is then wrapped up all neat and tidy-and while I demand a HEA in my romance, this felt a bit rushed at the end.
Having said that, Ms. Lemmon has once again given us a well rounded romance, full of feeling and sprinkled with humor. It is impossible not to want to see this couple find their way to love.