Reviewed by Tori
River Kingston never wanted to follow in her famous poker player father’s footsteps. Financial security is her game and the only gambling she does these days is in her client’s portfolios. When her older brother Royal gambles his way into debt with the mob, River is forced to come out of hiding and play in the Omega One-a large stakes poker tournament in the Bahamas-in order to pay off his debt. River never expected to come face to face with her teenage crush, the world renowned poker player Alec Throne…nor catch his undivided attention. Now, River has two problems. She has to save her brother from the mob and save herself from a man who has decided he’s all-in to her.
I have enjoy Sarah Curtis’ writing since her debut romance contemporary-Alluring. Curtis has a knack for writing engaging alpha males who aren’t annoying and interesting storylines with unusual elements. With that in mind, All-In wasn’t what I expected. Predictable and formulaic, I was disappointed by the lack of drama and humor that Curtis’ books usually contain. Pretty straightforward plotting leads this heavily character driven story on a one way path towards the happily ever after with very little conflict or obstacles to overcome. Dual points of view help to give readers insight into our main characters though I felt the heroine fleshes out far better than the hero. His characterization is very stereotypical with his possessive dialogue and actions.
Alec Thorne is a rich alpha caveman but for the right person and River seems to be that person. There is a sense of insta-lust on his part as he begins to get all growly and possessive towards her at their first meeting. When he sees her again that same night, his possessiveness comes roaring out-evidenced in his ordering dinner for her and demanding another date the next day. I liked that River wasn’t completely on board with Alec’s high handedness though she gives in right after scolding him.
“I can’t believe you just did that. What, am I two? Unable to think and order for myself?”
River Kingston isn’t in need of saving. She isn’t poor, uneducated, downtrodden, or caught between a rock and a hard place. She’s in a tricky situation but it’s nothing she can’t handle. Intelligent, witty, and skilled in poker, River is more then able to hold her own against Alec.
“First off, I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. I’ve been doing it for a long time.”
I liked the idea of River. This no-nonsense financial advisor who is very family oriented, has a dry sense of humor, and plays a wicked game of poker starts out strong. But that River isn’t seen for very long as she is quickly absorbed into Alec’s orbit. I grew bored as she begins to dance around her attraction to Alec. She constantly reminds us and herself that Alex is a known womanizer and she doesn’t want to be another notch on his belt. At the same time, she keeps referring to their time together as a vacation fling and claims to not want any commitments from him. Then she shows jealousy towards pictures of Alec with the same woman numerous time and wants his promise it’s just her (River) in the picture. She gave me whiplash.
The romance is the main focus and builds very quickly as Alec chases after River and she allows herself to be eventually caught. I really wish Alex had been more vocal in his reasons why River was the one for him. We know on River’s end she’s always had a crush on him and spending time with him has inflamed that crush. All we hear on Alec’s end is how she’s the one and she’s so sexy. We know she physically affects him but that seems to be it. The love scenes are hot and steamy but physical based. There is nothing that convinces me this couple is truly falling in love. As all of this takes place in less than a week, it really feels rushed.
All-In is a fast simplistic read that doesn’t tax the reader with overly complicated plotlines or characters. It’s one of a million other over the top romances that takes no risks and does nothing to stand out. I did enjoy the professional gambling element but was disappointed in the weakness of the main conflict. I expected more time to be devoted to it as that’s the story’s premise but we only get two scenes and one of them goes completely off script.