Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “I never wanted a hero…I just wanted you.”
Alexa Holland had a wonderful childhood until she found out her father had another family. From that moment on, Alexa has done everything to forge her own identity and separate herself from what her father has done. Starting with the man who was destroyed by her father’s terrible secrets.
Caine Carraway doesn’t want anything to do with Alexa Holland. He’s not interested in her apologies and could care less about her need for redemption. When she will not leave, he amps up his campaign of hate, hoping he can bully her into leaving his life forever. But Alexa refuses to bow under the pressure and soon the attraction between them blazes into an uncontrollable affair that might leave them both burned.
I am on the fence with this book. Samantha Young isn’t a novice author. Her writing is strong and she has a potent voice that usually engages you from the first page. I have for the most part thoroughly enjoyed her On Dublin Street series and while I didn’t expect the same story, I did expect the same clean dynamic characters and story plotting. Unfortunately, while this book engages, it also confuses. Unsteady pacing, random subplots that pop in and out, and too complicated of a back story kept the book from being an easy read. The conflict drags at certain points as there is a repetitive quality in the push and pull of the romance. There were some aspects to Caine’s personality and background that gave me a deja vu feeling of Fifty Shades of Grey. On a good note, Young’s deft hand at creating interesting characters and expertly exposing their dramatic emotional journeys does keep the reader interested.
SPOILER BELOW!!! SPOILER BELOW!!! SPOILER BELOW!!! SPOILER BELOW!!!
First off, the premise is a little disingenuous. Alexa’s father has an affair with Alexa’s mother which produces Alexa. He then leaves her and has an affair with a married woman. He destroys that family (the woman, her husband, and ultimately her child-who is NOT his and that wasn’t altogether clear either till towards the middle of book) and then goes back to Alexa’s mother and all is forgiven. Except his daughter, Alexa, doesn’t forgive him and she makes her mother chose between her or the father. Her mother chooses her father and Alexa leaves never to speak to her mother or father again. Her father’s family disinherited her father and his first wife divorces him. I say first wife because I’m still not 100% sure Alexa’s parents weren’t married. Do you see why I am confused? Honestly, you shouldn’t need a spreadsheet to understand the premise of a stand alone story.
Whew. That’s a lot to take in.
Alexa Holland, a photographer’s assistant, finds her life in turned upside down when she realises she and her boss are there to photograph the elusive billionaire, Caine Calloway. Caine is also the man to whom Alexa feels she needs to apologize to for her father’s actions. Caine is infuriated by her being there and gets her fired. Alexa refuses to take his refusal to see or talk to her at face value and hounds him at his office only to end up working as his PA.
I’m a hard man to please. And I’m also a very busy man. You’ll do what I want when I want and I won’t always be nice about it.”
The ultimate battle of the wills begins as Caine does everything he can to humiliate and torment her into quitting. Alexa instigates herself into all aspects of his life to try and repair the damage her family caused him. They give each other fits. Alexa soon finds herself in over her head by the arrogant and revenge seeking Caine as she is forced to be on call all hours picking up his groceries, dry cleaning, and even breaking up with his current girlfriend for him.
“What did you think would happen when you sent me, a woman, to dump your girlfriend? Phoebe told me to tell you-and I might add how very junior high this all is-not to send a whore to do a man’s job.”
I liked Alexa upon meeting her. Girl finds out her family life is a complete lie, her father is a weak spoiled little boy, she is left penniless, and rather than succumb to the vapors, she pulls up her big girl panties and finds a way through it all. She is strong, intelligent, sarcastic, funny, and has a pretty good outlook on life. She never plays the victim card though she has certainly earned it. She gets a bit annoying in her journey of altruism but her guilt for what her father did to Caine and his family is strong as is her unwavering need for justice.
Caine wasn’t quite as well fleshed out. He’s a dominant, wealthy, emotionally stunted, and angry. If you’ve ever read The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll see what I mean. He is the male version of Miranda Priestly. There is a lot of nastiness there. Yet, there are times we see the cracks in his shell, exposing his vulnerability, though he shores them up pretty quickly with a rude comment or an asinine action. We eventually hear his whole sordid story but I never feel he truly opens up to us or Alexa emotionally. Yes, he had a bad childhood but it doesn’t excuse his actions. He’s damaged and he makes sure we all know it.
Regret clouded his eyes. “You’re looking for something special even if you won’t admit it. And me? I can’t compromise, I can’t change, and I can’t do forever. It’s just not in me.”
The romance develops slowly. I hesitate to actually call this a romance as it’s more of an explosive angst driven love affair. Caine and Alexa’s first meeting sets the stage for their relationship and it only gets more explosive. Sexy hijinks and witty banter carries a lot weight in the story but it couldn’t quite mask the distance that never seems to close between them.
“Take off the dress.”
His voice was thick with need, but still there was authority in it—bossiness.
Turned out in the right situation Caine being bossy was less annoying and actually very, very hot.
Slowly I let go of him and still holding his gaze, I reached behind my neck for the crystal clasp on the halter.
Caine took a few steps back, allowing cool air to rush in around me.
I’d undressed for boyfriends before. It wasn’t something I’d ever been shy about, because unlike most of my friends I didn’t really have any body hang-ups. But it was different standing in front of Caine, preparing to bare myself to him. For some reason it didn’t just feel like I was taking off a dress. It felt like I was letting him see me naked.
And there was a difference.
Lightning hot chemistry with some of Young’s legendary love scenes but that gets bogged down under all the D.R.A.M.A. Caine treats Alexa horribly because the sins of the father and all that. He uses her sexually and wants a non committed relationship though becomes extremely jealous when she gives any attention to another man. Alexa is more committed romantically; she fell a little too fast for my liking but her back story explains her need for someone to love her for her. Everyone she has ever depended on has let her down or shown her she wasn’t worth the effort.
“That’s right…don’t choose me. I’ve come to expect nothing less.”
She repeatedly excuses Caine’s bad and manipulative behavior, believing that she can heal him and therefore win him over. She too has her moments of jealousy and I couldn’t help but feel the author made him purposely obtuse in those scenes in order to introduce more angst to the storyline. The push and pull of the relationship consumes almost the whole story. They argue, Caine leaves, he comes back, they have sex, they argue, Caine leaves, he comes back, they have sex…it’s non stop.
Young ends the story with a manufactured dramatic event that forces Caine to make a decision regarding his feelings for Alexa and to bring resolution to the main conflict. For me it was another point of confusion. The danger to Alexa comes out of nowhere as does the villain’s reasons. I couldn’t help but feel if there had been more of a solid lead up to it, the reveal would have made more sense.
Fans of the more angst infused drama based romances with tragedy powered characters are sure to love this one. My issues with the romance and the confusing stumbling storyline were a hindrance to my overall enjoyment.