Dangerour Passions

Extreme Measures

McIver's Mission

Her Best-Kept Secret
by Brenda Harlen
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1756, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24756-7
Her Best-Kept Secret is an enjoyable entry into the “Family Business” series about Hanson Media. The hero is not really part of the family, but there is a family connection revealed in the “secret” of the title.

Richard Warren is the corporate attorney for the Media Group and he is in Japan to finalize negotiations for a merger with TAKA, a conglomerate that owns many things, including a newspaper in Tokyo. Richard has been licking his wounds since he discovered his wife sleeping around on him, prompting his divorce. He has become the master of the casual affair in order to protect his heart. His boss, Helen Hanson, who was many years younger than her deceased husband (from whom she has inherited the business), is also his friend. The series background is sketchy but it is clear that Helen feels the need to make this merger happen to build her esteem with her stepsons. She is hiding a secret about her past too. But Helen and Richard have a nice relationship and she has been encouraging him to open his heart to someone new.

Richard is taken by surprise upon meeting a lovely young woman while waiting for a meeting with the CEO at TAKA. Jenny Anderson is a budding journalist who has been stuck in the society pages section for months. She has recently returned to Japan after a 2 ½ year failed relationship with a well known journalist who always put his career in front of Jenny. Jenny feels this is a pattern in her life, since she is adopted. Despite loving parents and a brother, she has always felt abandoned by all who loved her. She is resentful of her birth mother. And her parents traveled extensively while she was growing up, often leaving her in the hands of others. She is attracted to Richard, but sees him as a clone to her ex – both are career oriented and not interested in long term relationships.

Richard finagles it so that Jenny has to be his personal tour guide despite her protests when negotiations go on hold due to a death in one of the executive’s families. Jenny is resentful because she felt she was on the verge of breaking a major news story. He is dedicated to convincing her that a short-term affair should commence. She is dedicated to boring him enough to get him to beg off. The stage is set for romance.

This story is entertaining. Yet, there is a major predictability factor at play here. Once both Jenny and Helen’s backgrounds are introduced, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they have a connection. Despite some fun female-male warfare between Richard and Jenny, it is clear how their relationship will end up and what their conflict will be. It all played out just like one would expect, even down to the conflicts and the sexual activity.

Harlen has a nice style of writing that keeps the reader engaged. She adds depth to her characters that makes the reader care. This talent keeps the reader from feeling bogged down by the less than surprising story line. And it keeps Her Best-Kept Secret strongly in the acceptable category. Having enjoyed other books from Harlen, this one is entertaining enough to keep me looking for her next book.

--Shirley Lyons

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