Night Whispers

Suite Seduction

Relentless by Leslie Kelly
(Harl. Tempt. #841, $4.99, R) ISBN 0-373-25941-7
Entertaining, with a likable premise and some intriguing twists, ultimately I thought Relentless was a bit uneven. It does everything right in the last chapter … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pamela Bradford is pretty sure she loves her fiancé, and absolutely certain she can’t marry someone who has no interest in her physically. In spite of his reputation as a lady-killer, Peter has scarcely laid a finger on her. She’s worried - which is how she ends up scantily clad, inside his bachelor party cake, hoping to inspire him.

This scheme seemed like a good idea after a few drinks with her bridesmaids, but the alcohol is wearing off and Pamela would prefer to forget the whole thing. Instead, the cake is dragged prematurely into the lewd revels and, still hidden, she hears Peter admit that he’s marrying her to advance his career at her father’s company.

Outraged and humiliated, she bursts out of the cake and calls off the wedding.

Ken McBain is among the shocked witnesses. Working on a contract for Pamela’s father, Ken has admired Pamela from afar so, when she storms out of the party, Ken goes after her, offering her his jacket, a shoulder to cry on, a few shots of medicinal whiskey, and a ride home. Under the influence, Pamela decides to go on the romantic honeymoon she planned and paid for, and invites Ken to go with her.

She’s astonished when Ken shows up at the airport the next day but, on reflection, decides that going with him is better than trying to find a toy boy at the resort. He, concerned that some cad will take advantage of her, secretly resolves to be noble while she gets over her heartbreak.

This book began very strongly. I cringed right along with Pamela as she began to have second thoughts about the misguided cake idea and shared her mortification as she discovered the truth about Peter. Although I thought Pamela, at 26, was overly naïve, and Ken perhaps a little too good to be true, I enjoyed the role reversals. She wants a fling; he’s holding out for a relationship. She does her utmost to seduce him; he resists because he’s worried she’s on the rebound. He finally gets his concerns across to her, and she apologizes for not listening and not paying attention to his feelings. I thought it was a well-thought out premise with enormous potential - which I don’t think the author completely fulfilled.

Why? Well, first I have to say I thought the humor and the romance did not mesh well. A book can certainly be funny and sexy, but the funny parts felt rather as if they’d been added in after, making the first half of the book feel uneven and confused in tone. The humor also virtually disappeared at the midway point, leaving the potential of the tacky honeymoon resort largely unexplored.

I also thought the most important part of the book was missing. In the beginning, Ken is in like and Pamela is in lust, which is a wonderful set-up. But we never got to see them fall in love. The part where they discover the truth about their feelings for each other is largely covered in a few pages where we’re told that they did things together, that they talked about things, and each found their emotions developing into something more substantial.

But that’s what I wanted to be part of, not just have reported to me. I read romance to be there as people fall in love, not just for when they have sex (both together being the ideal).

In the last chapter, the author finally puts it all together exactly right. Engaged in an activity (no, not that one), the outcome of which is crucial to their future and which encourages their communication, it’s by far the most compelling - and most romantic - part of the book. And both characters have all their clothes on.

If the rest of the book had been this effective and engaging, it would have been a five heart read for sure. Maybe next time? I’ll look forward to finding out.

--Judi McKee

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