The Perfect Solution

The Twenty-Four Hour Bride

Dante's Blackmailed Bride
by Day Leclaire
(Silh. Desire #1852, $4.75, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-76852-4
Love and/or lust at first sight is often the target of romance categories - after all, the author only has a few pages to get things going and still end up with a believable happy ever after. Leclaire has started a series with a unique twist - not just love at first sight - not just destiny - but an inherited family "blessing" known as the Inferno. This story worked and worked well. Whether the twist will hold up in the rest of the series is yet to be seen.

Primo Dante and his lovely wife Nonna have married and raised a family thanks to the overwhelming feeling that struck them when they met. Their son ignored the feeling when it struck him and his life was not prosperous, despite marrying and raising four sons. The Inferno strikes when a couple first meets. There are physical and emotional symptoms and they cannot be ignored.

The eldest of Primo's grandsons is Severo who has taken over the command of the Dante fortune and jewelry business. His father had practically brought them to ruin. Severo had to sell off many of the subsidiaries just to ensure the company would survive. It is several years later and he is ready to start re-acquiring those now independently-owned businesses. The first on his list is Timeless Heirlooms, a company specializing in new designs that look and feel very old. Kurt and Tina Fontaine are the proud owners, but they are in trouble and vulnerable to takeovers. Their hopes are on the newest designer, and hopefully a big-name star willing to be their spokesperson.

The designer is Francesca Sommers, fresh from college and ready to make her mark. She had always dreamed of working at Dante's but changed her mind when she discovered a secret. Having been raised in foster homes after the death of her mother, Francesca has always wanted to find her father. She has just recently discovered that he is none other than Kurt Fontaine, who had a one-night stand with her mother while on a business trip early in his marriage. Francesca doesn't want to break up his marriage; she just wants to know him and maybe see if she is anything like him. So she hires on to Timeless Heirlooms. Her designs are exquisite and ready to be featured in a new showing.

The Dante's have a plan to attend the premier, discover who the new designer is and lure him (of course it has to be a man) away to their more powerful company. But the Inferno has other plans. Sev and Francesca see each other and all else fades from their psyches. They are entranced. Francesca, who has thought of nothing else but gaining praise for her work and Sev, who has been ruthless in his rise to the top and can generally think of nothing else, are whisked off by this force and they end up in the penthouse of the hotel. It is only in the morning that they discover who they are and what stands in the way of their burgeoning romance.

There are some familiar obstacles, the least of which is their opposite business objectives. There are secrets from their pasts, the sharing of which brings them closer. And there is the heat of their desires and their insatiable lovemaking. Can they make it work or will the Inferno be ignored?

The story is fun and hot all at the same time. Close scrutiny will probably display an array of inconsistencies and somewhat implausible situations. Just the thought that a revenge driven businessman would completely lose his focus over a woman he doesn’t know is enough to bring a sigh to an astute reader. But Leclaire pulls this off on the power of her writing style and the dialogue, the humor and the cynicism that both characters have to work through too. They don't believe this is happening either!

The story sets up Marco, Nic and Lazz for their stories and gives the reader just enough insight into their "types" to make one think that this is a series to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, pick up a copy of Dante's Blackmailed Bride and enjoy the fun.

--Shirley Lyons

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