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One Wicked Night by Jo Leigh
(Harlequin Temptation 674, $3.75, PG-13)
ISBN 0-373-25774-0
**
Jo Leigh's category romance novels have become automatic purchases for me, and I looked forward to this newest release from an author whose style and humor always leave me smiling. Unfortunately, One Wicked Night was a disappointment.

Emma Roberts, oil researcher, has won an all-expenses paid weekend in New Orleans as the result of being selected Employee of the Year at Transco Oil. Staid Emma decides to live it up a bit, and when a handsome man approaches her table the first night and invites himself to dine with her, she can't say no.

Michael Craig is a wealthy businessman with a definite reason for seeking Emma out. He wants to buy Transco Oil, and he hopes that by cultivating an acquaintance with Emma, he can find out information that will be useful in his offer. Little does he expect to be so attracted to her. They spend a day touring New Orleans together, and when Michael makes his move, Emma doesn't resist. Emma feels she's ripe for a whirlwind romance in a strange city with a sexy guy. They spend the evening in bed.

Emma returns to Houston to the news that the company is going to be sold. The owner is happy; he likes the offer, his employees will be well taken care of, and at last he can pursue his dream of African photography. Emma, however, is horrified to learn that Michael Craig is the new owner. Apparently, he was only after her body and her company secrets. She was used, used, used.

Here the book took a seriously wrong turn, in my opinion. Aided and abetted by her three office assistants, Emma decides to get her revenge on Michael by making him fall in love with her somehow, and then dumping him. She's so insecure about her looks that she can't bring herself to believe he might have been attracted to her. Okay, I could buy the insecurity. What I couldn't swallow was the persistent desire for revenge. It seemed trumped up, and here's why.

Emma feels that she betrayed her company. If it weren't for her, Michael Craig would never have been able to offer the owner of Transco Oil just what he wanted. Well, maybe that's true, but the outcome was satisfying for everyone. Michael got the company, the owner got what he wanted, all the employees are taken care of (Michael even offers Emma a raise), nobody gets fired. Where's the betrayal? A lapse in professional judgment, maybe. But I tend to think of "betrayal" as applying to situations where someone gets hurt. Things are, if anything, better at the company than they were before.

Michael even begs Emma's forgiveness and pleads his case; yes, he did start out with the intention of getting some information out of her, but the sex wasn't part of the plan. In fact, the timing of the buyout offer was such that the sex had nothing to do with it. Emma refuses to believe that he's serious. Apparently the fact that she was a willing participant who freely agreed to sleep with Michael, in fact even fantasized about it before the act took place, seems to completely slip her mind.

The rest of the story seemed to flounder. Michael pursues Emma, Emma resists (when she can get her mind off Michael's body) and the two of them never have a meaningful conversation. I didn't get the feeling they even got to know each other except on the most superficial level, and that made the denouement feel false. I left the story giving these two six months together, if that.

Having treated myself to three of Jo Leigh's previous novels, I don't feel One Wicked Night is a representative sample of her talent. I'll look forward to her next book and hope to see her back in her usual fine form.

--Cathy Sova


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