Desert Isle Keeper
Accidentally on Purpose
Ms. Shalvis recently posted on her Facebook page that Accidentally on Purpose is her 101st published work. That’s quite a feat and worthy of celebration! She’s captured the minds and hearts of romance readers over a number of years, and can always be counted on to provide a happy ending for her characters. The Heartbreaker Bay series, set in scenic San Francisco is the latest set of novels to feature swoonworthy heroes and likable heroines and we’ve had tantalizing glimpses of the frosty relationship between Elle Wheaton and Archer Hunt in Sweet Little Lies and The Trouble with Mistletoe. Now, we get to find out what the real story is between these two, in a sexy and entertaining romance that is definitely worthy of starting Ms. Shalvis’ next 100 books. (A girl can dream!).
In the first quarter of the story, through little teases and then recollections from both Elle and Archer, we learn why they act the way they do with each other. And it’s not because of a previously untold romantic relationship that ended in a bust. Well, perhaps bust is the right word after all, as it was a police bust that first brought them together. A new cop on the beat, twenty-two year old Archer was part of an undercover operation to nab a particularly unsavory character when sixteen year old Elle appeared on the scene. The child of a grifter, Elle and her older sister Morgan had left their mother and ventured out on their own, and Morgan had taken up with her ex-boyfriend Lars, a man involved in con artistry and jewelry theft. In an attempt to return some of the loot Morgan had taken for herself, Elle walked right into the trap Archer and his men had set for Lars, unwittingly throwing things into chaos. Archer rescued her, blowing his cover and making sure she got medical attention for the beating she’d taken at Lars’ hands before the cops had shown up.
The consequences of that night were far reaching, with Archer leaving his job at the police force, causing an irreparable rift between him and his police officer father. For Elle, it was a turning point and a chance to get her life on track. Morgan didn’t feel the same, and they split, with Elle cutting off contact with her sister and working to improve her life. She and Archer lost touch after that night, but she’d kept a pocket knife that he’d given her as a reminder of him and what he’d done for her. Unbeknownst to Elle, Archer had kept an unobtrusive eye on her ever since.
Though they’d not seen each other in several years, they came into each other’s orbits again when Elle got a job as property manager in the building where Archer had set up his own private security firm, Hunt investigations. Now with several mutual friends, and working in the same building, there’s an uneasy truce between them. They don’t talk about what happened that night, though it hasn’t been forgotten by either. Elle might not say it out loud, but she feels that she owes Archer for saving her, and works at repaying him by accompanying him on security jobs where he needs a female accomplice. The frisson of attraction between them is ignored by both, though their friends are certainly aware of it, without knowing any of their shared history. In the past year they’ve spent being part of each other’s lives again, neither has made a move to be anything more than friends. But Elle, tired of waiting to see if Archer will ever be interested in anything more, decides it’s time to move on with her life, and starts dating again. This turns out to be the red cape waved in front of the bull, and Archer finally reacts. Heated kisses turn to steamy encounters – but the only way they’ll be able to move forward will be to put the past behind them once and for all.
The previous stories I’ve read by this author tend to have quite bubbly heroines, the kind that are endearing and sweet and liked by all. Elle is not that heroine. Oh, she’s well-liked by her friends, and she’s loyal and dependable. But she’s not sweet. She’s tough as nails, always perfectly turned out and impeccably dressed, high heels clicking in her self-assured walk. No one would ever believe the circumstances she came from and only Archer knows her secret. If anything, that makes her even more hard-shelled around him, not wanting to show any vulnerability.
Archer is the quintessential bad-ass hero. First a police officer, now a security expert, he takes his undercover assignments very seriously. He’s got a crew of guys who work with him that would make any woman swoon from the testosterone in the air (and Elle won’t admit it to anyone, but chancing upon the guys after a mission in Archer’s office definitely speeds up her pulse rate due to the hotness on display). He’s a very stoic figure and doesn’t show much emotion – until Elle starts dating other men. He finds some quite amusing ways to throw wrenches into Elle’s evening plans until she’s forced to confront him and make him admit that he wants her. Once Archer has made up his mind he won’t be dissuaded from his task – to prove to Elle that they belong together. This results in some steamy scenes between them, the attraction that’s been under wraps finally coming to the surface. But he also has to convince her to give up her guilt complex over the fallout from the night they met. In doing so, he needs to open the lines of communication both ways, and let Elle be there for him emotionally as much as he wants to be there for her.
Elle’s sister Morgan is not quite as out of the picture as Elle would like and in the ensuing years since they went their separate ways Morgan has shown up on occasion asking for money or other help, and each time, has screwed Elle over. Not surprisingly, Elle is leery of any contact and when Morgan shows up again, and this time gets Archer involved, Elle is understandably suspicious. Morgan swears she’s changed and is trying to get away from her past, but the result of her showing up again is to draw Elle and Archer into a situation that could cause everyone a lot of problems. There is a suspenseful subplot running through the story as a result.
On the opposite spectrum we get some great scenes with Archer and Elle’s friends, characters from the other books in the series. Laughs abound when this group is together. Spence, in particular, is a person of interest, being a multi-millionaire tech wizard who happens to own the entire building where Elle and Archer work. They know it, but most of their friends don’t and I’m looking forward to reading his story. Accidentally on Purpose is a sexy, entertaining, and thoughtful romance about letting go of the past and embracing the future.