A Game With One Winner
I always love the favorite tropes prompt because it invites me to dive into my category romance stash. This time around, I went for a second chance at love story. A Game With One Winner is a 2013 release by Lynn Raye Harris. Since it’s Harlequin Presents, this iteration of the story gets the glitz, glamour and drama treatment – which mostly works, except when it veers headlong into one of my least favorite tropes of all time.
Caroline Sullivan-Wells and Roman Kazarov had a smoking hot romance four years prior to the action in this book. Things went well until Caroline inexplicably broke off the relationship and abruptly married another man. Roman, who had come from a working-class Russian family, lost his visa and his job. He returned to Russia never fully knowing what had happened.
Four years later, Roman’s hard work and business acumen have paid off, earning him a career as a successful businessman. His current target is the chain of department stores owned by Caroline’s family. The recently widowed Caroline is convinced that Roman’s play for Sullivan’s is some form of revenge for her rejection.
Since this is Harlequin Presents, the initial meeting between Caroline and Roman shouldn’t be too surprising. They’re so hostile I expected them to arch their back and hiss at each other and yet, there’s also plenty of tension and sexual awareness packed into the scene. Caroline notes that Roman is “still incredibly handsome…with dark hair and the kind of chiseled features that made artists itch to pick up their palette knives and brushes.” Roman, for his part, is so taken by Caroline that he pretty much drops his girlfriend of the moment right on the spot. In Harlequin Presents land, readers will know that the battle is joined and these two are fated to be together.
There is so much drama. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense. After all, Caroline dumped Roman for no well-defined reason. Then poor Roman pretty much lost everything by dating the boss’s daughter and having it not work out. And I’m not even getting into the boatload of secrets these two, especially Caroline, are keeping. However, if you like your romances full of tension and melodrama, this one will be a fun read for you.
As one would expect from Harlequin Presents, Roman is overbearing and Caroline is passionately drawn to him even though she obviously has some issues to work out before they can have any kind of successful relationship. Throughout the story, Caroline is trying to save the stores which are her family’s heritage and Roman is obviously out for a takeover. Watching the two go from working at cross purposes to actually having real conversations and working as a team served as an effective plot throughout the story because the progress of their business relationship fairly closely tracked the progress of their romance. I found the combination pretty hot, I must admit.
So, why isn’t this a DIK? Well, one of the big plot points in this book revolves around the revelation(not a spoiler – it comes early in the book and readers who are paying attention will guess it even earlier) that Caroline was pregnant with Roman’s child when she broke up with him. And I am SO not a secret baby fan. The secret baby in this book is handled better than most, meaning there was a plausible reason for Caroline not to tell Roman about the baby at least at first. In addition, the child comes into the story at various points and is likable. However, the secret baby drama just didn’t catch me at the same level as all the other battles of wills going on in this book.
A Game With One Winner is a fun afternoon read. While I couldn’t handle a steady diet, I do have a certain fondness for the occasional Harlequin Presents and this one works far more than it doesn’t.