Desert Isle Keeper
Couldn't Ask for More
Kianna Alexander’s The Southern Gentlemen series continues charmingly with the story of a fashion designer and the textile manufacturer who falls in love with her.
Alexis – Lex – Devers lives, breathes, sleeps and eats fashion. She’s the kind of girl who spends hours in a hardworking daze, only taking time out for life’s bare necessities before getting back to her sketch pad. Her brother Maxwell thinks she works too hard, which is why he invites her to a Theta Delta Theta/Alpha Delta Rho sponsored step show. For Alexis it’s a chance to reunite with her sorority sisters, and for Max it’s a chance to see his frat brothers – specifically textile manufacturing heir and executive Bryan James and Xavier Whitted (hero of book one).
When Alexis enters the gym it’s a shocking sight for Bryan, who didn’t quite register that Max’s baby sister would have grown up, and certainly not so well; and Alexis is impressed by the sight of the handsome, dapper Bryan. Max automatically goes into protective mode, which spoils their reunion.
Weeks later, Alexis’ first fashion line, Krystal Koture One, taglined Dare to be Demure and selling “classy yet sexy” looks, has a manufacturing offer from Clarkson Apparel Producers and has gained a buzz thanks to some bold gambits by Alexis’ close friend and business partner, Sydney. Meanwhile Bryan, whose father Oscar has threatened to fire him from his position as head of Royal Textiles if he doesn’t land a major contract and a successful designer, is getting desperate while dreaming of Lex. Oscar has threatened to bring in Bryan’s cousin Wesley – a car salesman with whom he has a rivalrous relationship – to take his place if he can’t scrounge up an account in three weeks, and Bryan can only portend doom from the idea.
With both of them scheduled appear at the make-or-break Carolina Music and Fashion Festival – Lex to promote the Krystal Koture One line, Bryan to promote Royal Textiles’ current licenses – a series of foibles befall them. First, Sydney lies about Alexis’ relationship status to a potential buyer, drumming up a nonexistent billionaire fiancé for her that a local news reporter gets wind of. One small problem – Alexis is incredibly single. When Bryan shows up to present a proposal for Royal Textiles to manufacture her line, Alexis agrees to consider it – and then proposes he pose as her fiancé. They come to a different kind of business agreement – a name-only engagement that will last through Carolina Music and Fashion Festival Week and include an important local evening news interview. With Sydney’s help, they drum up a fake background and prepare to face the press. But their mutual attraction continues to blossom as the pressure increases. Will the engagement turn real? Or will the pressure of their lie pull them apart for good?
Couldn’t Ask for More is a fine, slow-burn romance. Bryan and Lex act like adults for most of the book, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciated spending time with them because of that. Lex is career-orientated but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her family or her friends; Bryan is family-orientated but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his career seriously. They balance one another out, and their warm flirtation is enjoyable.
Bryan’s frustration when it comes to his technically-minded father is a strong subplot; anyone who has had to work with an adult they admire who still manages to make their life difficult will relate to it. Contrastingly, all of the conflict on Lex’s side of the plot, aside from the fake engagement, centers on what’s going on with her sister Kelsey (who is trapped in an abusive relationship), and her teaming with Max to help get Kelsey to safety, which is handled with sensitivity.
Subplots from the first book continue here. The Revels Youth Outreach Center storyline from the first book continues as Bryan tries to mentor several of the kids from the center and manages to become close to one of the fatherless boys. Xavier appears rarely, and much of the book prepares us for the eventuality of Max becoming the next hero in the series.
There are a couple of bobbles in the novel’s general scheme; my biggest reservation is a fourth act Big Misunderstanding that-could-be-talked-out-but-instead-separates-our-leads that rears its ugly head. It’s an extremely tired plot twist and both characters deserved better than to be subjected to such a cliché. Still, it resolves in a clever and emotional way that works for the story.
Nevertheless, everything else about Couldn’t Ask for More is golden, and you’ll really enjoy the sensual, tender story as it plays out.
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