Every Breath You Take
There are some things Judith McNaught does better than anyone. And, if (like me) you’re a sucker for a bigger than life story in which a god-like man is humbled by love, chances are she’s one of your favorite authors. To those who’ve been waiting, I’m happy to report that her newest book is a very good one, even if it is slightly marred by a McNaught trademark Big Mis that’s more than a bit on the frustrating side and a few second act developments that struck me as a bit sappy.
For readers unfamiliar with McNaught, you should know right from the start that the words “larger than life” were pretty much invented to describe her novels. The people are glossy, the settings rich, and the melodrama always a little bit over the top. But, hey, all those qualities are part of what makes her books so unforgettable to a lot of us. If Every Breath You Take isn’t quite up to the level of Paradise and Perfect – two perennial McNaught contemporary favorites – it is a good one that, yes, I found achingly romantic. (An inside joke there for fellow McNaught fans.)
Mega-successful businessman Mitchell Wyatt wants little to nothing to do with the wealthy Chicago family of the same name. As the son of a woman his grandfather believed to be unworthy of the family name, Mitchell was virtually discarded as a child and sent to live with an assortment of families in Europe. When his grandfather seeks to make a connection with Mitchell in adulthood, Mitchell only reluctantly agrees to meet him, all the while planning to keep contact – and any emotional involvement – with the family to a minimum.
But when the heir to the family fortune dies under mysterious circumstances, Mitchell unknowingly falls under suspicion. Oblivious to the noose getting ever tighter around his neck, Mitchell travels (on his own private jet, of course) to beautiful Anguilla where he’s building a home. While there, Mitchell makes the acquaintance of Kate Donovan, a former social worker now trying to make a go of running the Chicago restaurant made famous by her father.
Though her time on Anguilla was intended to be a romantic vacation, Kate finds herself on her own waiting for her lawyer lover to finish up a case back in Chicago and join her on the island. But Kate’s plans – and feelings – begin to change when she finds herself almost irresistibly drawn to the sexy and mysterious Mitchell. Though reticent Mitchell refuses to share more than the barest details about himself and his past, down to earth Kate soon succumbs to his charms. Not surprisingly, however, there are secrets between them that just may be enough destroy the love that both of them are unable to deny.
What earns this book its high grade is the fact that when it works, it works very well. McNaught knows how to make you feel a romance – really feel it – and the moment when you realize that Mitchell is a goner is a fantastic one. And, heck, who doesn’t want to be swept away on a tropical island by a rich, mysterious, and gorgeous hunk of man? But if the first half of the book is fantastic, the second is a bit less so. I won’t go into details here in order to avoid spoiling anything for you, but it all got a bit too soap opera-y for me and, it has to be said, a bit corny, too. But, with that said, I still found myself staying up way past my bedtime to finish the book and revel in the HEA both Kate and Mitchell so richly deserved. Adding to the fun, dedicated McNaught readers will also enjoy appearances that are a bit more than cameos by Meredith and Matt from Paradise and Zack and Julie from Perfect.
I did have one other problem that bears mentioning. There’s another less than desirable trademark McNaught moment in this book when the hero says some pretty ugly things to the heroine he believes has betrayed him. It’s been a while since I’ve run across a scene like this and, frankly, I think times have changed enough in the last few years that these kind of scenes are more than unnecessary – they can be downright distasteful. It’s fair to say that the scene in this book veered dangerously close. Still, I suppose you could argue that the eventual reconciliation is all the sweeter when it follows this kind of ugliness.
Ultimately, however, my bottom line is an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Every Breath You Take is big, over the top, greatly superior to Someone to Watch Over Me and, in a lot of ways, something wonderful. (Pun intended.) Though I love many of the newer directions romance has taken over the past few years, I’ve never lost my taste for a good, old-fashioned, heart-tugging romance. And, frankly, when it comes to heart-tugging romance, Judith McNaught is the best there is. In spades.