Desert Isle Keeper
Fool Me Forever
What does a modern day Robin Hood look like? That’s the question author Ainslie Paton tackles in her latest series, The Confidence Game. It’s about the Sherwood family and their allies, modern day thieves who excel at breaking the law but do it with a sole purpose in mind – to rob the rich of their ill-gotten gains and give to the poor and deserving. They do it with shady investments and forged art, attracting wealthy clients whose greed knows no bounds until they find themselves losing it all. Is what they do illegal? Yes. Is it immoral or unethical? Well, that’s the gray area. In Fool Me Forever, Halsey Sherwood finds himself tangling with Lenore Bradshaw in a con artist’s game where the winner could end up losing the most important thing of all – their heart.
Lenny knows firsthand what it’s like to be a victim. Her father is in jail for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded people of their hard earned money. She, her mother and siblings have paid the price, having faced societal shunning and financial backlash. Lenny’s charity, Dollars for Daughters (D4D) has also suffered as wealthy donors withdrew from their commitments. She’s especially bitter that her best friend Fin got involved in an illegal scheme that funneled money through their charity, falling for the man responsible, Cal Sherwood, in the bargain. Lenny knows all about the Sherwoods now because of Fin, but she’s kept their secrets because being involved in another financial scandal is definitely not going to help rehabilitate her reputation. So when Cal’s brother Halsey shows up at her door to make sure D4D’s accounting won’t set off any alarms, she’d like nothing more than to slam it in his face.
Halsey is a desk man. He’s the brother responsible for the charts and the spreadsheets, the brains that make the Sherwood’s investment schemes look good on paper even if they don’t hold up in reality. But when his brother tasks him to ensure Lenny’s charity won’t get into hot water over Fin’s involvement with them, he discovers a problem. Lenny has been taken for a ride, literally, by the Prime Minister of Ossovia who has used a donation from D4D that was supposed to go to scholarships for students to instead buy a $100,000 sports car for himself. It’s not the only selfish action that Prime Minister Ozols (code named ‘Cookie Jar’ by those familiar with his schemes) has taken, funneling millions of dollars into his own personal wealth and keeping his citizens in the dark.
Halsey is determined to prove to Lenny what Ozols has been up to, and to recoup her donation so that she can put it to better use. Not only that, he’s committed to getting Ozols ousted by his own citizens by exposing his fraudulent money use through a Sherwood scheme. Trouble is, he’ll not only have to do field work, he’ll need a partner too. When Lenny buys into the premise of his plans, they agree to work together until he’s got the big fish on the hook, then she’ll back off and he’ll do the rest. But what will happen when Halsey discovers he’s not ready to lose his partner in crime? And will Lenny be able to look beyond the con man and see someone worth betting on?
Readers who are tired of alpha males in contemporary romance – rejoice! I’ve found you a beta hero worth a spot on your book boyfriend shelf. Halsey is easy going, intelligent and quietly confident. His laid-back manner masks keen observational skills instilled in him since childhood, a Sherwood survival trait. He’s well-dressed, handsome, and could give a young Paul Newman a run for his money! He knows how to wine and dine and romance a woman and puts those skills to good use once Lenny lets him past her fully understandable barriers. It’s a relief for Halsey to be up front and honest with her when his whole life is built on his ability to tell lies, but he doesn’t sugarcoat the truth either. He’s grown up in the family business and he believes in what he’s doing. He has no plans to go straight, even if it costs him a relationship. It will be up to Lenny to decide whether her conscience will let her heart get involved. Clearly, Halsey is head over heels for her from the start, making his stumbles with her that much more painful to watch. Nobody’s perfect, and he makes his share of mistakes. But he’s got no qualms about showing Lenny how he feels about her, his protective side coming out when needed even if the timing is sometimes off. If you don’t fall a little for Halsey in this romance, you’ve got a heart of steel.
Lenore is a strong, capable woman but is feeling the heat. She’s got good reason to be mistrustful of Halsey, having been betrayed by a parent who on the surface played the same game, and picking up the pieces for her stressed out mother and teenaged sister. Oh, and she has a brother who takes after her father more than she’d like to admit, along with possessing some not so pleasant bullying traits. Her desire to do well in the world has only intensified with the fallout from her father’s fraudulent activities and her struggles with D4D are the only thing that convinces her to go along with Halsey’s plan. She’ll be his arm candy in social circles that will get them into the same events as ‘Cookie Jar’, introducing her back into the society that has shunned her and hopefully getting her donors to see her as a separate entity from her father. Rebuilding that trust won’t be easy and it could all be shattered if the truth of what they are really doing comes out. But the Sherwoods are not new to deceit and have a number of tricks up their sleeves.
As Lenny wonders how such a good man as Halsey can be a criminal, so does the reading audience have to think about what constitutes a crime. In the Sherwood’s shoes, if you could steal money from rich, entitled, misogynistic, racist men and give that money freely to struggling women and their families, would you do it and risk the consequences? Can you love someone with a heart of gold, even if they are a thief? All of this makes for an exciting, sexy and thought-provoking romance. The Confidence Game series is a unique concept and ripe for the current state of world affairs. I highly recommend it for those lusting for a little justice with their side of romance.