Her Secret Thrill
Grade : A

Her Secret Thrill by Donna Kauffman is everything I've hoped the Harlequin Blaze line would be. While the sex is hot (hot!), the characters face realistic conflicts; the result is an emotionally satisfying story along with the expected dose of risqué business.

Natalie Holcomb is the character you've seen over and over in the Blaze books so far - the good girl who decides to cut loose just this once and have some fun. She's a buttoned-down lawyer whose best friend Liza is a free and easy Hollywood publicist. In the aftermath of a party, Natalie finds herself stuck with Jake Lannister, the best friend of Liza's current client and inamorata, Con. Jake is not a Hollywood type either - he's the scion of a cattle ranching dynasty in Wyoming, and knows Con from childhood.

As Jake and Natalie make uncomfortable conversation, what Liza and her lover are up to in the next room is noisily obvious. Anyone who has been in that situation (and I certainly had college dorm flashbacks) can empathize.

A trip to an all-night coffee shop eventually leads to a just-one-time morning of very, very hot sex. One thing I like about the Blaze books is that they use a more earthy set of euphemisms for sexual acts and naughty bits than most romance novels - words that I comfortably use myself and which make me identify that much more with what's going on in the scene. Jake and Natalie are modern folks who don't shy away from exploring fantasies and desires with each other, and it was definitely fun being along for the ride.

Natalie and Jake eventually agree that although their busy careers and frequent travel preclude seeing each other that often, they can compare itineraries and hook up for some no-strings fun when they are in town with each other. And oh, what fun they had! Did I mention I really enjoyed the sex scenes in this book? They are playful, creative lovers who have a tremendously good time, while at the same time their encouragement of each other's desires leads to deepening emotion between them in a believable way.

Before you know it, both are facing the "oops, I messed up and fell in love" dilemma. I loved that the obstacles in their relationship were very real-world. Both have demanding careers and live on the opposite sides of the country from each other. In addition, Natalie has family obligations that she doesn't feel she can ignore. I respected her decisions at the same time my heart was breaking for her. This wasn't a seen-only-in-romance-novels dilemma; it's something that happens to real people all the time. Ultimately, however, what Jake and Natalie have together brings to the surface questions both have needed to ask about their careers and priorities. Again, the resolution was appealing and believable.

So many romance novels seem to start out well but lose their way at some point. Her Secret Thrill hooked me with the hot set-up, but the emotional follow-through is what makes this book a keeper for me. It's the first book I've read by Donna Kauffman but it definitely will not be the last.

Reviewed by Colleen McMahon
Grade : A

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : December 2, 2001

Publication Date: 12/2001

Review Tags: lawyer

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Colleen McMahon

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