I don’t like oysters. No matter how well prepared a dish, if it contains oysters, I will not enjoy it. Vivian Arend’s High Passion contains an element that I dislike so completely, it tainted my opinion of the entire book. I admit it’s a personal thing that won’t apply to everyone – a lot of people love oysters – but there it is.
Ever since they were first paired to work together during Search and Rescue school, Alisha Bailey has been attracted to Devon LeBlanc. She’s never acted on this attraction because she thinks Devon’s ego is already big enough, and she doesn’t want to be just another notch on his bedpost. Too, Alisha is hiding the fact that she comes from a very privileged background, one she left behind and wants nothing to do with despite her father’s insistence that one day, she’ll outgrow this “hobby” of playing at Search and Rescue and return to help run the family business. Getting involved means revealing secrets, something she’d rather not do.
Devon LeBlanc isn’t as reluctant to indulge in his mutual attraction to Alisha. He’s just been waiting for the right time to take their friendship to the next level. After Alisha suffers a momentary breakdown during a mission that takes a bad turn, Devon worries that she might harbor fears that could endanger not only her but other members of their team. He wants Alisha to confess to their group leader what happened, but she balks, assuring him that the incident was a one-time anomaly. Because Devon hasn’t reported the incident himself, he feels somewhat complicit and forces Alisha to agree to work with him to figure out why she might have experienced the panic attack. The two haven’t worked together long, however, before Devon takes a chance and makes his move. Alisha is surprised but not unwilling, and they quickly become very intimately involved.
Unfortunately, Vincent Monreal, a man from Alisha’s past has arrived in Banff. He informs Alisha that her father has begun making questionable business decisions, and if she doesn’t want him to bankrupt the entire family, Alisha should marry Vincent so that their combined shares in the company will be enough for Vincent to step in. Alisha very adamantly explains to Vincent that she has no intention to leave her life in Banff, especially not to marry him, and that she honestly couldn’t care less about what happens to the family business. In fact, she tells Vincent that Devon is her boyfriend, a lie that is quickly becoming a truth as her feelings for Devon and his for her begin to morph into more than just friendship and sexual attraction.
But Vincent isn’t the type of guy to take no for an answer. His efforts to convince Alisha begin to become more sinister, his threats extending to members of the Lifeline team. Alisha must confide in Devon about whom she really is, hoping that he can help her stop Vincent before those around her start to get hurt.
As lead characters, Alisha and Devon are not unlikable. I just didn’t ever really care about them to any degree. I did find it odd that, for years, Alisha ignored her attraction to Devon for various reasons. But the first time he made an open pass at her, she was completely ready to begin a romantic relationship with him. At least they were very honest about things with each other and thus able to avoid several big misunderstandings that could have occurred.
As far as the external goings-on, I love the premise of a group of highly skilled professionals working together to get a dangerous job done, and this book lives up to that promise. The action in High Passion was well described if not a little confusing at times. Arend either did her research or has some experience with Search and Rescue and mountain climbing techniques, because the handful of SAR missions read very authentically. As the second in the Adrenaline Search and Rescue series, this book works fine as a standalone, and I appreciated the setting of western Canada, specifically the Banff region. But I found the villain to be pretty obvious and a little too mustache-twirling to be believed. I do give Arend points for throwing in an accomplice that I didn’t suspect until the end. She’s certainly positioned many characters for subsequent sequels in the series.
And now for the fly in my romance novel soup.
I do not like extreme dirty talk. I don’t find it sexy. In fact, I find it to be a complete and total turnoff. So when Devon begins telling Alisha in very detailed terms what he plans to do to her and where and how frequently, Arend lost me entirely. I’m not a prude; I just don’t find copious amounts of explicit sex scenes to be romantic, and so I avoid erotica and extremely hot books accordingly. No harm, no foul. In this case, if not for the fact that I had committed to the review, I would not have finished this book. The best I could manage was to skim through the sex scenes, searching for the next passage that didn’t involve the phrase “eat you out”. But any chance that I would like this book had disappeared.
But that’s me. If you are looking for a sexy friends-to-lovers story set in an interesting environment, you will definitely like High Passion far more than I did. As it stands, I think Arend is not the author for me because I don’t find her romance in the least bit romantic.