His Heart's Revenge/May the Best Man Win
I liked His Heart’s Revenge, but it’s my least favorite in the 49th Floor series. I missed the relationship building, character development, and honestly – angst, I expected. When I finished, I laid the blame on the page count, convinced previous books were longer. Wrong – they’re all fairly close to 250 pages. On reflection, I think the problem lies with the format of the book. Dual narratives and multiple flashbacks take space and time to develop and in doing so, Ms. Holiday sacrifices character development. It’s an enjoyable addition to the series, but not as strong as the books that precede it.
The story concerns the evolving relationship between Alex Evangelista and Cary Bell. In flashbacks we find out they met as young boys at summer camp. One afternoon when they were fifteen, they briefly (and memorably) moved past the ‘just friends’ stage, but no further. That memorable encounter and the events that followed signaled the end of their friendship and shaped the men they’ve become. Twenty years later, they live in the same town and work in the same industry, but pretend the other doesn’t exist. A business opportunity pits them against one another and throws them into each other’s company on a regular, recurring basis. Alex is out for revenge; Cary is looking for forgiveness.
When the story opens, Cary has broken away from his father’s investment banking firm to go out on his own. He’s had some luck adding new clients and his cousin, Marcus (the subject of another 49th Floor novel), suggests he go after one more – a wealthy widow whose investments are currently managed by Dominion Bank. Alex is the CEO of Dominion. Bell Capital wins the client. When Alex learns Dominion is losing clients to Bell, and both banks are on a shortlist under consideration by another high net-worth family, he’s furious and determined to win at any cost. Cary, already wary of Alex’s reaction to losing the first client to his new company, doesn’t want to further antagonize him but has every intention of winning the family’s business.
After several strained encounters at industry events, Cary is determined to apologize to Alex for what happened in the past. He wants to make it clear he has no regrets going after the same client – business is business – but is genuinely remorseful for they way they parted at camp so long ago. When Cary shows up at Alex’s apartment late one evening, sparks fly. Unable to resist each other, they find themselves making out in the hallway until they’re interrupted by a friend of Alex’s. They separate and Cary leaves before he can apologize.
Since he left camp, Alex has never let anyone get emotionally close to him. After their hallway hook-up, he decides he wants a physical relationship with Cary, but is confident he can keep emotion out of it. When he approaches Cary to suggest they become business competitors ‘with benefits,’ he’s surprised when Cary not only agrees, but immediately apologizes for how he treated Alex at camp. Cary tells Alex how much he meant to him, and that he came out shortly after his return home that summer.
After Cary’s apology and explanation, anticipation replaces tension in their encounters. Both are eager to pick up where they left off in the hallway, and when they finally have sex, it’s nothing like anything they’ve experienced with previous partners. Cary recognizes early on that he loves Alex, though he doesn’t believe Alex can reciprocate the feeling. Alex, overwhelmed by the intensity of their lovemaking, still wants to beat Cary professionally but is confused by their emotional connection.
By the time the wealthy family narrows the field to Bell Capital and Dominion Bank, Alex and Cary can barely stand to be in the same room – for very different reasons. Events conspire to keep them pair apart until Alex finally admits to himself he loves Cary. The penultimate scene and epilogue felt rushed after the prolonged (twenty years!) build up.
If you’re a fan of the author’s or of the 49th Floor series – as I am – I think you will enjoy His Heart’s Revenge. It stands alone, and is the only one to feature a m/m relationship. However, I think to truly appreciate Ms. Holiday’s writing, you might want to start at the beginning with Saving the CEO.