Insatiable Hunger is a fun, typically opulent Harlequin Desire, the kind of book I normally think of when I think of this line. Rich folks making moves and falling in love and having juicy sex – and Insatiable Hunger delivers on that promise from start to finish. But it’s got some problematic aspects to it that dipped the grade down.
Jessie Acosta has come to her high school reunion at the Falling Brook Country Club and sees her former best friend Ryan Hathaway there. Ryan and Jessie grew estranged after her family fell on hard times and she pulled away and into a different social circle. It turns out that the father of her long-distance boyfriend, Hugh O’Malley, a big shot in their high school, had paid for her prep school education and encouraged the estrangement. He’s the kind of man her family always wanted her to date, but he’s a mediocre boyfriend.
Ryan and Jessie share one near-kiss before Hugh abruptly walks in. Months later, Jessie and Hugh are on a break, and Ryan horrifies Jessie with some news; he’s hoping to become CEO of Black Crescent, the hedge fund which caused Jessie’s family to lose everything but their five-bedroom house when dirty business dealings by its now ex-CEO caused half the town to go under financially.
Jessie is waffling about Hugh, contemplating marriage to him or a man like him to make her family happy, and Ryan is very much Not Here For It. Some of his motives are altruistic, some of them are selfish. Hugh is a crumb and Ryan thinks Jessie deserves better, but Ryan has also had a crush on Jessie since they were young. Jessie has, however, never seen Ryan as a romantic option. At least until they embark on a business trip together. When they have to rejoin the real world, will their romance continue?
Insatiable Hunger has several problems that keep it from a higher grade, the main one being that I didn’t enjoy pushy Ryan as much as I liked Jessie. He has moments of alpha superiority that grated on me (his tendency to believe bad things about Jessie’s motivation due to his own issues, for instance), and he was one of those ‘tell me you don’t want this’ kind of guys to boot. But Jessie was fun and wonderful, her motives clear and strong, even if she had way too much matriarchal loyalty to feel like a real person.
The corporate intrigue plot that exists at the center of the narrative is alright, but it gets bogged down in family drama that’s not wholly necessary. I expected Jessie’s part in this to be bigger, but mostly she disapproves of Ryan’s attempt at making Black Crescent an honest business and learns that her self-sacrificing, beyond reproach mom has feet of clay.
Another thing about Ryan: it’s made mention quite casually that he was overweight as a teenager, and now he’s a muscular hunk who overdoes it at the gym and eats in a somewhat disordered manner throughout the book. I felt as if this was going to lead somewhere bigger and inform his character, but it tragically didn’t.
The story gets slightly higher marks for the chemistry between Ryan and Jessie – they’ve known one another forever, and thus there’s a sense of comfort there, even though the trust between them lacks. And then the plot takes a dreaded one-character-makes-assumptions-about-the-other-character’s-motives-instead-of-talking-to-them twist, and the reader can only sigh and groan and wonder why no one bothers to have actual conversations.
Hugh, to my surprise, generally turns out to be a nice – if inattentive – guy. The floating specter of his presence wasn’t a convincing threat, however, and I never believed that Jessie would pick him over Ryan at any juncture in the book.
The narrative relies heavily on telling and not showing, with lots of expository explanation thrown in toward the beginning of the story. Otherwise, it’s well-told, with plenty of smart and charming asides.
Overall, Insatiable Hunger is a just-okay Desire. If you can’t get enough of this kind of tropery, you may devour it, but other readers may happily skip it in favor of something meatier.