When I read the cover blurb of Brenda Jackson’s Intimate Seduction, by the third play on the hero’s name, my hopes sank. “Maybe it was written by a un-punny editorial assistant,” I tried to assure myself. Maybe the book is better. I was wrong. The story is just as bad as the back cover copy.
Natalie Ford is one of those Beautiful Genius types, who got her doctorate in chemistry at 21 and is now teaching at Princeton and working for NASA. However, when her beloved aunt breaks her ankle, she goes home to North Carolina to help out at her aunt’s cleaning business. It is on the job as a maid that Donovan Steele finds Natalie asleep in his bed. And not just any bed, but his bed, not the one downstairs that he shares with his harem of women. Natalie comes up with some lame excuse, but he’s intrigued and seriously attracted to her. So he pursues her, and she resists. Repeat several times until they fall into bed and have fantastic sex. You see, Natalie is also an Emotionally Damaged Heroine, whose ex-boyfriend told her she was bad in bed and too much of a chemistry geek, and so now she’s afraid of men. Until Donovan proves her ex wrong, of course.
She still refuses to tell him the truth about her career, though, which leads to a Big Mis involving chemistry formulas and corporate espionage. Donovan, meanwhile, is the last of his four brothers to find someone, is sure he’s different, and that married life isn’t for him.
Let’s start with the characters to see where things went wrong. There was absolutely nothing original about either of them, nothing more than any token “depth” on Natalie’s part, which actually just seemed false and disingenuous. Donovan appears so flat, so archetypal, I didn’t even know what to do with him. There is no actual chemistry between the two, despite the varied and purple sex they share, and I never sensed any attraction between them greater than lust. It’s hard to believe that one character sincerely loves another when all they do is bicker and bone.
There are also a plethora of side characters. Donovan has a really huge family, and apparently they have all had books written about them. Just about every other page, the author has to step back and summarize some back-story that seems completely forced and ridiculous. None of these side characters were distinctive in any way but their names; after Chance, Sebastian, Troy, Alden, Venus, Athena, and Farrah, I stopped rolling my eyes and began to wonder what page she’d open to in the baby name book this time.
Dialogue was stilted, writing was blocky, and situations and scenarios felt completely contrived. It was all I could do to not put the book down in disgust when Donovan actually said, “The icing on the cake is when I taste you there in your very feminine place.” No one actually talks like that, especially 30-something guys. (Nor do they use the word “tummy” to describe certain body parts, just FYI.) The sex scenes were all far too purple for my taste, with him growing immediately hard and her hard nipples pressing into her shirt every time one of them turned around. Considering how obvious it apparently was to the other person, I half expected him to be wearing spandex pants and her to have a sheer wet t-shirt on.
I tried to give this book the benefit of the doubt, but the author gave me no incentive to actually like it. Maybe people who are already invested with the characters will enjoy it, but to me it felt like a series that had long-ago lost its wind. But maybe things will pick up – The “Steeles of Phoenix” and “Bachelors on Demand” spin-off series are coming soon! Needless to say, I won’t be rushing out to the bookstore.