In this series kickoff from Jackie Ashenden, Leon King is setting out to take his family business from mob-focused to legitimate. The way to do that, however, is not exactly legitimate. He needs to marry Thomas Hamilton’s daughter for plot reasons and so he blackmails the fellow into offering said daughter. Except, Leon thinks he’s marrying Clara, who he’s had his eye on, and instead Thomas offers Vita. This is where things get interesting, because Vita has zero time for emotional vulnerability, but agrees to the whole plan for her own reasons. This is a DARE title, so things sexually combust pretty quickly and fiercely, but what about the emotions? Those… well…
Leon’s plan for adulthood is really clear – clean up the family business and manage to do so while trusting no one. This marriage he needs is strictly for business reasons, so there’s no plan to go falling for the girl. Vita, however, is not even a little bit what he bargained for. He’s fascinated by her – the way Ms. Ashenden writes her, I’m not sure who wouldn’t be.
Vita Hamilton is not someone who trusts easily. In her adolescence, she had a boyfriend tape their sexual acts and release the tape publicly. This not only taught Vita to trust no one, but her very public family had to do a lot to clean up after it. She sees her engagement as a way to say thanks to her father for that, but has no intention of ever actually being with Leon.
Slowly, the two chip away at each other’s layers. Vita learns that Leo has a painful past of his own where trust was compromised, a secret he shares with only a select few. Leo learns exactly how the fallout of the past relationship has continued to control a large part of Vita’s psyche, and sets about protecting her from herself and her father.
All in all, this is a steamy and quick read and a solid example of what Harlequin is doing with this new line. I’m starting to think of it as Blaze After Dark – an edgier version of that line that I have loved for a long time. For anyone familiar with Ms. Ashenden’s writing, the beats here will come as no surprise, but few are better at making me care about someone I perceived as an alphahole so quickly.
Looking for a sexy read with a healthy dose of angst and dark twisty pasts? Look no further than King’s Price.