One Night Standards
Cathy Yardley is one Blaze author I make a point to read. Even when her books don’t entirely work for me (as was the case with her last release, Jack & Jilted), they’re still a cut above the norm, mostly because they feature a strong story at their core. Her Blazes feel like stories with sex, rather than sex with a story. This is again the case with her latest, One Night Standards. Readers looking mainly for red-hot sex may find it lacking, but those interested in a good story should be more pleased.
In order to land an important account for her family’s fledgling cosmetics company, Sophie Jones needs to get to a trade show in San Antonio. Winding up stuck in Oklahoma thanks to an airplane radar error is not part of the plan. Desperate to find a way to Texas, she begs for a ride from an incredibly sexy man who rented the last available car at the airport and is also going to San Antonio. At first Mark McCann doesn’t seem inclined to squeeze her into his tiny rental car with both their luggage, but when she explains her situation to him, he changes his tune. Then she sees the boxes he already loaded into the car, boxes bearing the name of her company’s biggest competitor, Trimera, and she realizes why he changed his mind: He’s planning on using the trip to try and see what he can learn about her and her company.
The Marion & Co. department store account is just as important to Mark as it is to Sophie. A former male model, Mark went on to earn his MBA, but he’s still having trouble being taken seriously at the company. Becoming director of a big account like Marion & Co. would be a step in the right direction. For Sophie, Trimera is the enemy in more ways than one. Her mother used to work for them until they unceremoniously fired her, forcing the Joneses to start Diva Nation in order to provide for her mother’s future. Sophie has no intention of telling Mark anything about her company or her upcoming meeting at the trade show. But once they agree not to discuss business, they get to talking and the drive to San Antonio turns out to be enjoyable for both of them. They discover they have a lot in common, and once they both check into their hotel in San Antonio, they decide to act on their mutual attraction. But, in a nice twist, they never get past foreplay when they realize neither has a condom. They wind up sleeping together in the literal sense, enjoying the closeness if they can’t have anything more.
The two part ways the next morning, both convinced they missed their chance together. Then the owner of Marion & Co. makes a surprise announcement. She wants to commission a house brand for the stores, and Trimera and Diva Nation are the finalists for the job. As both companies compete to win the account, Mark and Sophie end up seeing more of each other at each presentation and soon give in to their attraction. They both intend to keep their business relationship completely separate from their personal one, but it doesn’t take long before doing so proves to be a challenge.
Mark and Sophie are both likable people who have a genuine rapport. The clear connection between them makes for a sweet romance (livened up with some hot sex, of course, although there’s less of it than readers wanting that first and foremost may like). That said, more character complexity would have strengthed the story. Neither character is really developed past the initial goals the author establishes at the beginning – the former male model trying to be taken seriously and the daughter trying to do right by her family – and this lack really becomes apparent in the middle of the book. Still, the fact that both characters were so likable and sympathetic made for an easy, engaging read.
What especially stood out about this story was that the business elements contained a more realistic edge than many romance novels. As was the case in several of Yardley’s previous Blazes (Working It in particular), the business world these characters move in is a cutthroat one, where one’s colleagues are only out for themselves, supposed friends can soon prove otherwise, and sudden, shocking reversals of fortune can happen without notice. This isn’t portrayed in a cartoonish way, but felt true-to-life, which made the stakes higher and the story more gripping. So often, the treatment of the business world in romance feels so fake that it’s hard to take it seriously or really get involved in the story. That wasn’t a problem here, where the believability led to moments as tense as anything in a suspense novel. Certain details of the plot did seem somewhat contrived for the purposes of the story, but the realistic atmosphere made them easy enough to overlook. Similarly, the happy ending isn’t one of those absolutely perfect ones covered in rainbows and smiley faces where everything ends wonderfully for the characters with a big red bow on top. It too is more grounded in reality. Happy? Yes. Practically perfect in every way? No. I appreciated that.
One Night Standards isn’t one of the hotter Blazes I’ve read lately, but it is one of the better ones. Cathy Yardley tells a strong and involving story about two people trying to deal with the conflict between their personal desires and professional responsibilities. It isn’t often that I find myself caught up in a Blaze in this way, because the story is so interesting and involving, not just driven by the sex. For that reason, it’s easy to recommend.