Desert Isle Keeper
This is my first book by Ms. Blake, but I know her reputation for excellently written, steaming hot romances. She’s been on my “authors to get to” list for a long time, so I was very excited when this came across my desk, and it did not disappoint! Ruthless is a suspenseful, sexy story of two people who find home and love in each other as they seek to set the world to rights.
The book opens distressingly, with small children escaping a fire that has surely killed their parents. It’s three boys and a little girl, the latter of whom readers of Ms. Blake’s other series may recognize as Mia, who was the heroine in a previous book. Ruthless is the start of a new series, so prior knowledge isn’t necessary; the connection is simply a treat for fans of the previous series.
As we start the main meat of the story, Ellie Stratton is in the process of helping her father’s business partner to retire. Some of the legal matters are complicated and she needs someone who isn’t connected to her giant tech firm, StratCast, and thus hires outside counsel. Stepping into full ownership and management of StratCast is something she’s been preparing for, but the process of buying out her father’s partner is tricky, especially when she views said partner as a surrogate uncle. Outside opinions are always valuable in such situations, and she hires a highly recommended attorney who calls himself Riley Lang. When she meets him, she’s impressed by his legal acumen, but a bit overwhelmed by her sexual attraction to him.
Riley’s ultimate goal is to destroy StratCast. Since we last saw him on that fateful night of the fire, Riley and his brothers had tough lives, all separated and flung throughout the foster care system. Mia was blessedly placed in a stable home, but the others were victims of a broken system with little regard for angry young men. They each coped in their own ways and reunited in adulthood.
They figured out several years prior to this story that the fire which killed their parents was intentionally set by their father’s business partners. Their father had been the technical genius of StratCast, writing the original code upon which the company was founded. To greedy folks like Ellie’s father, that made him a threat which must be eliminated.
Riley manipulated events (including disguising his last name) to get hired at StratCast. His dialogue with his siblings tell us that he expects the conquest of Ellie to be quick and straightforward; if her father is a murder, she’s probably an ice queen, and the seduction will be simple. He knows his looks are powerful and his legal mind is sharp; with only minimal access to company accounts, he is confident he can find what he is looking for to set their plan of destruction in motion.
But he is unprepared for Ellie. Sweet and kind where her father was mean and unforgiving, Ellie has learned all the right lessons from her father’s tutelage and has grown into a woman poised to lead StratCast in a new direction. While working towards full ownership, she falls in love with her dashing new lawyer through deep conversations and bouts of particularly athletic sex. Despite himself, Riley falls for Ellie as well, leaving him to rethink his and his brothers’ entire revenge strategy.
And then a board meeting changes everything.
As I said above, this was my first book by Ms. Blake. From the buzz I had heard about previous books (plus their titles), I would say this one is tamer, sexually, than some other of her works. Readers looking for duplicate levels of heat should be prepared for that, but what is presented here on the page is fantastically written. While Ellie may present as initially naive, her character arc is well-paced and believable. Riley’s journey, not only as his own person, but as a member of a family, and as a partner to Ellie, is also satisfying. Their love story ends within this book, although the drama surrounding the deaths of Riley’s parents is not fully resolved. So while it’s not a cliffhanger, the story does not fully tie in a bow.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a contemporary romance with vibrant characters and an intriguing plot. And there’s the added bonus for anyone who likes reading about sets of brothers, as the next books in this series are promised to follow the two remaining unpaired siblings. If you’re looking to eke out a few more hours of summer by a pool or on a beach, Ruthless would be an excellent companion.