Sex, Lies and Valentines
Remember the wonderful John Robie from To Catch A Thief? Or the dashing Thomas Crown from The Thomas Crown Affair? Or any one of the men played by Cary Grant in Charade? These characters were all charming, charismatic gentlemen thieves. Somehow they manage to make a heinous crime seem like nothing so much as a prank as they smile and dance their way through caper after caper. Gabe Black, the hero of this book, is meant to be in their ranks. Cary would be hanging his head in shame to see it.
Gabriel Black has spent years evading the law, but a beauty in distress makes him sloppy and has him getting busted by the FBI. No worries, though. They can’t possibly have enough to hold him. Then he finds himself faced with threats to his family (all of whom have criminal histories) if he doesn’t agree to play along with a sting the feds have planned. Part of their planned operation is bringing down Gabe’s criminally inclined father. However, Gabe knows there is no way his dad is involved in what the FBI believes is happening in his hometown of Black Oak. Anxious to prove his father’s innocence and see an end to threats against his family, Gabe heads toward the home he hasn’t seen in nine years. Can the black sheep of the clan prove to be a white knight after all?
Danita Cruz has worked hard to escape a trailer trash past. Working on this high stakes undercover assignment is a privilege she has assuredly earned. But she hadn’t counted on gorgeous Gabe, a man who turns her head and wreaks havoc with her libido. Having to play his girlfriend/lover for the duration of the sting may prove to be a bit too much for even her iron will – especially as she finds herself falling for his charming family and the sweet community of Black Oak. Can she trust a con artist with her heart? Or is he likely to steal it along with her dignity?
Danita and Gabe crash the hotel where the criminals are gathering to create a new organization to rival the mob. While Gabe sweet talks the criminals and Danita distracts them with her sheer sexiness, they try to lure the mastermind out of the woodwork. Complicating their charade is the fact that Gabe’s brother is getting married and Danita and Gabe use an entirely different cover with the family. Lies, heat, and emotions get entangled as the two weave an increasingly tangled web. Can real love bloom in an unreal world?
Danita and Gabe are of the old school “I hate you but I can’t keep my hands off you” romance variety. Their lust is instant, their love not so much. The two give in to their passion while still circling each other warily in the emotion and trust departments. This didn’t sit so well with me because of the hostility. It made no sense to sleep together without at least a little mutual like. I didn’t grade down for this – it is an accepted trope within romance after all – but if this is a pet peeve for you, be warned it is here in abundance.
And for the first time ever I found both the hero and heroine TSTL. Gabe was pretty dense, but Danita edged him out in sheer stupidity. In fact, it was Danita’s biggest TSTL moment that got the book its minus. While explaining her background to the man whom she is trying to outfox, she tells him the most convoluted story of her work history you will ever hear. Her explanation? That most people got confused and left the conversation after hearing about how she dressed up as a princess to go to Disney everyday. No, she wasn’t a paid actor, it just cheered her up when she was out of work. That confusion was supposed to work in her favor. I think not. Even a six year old knows that you keep the lies simple – hence the ever popular dog ate my homework as opposed to say, elephant or monkey. There is no faster way to get caught in your lies than to make them so elaborate you can’t find a way out. She feels painted into a corner when said “criminal mastermind” doesn’t run screaming from her stupidity but responds by asking her where she lives. I kid you not; that one question had her acknowledging his genius. That did it for me. Nothing she did after that could keep me from thinking her a complete idiot.
The rest of the story limps along. Because the author is juggling a wedding/family gathering, mystery, and budding romance we focus on no one thing. That is good in that it leaves the mystery a mystery, a definite plus for this book. The writer has a clear, easy to read style, another plus. The book would have been a C read, mediocre with nothing to either recommend or condemn it, but the ridiculous scene with Danita described above, mixed in with Gabe’s incompetence and some silly moments at a “celebration of spring” party moved it to a less than average read. I’d give this one a miss.