I expected this book to be a guilty pleasure – the kind of book that you enjoy even though you know you shouldn’t. But though the love scenes were hot, the story was simply too thin and the characters too flat to meet even that level of expectation.
Mark Sullivan is a CPA, not an exhibitionist. But the FBI needs someone with accounting skills and a fresh face to go undercover as a stripper at a Las Vegas strip club (Girls’ Night Out) catering to women. Yes, really. Of course, it’s no ordinary strip club, as the FBI suspects it’s being used for money laundering by the Mafia.
Mark is compelled to participate for two reasons. The first is that the main suspect is a man with whom his ex-wife – a thief who framed Mark for her own crimes – had an affair. The second is that from the moment he sees a photo of the club’s owner, Nicola “Nicki” DiStefano, Mark wants her.
Nicki is a former party girl trying to break away from the suffocating control of her Uncle Pietro. She’s doing this by managing her club, but she’s surrounded by problems – her last accountant was gunned down in a parking lot, she’s got no head for math, and her uncle’s overbearing assistant is breathing down her neck. And now she’s lusting after her newest employee, Mark.
It doesn’t take long for Mark to give Nicola her own private strip show. The thin plot stretches itself even thinner due to Mark’s ham-handed investigation: Mark decides Nicki is not an unwitting owner, but an accomplice to the crime. Of course, that doesn’t prevent him from continuing their affair, because that’s what all good investigators do. Surprisingly, there is a twist [or two] before the end, but it’s too little and arrives too late.
The author milks the stripper setup as much as possible for sexual tension and humor, from Mark’s first audition for Nicki to his costume selection and his reluctant rehearsals. However, that’s as far as my enjoyment went. Even though the author knows how to skillfully write a hot love scene (a few border on burning) and some clever lines, she couldn’t make this relationship or the plot work…there’s too much deception on Mark’s part and too little intelligence on Nicki’s. Mark has no problem making love to Nicki even when he thinks she’s guilty as sin. He’s driven by the memory of his ex-wife’s betrayal, and, frankly, his angst and his inability to trust Nicki get old really fast. Nicki is supposed to be a capable businesswoman, yet she hasn’t glanced at the books in weeks due to her dislike of math (I thought this was an essential part of running a business), and she has no problem jumping into bed with a brand-new employee. These two are barely formed characters who seem to exist just so we can watch them roll around together.
Their sex scenes are punctuated by misunderstandings, mostly fueled by Mark’s idiotic assumptions. It’s incredibly hard to believe that the FBI would want to outsource a job to Mark, because he can’t put two and two together without coming to the wrong conclusion. At first I tolerated him, but by the nth time that he decides Nicki is as much a villain as his ex-wife, I was livid. Then again, Nicki seems to exist just for the sex scenes, so it’s hard to sustain outrage on her behalf.
With a book that is a guilty pleasure, you can accept an improbable premise if the author sells the characters and the relationship. The author doesn’t sell any of it here.