Taking Care of Business
Earlier this month I picked up Leanne Banks’ Billionaire’s Proposition, and since I enjoyed it I decided to try something totally different for me – following a continuity series. The Elliotts series is about a wealthy family in publishing, whose patriarch announces his retirement and throws out a challenge to determine his successor.
This month’s installment is Taking Care of Business. It features Tag Eilliott, the brother of the hero from the first book (Gannon). Like Gannon, Tag works for Pulse, a news magazine headed by his father. When Tag’s learns that his mother has breast cancer, he is naturally devastated. He confronts her social worker, Renee Williams, and somewhat abruptly demands that his mother receive the best care. About five seconds later, he realizes that he is being a real jerk. He apologizes and shares a meaningful discussion with Renee about his mother’s treatment. Although he is clearly stressed out, he can’t help but notice how beautiful Renee is.
A few days later, he runs into Renee at a sidewalk café. She’s just been stood up by her friend, so Tag joins her, and they end up spending the day together. Their attraction deepens as they realize they share many common interests, and even admire the same artist. Almost immediately, Tag wants to get something started between them. Renee is not so sure. She is very attracted to Tag, but she doesn’t see how they could possibly overcome their differences. He’s obscenely rich – and he’s white. Renee is black, and she comes from an average, middle class background. She can’t help noticing that they get occasional disapproving stares as they walk down the street together, and it makes her really uncomfortable. She has trouble believing that Tag is really interested in a long term relationship. To further complicate matters, Renee’s last serious relationship was with a cheating slimeball. Unbeknownst to her, everyone in her workplace knew, and she was the target of vicious gossip. The experience made her extra-wary of anything that might cause water-cooler gossip.
Naturally, their relationship heats up anyway. They are both gorgeous, and they are both obsessed with each other. Perhaps because he has gone through life with plenty of money, Tag doesn’t care at all what people think. As far as he’s concerned, Renee is the most beautiful woman in the world, and if people don’t approve of their relationship, then that’s their problem. He keeps pushing Renee, and she keeps giving in – only to insist later that it just won’t work out. Matters come to a head when they are pictured together in a local paper. Renee overhears vicious gossip, and she’s just not sure she can go through this again. It’s up to Tag to convince her that their love can transcend racial boundaries.
Overall, this is a pleasant read, but not really a stand-out one. Tag and Renee are both nice enough, but their characters are not really fully developed. This is a common hazard in series romance – particularly in Silhouette Desires, which are very short books. I have found that these work somewhat better if the characters know each other before the start of the book; a little backstory can be a useful time-saver. In this case, Renee and Tag only meet at the beginning of the book. Of the two main characters, Renee is definitely the more fleshed-out. Jackson takes the time to relate her past experiences, and we understand her motivation, as well as her fear of an interracial relationship. By contrast, Tag comes across as Any Rich White Guy. Nothing really made him stand out; in fact, he just seems like a pale version of his brother Gannon.
The short format also causes problems in the “falling in love” arena. I had trouble believing that in the midst of work challenges and a major family health crisis, these two went from meeting to talking marriage in a matter of days. I didn’t quite get why they couldn’t take it a little slower, and I would have liked more interaction between them. The love scenes themselves work a little better, at least in description mode. They are definitely hotter than the average Desire. The only problem I found was that the dialogue occasionally gets a little cheesy. Most of Tag’s comments during sex are flowery, and at one point he and Renee get into a “say my name” stand off that seemed silly to me.
That said, the book is not bad at all. I usually find interracial romances interesting, and it worked for me on that level. Sometimes it just seems extra-romantic when love is colorblind. Even if Tag was a little uninspiring as a romantic lead, I appreciated his “who cares what racist losers think?” stance. Like Tag, I can’t wait for the day when everyone is accepting of interracial relationships.
Over all, this is probably not a book I would rush out and buy, but it’s a quick and somewhat entertaining read. It also stand just fine on its own, so if you haven’t read the first book in the series, there’s no reason to hold back on that account.