Ah, paradise. Palm trees swaying. The sound of the tide rolling in. A man playing the ukulele. Okay, I could totally do without the ukulele-playing, but you get my drift. Books that feature a tropical setting are usually an automatic must-try for me and Lorie O’Clare’s latest does not disappoint. The fact that it features a Filipino-American hero is just icing on the cake for me.
Grocery store clerk Jenny Rogers leads a quiet life working and spending time with her beloved Nana, the woman who raised her. Nana and Jenny have established a daily routine of watching the TV game show Last Chance for Happiness. When Nana surprises Jenny with tickets to the show, Jenny is called as a contestant and wins the grand prize trip to Hawaii. At the airport, Jenny’s plane is delayed and she becomes friendly with an elderly lady who is also traveling to Hawaii.
The lady turns out to be a wealthy and powerful businesswoman. After conversing with Jenny, she makes an impulsive decision to send Jenny to Hawaii in her stead. She wants a fresh perspective on her business meetings there. In return for luxury accommodations, Jenny only has to report what her first impressions are. When Jenny meets the businesswoman’s estranged grandson, sparks start to fly between the two of them. Ric Karaka grew up in foster homes, as the child of a Filipino father and Caucasian mother who both died young. His mother was an heiress to the family fortune, but due to her romance with Ric’s father she was disowned by her wealthy mother. Ric has bought his family’s old banana plantation on the island of Lanai. He wants to renovate the house and turn it into a bed and breakfast, but he needs an investor. He’s looking forward to his upcoming meeting with his wealthy grandmother since she may be a potential investor; however, his plans go awry when Jenny arrives instead.
Temptation Island was a quick, fun read balancing hot erotic romance with the more substantial themes of family ties and preserving the heritage of Lanai. Ric is an admirable character. Despite a difficult childhood, he has managed to attend and graduate from college. Now he has moved to Lanai from Los Angeles to be closer to his relatives on his father’s side of the family, though he never actually knew his father. His extended family has welcomed him into the fold, providing the family he was long denied.
Ric’s character provides an interesting contrast with Jenny’s character, who was raised by her loving grandparents. Jenny also had parents who died young, however, her life was more stable with her Nana and Papa. She has lived a very sheltered life which has made her extremely naïve to other people’s ulterior motives. Her naivety was almost unbelievable to me, particularly when she is revealed to be a sex goddess midway through the story. Though I admit I was incredibly relieved that she wasn’t portrayed as a modern day virgin, I expected her to be as self-conscious about sex as she was about other situations.
My favorite scene in the book occurs when Jenny is asked to give a speech at a luncheon. Since she has never done any sort of public speaking, she is understandably nervous. Concerned for her, Ric sends her a text message while she is at the luncheon and tells her not to worry and that he will give her speech for her. Though she is appreciative of the offer, Jenny texts Ric back to decline and goes on to give her speech. I loved this moment of self-reliance from Jenny and how it demonstrates growth in her self-esteem.
I felt like the ending was slightly rushed and stretched the bounds of believability for me. And I was concerned about Jenny’s state of mind and the choice she makes at the end. Still, this was an enjoyable tale with a unique premise and characters for whom the reader can’t help but root.