While I did enjoy Tempting, there was not enough romance in this fourth installment of Mallery’s Buchanan series to keep me engaged with the main couple. Complex and interesting family relationships could not compensate for weak chemstry between the leads. I ended up enjoying the scenes with the future mother-in-law much more than those focusing on the hero and heroine.
Dani Buchanan is reevaluating her life. Her husband cheated on her and then asked for a divorce. Her rebound flame was a slimy philanderer. Her third attempt at love was just embarrassing. On top of this romantic angst, Dani’s grandmother Gloria recently lashed out at her with the truth of her parentage. Dani’s mother had had an affair and Dani is the result. This family secret has shadowed Dani for many years as she threw herself into managing part of the family restaurant business, always wondering why her grandmother seemed so hard to please and so unwilling to promote.
Now Dani works in management at a different restaurant as she seeks to establish a relationship with her birth father, Senator Mark Canfield. Unfortunately, Mark is considering a bid for president and his adoptive son Alex is extremely protective of the Canfield family. As Dani is recognized by Mark and slowly drawn into the Canfield family, Alex is torn between a growing attraction to Dani and his loyalty to his father’s campaign and his mother’s feelings. Dani, for her part, is extremely wary of diving into a fourth bad relationship as well as being ambivalent about what she wants out of her new family, and at what cost.
The complicated web of family that surrounding Dani and Alex dominates the book. Mark and his wife Katherine adopted eight children starting with Alex. Katherine is passionately devoted to her children and husband. However, she is bothered by her inability to conceive and Dani is a constant reminder of her infertility. Mark, on the other hand, is emotionally distant from all of his family, including Dani. Alex’s ex-wife still hangs around, causing problems, and the entire Buchanan clan still claims Dani as their own. Gloria in particular is trying to start over with Dani and ensure that Dani feels a part of the Buchanans and their businesses. All of these competing claims on Dani and Alex put stress on their burgeoning relationship.
The family-driven nature of the plot is both this book’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. Secondary characters, especially Katherine, are well drawn and compelling. While the scenes with family do not detract from the romance, they certainly do not add anything. This is an issue because the main couple lacks chemistry – Dani and Alex together are a nice but bland pairing. The scenes in which they argued, dated, and made love paled in comparison to the rest of the book. I did not really buy into their attraction until the final scene, and by that time I had lost interest in the two as a couple.
Katherine and Mark are a secondary couple revisited several times throughout the story and here the romance failed for me. Katherine loves Mark quite desperately while Mark is off in his own world, with the campaign as his first priority. Katherine was such an interesting character that I wanted to see her paired with someone a bit more heroic than the often self-centered Mark. While their relationship is also tied up with a nice flourish towards the end of the book, by that time I had stopped rooting for them.
There is nothing obviously wrong with Tempting and I enjoyed many of the family scenes. However, when reading a romance I want to feel at all times engaged with the couple. The weak chemistry of Dani and Alex kept me from enjoying this book as much as I might have done.