The Tycoon's Lady
It’s generally a bad sign when it takes me over a week of stops and starts to try to read a single book. When the book is less than 200 pages and it still takes me that long, I would have to say it’s an F read, something that’s certainly true of Katherine Garbera’s latest, The Tycoon’s Lady.
Angelica Leone runs an agency called Corporate Spouses, which seems to be a cross between a high-class escort agency, a dating service, a charm school, and a cleaning company. She’s contracted by Tarron Enterprises, a big company that does something (we’re never told quite what that might be), to serve as executive Paul Sterling’s “corporate spouse” for three dates. Of course, she knows immediately that she’s attracted to him as she’s been with no man since her husband’s death on their honeymoon seven years earlier.
Paul Sterling is about to make CEO, and is a man of business, and nothing but business. Of course, we don’t know what that business is, but he’s pretty serious about it. We’re told that he can’t love anyone because he watched his mother die of loneliness after his father’s sudden death when Paul was seven. He never really thinks about his father’s death, or about love, other than to say he doesn’t want it, can’t feel it, and therefore isn’t good enough for Angelica. None of which, of course, stops him from trying to make her his lover.
The problem with this book is that it doesn’t read like a book. It’s as if the author called up her publisher and said “I have this great idea for a book”, and the publisher said “great, have the book to me by next Tuesday,” and the author did. Except that, not having really much idea beyond the basic outline, the author neglected to add any dimension to the characters, preferring a generic, pre-packaged set of traumas – her husband’s and his father’s deaths, in this case – with no fleshing out whatsoever. And when the limited storyline didn’t fill up a book length, the author was forced to add nonsensical delaying tactics to drag the story out without actually taking it anywhere. For example, when the couple starts getting hot and heavy for the first time, and the heroine has a “premature” climax, the hero suddenly decides he doesn’t want to sleep with her just yet. Why? Because “her barriers were flimsy now and he could probably have the victory of her body but it would be short-lived.” Ah, a gentleman then. Except that the heroine doesn’t really have any objections to sleeping with him, and never did. So, he declines to sleep with her for no actual reason – and then of course gets snippy with her and implies that it’s her fault that they’re not in bed. Oooh, what a hero.
Another problem is Angelica’s job, since it’s what brings the two characters together in the first place. First, we’re told that it’s a strictly-business service that provides dates and domestic services to business people who need escorts to business functions. It’s never personal, we’re told, and no hanky-panky is allowed. “If we kiss one, we have to kiss them all”, Angelica says. Then later it becomes more of a match-making service, and often leads to actual marriage. It’s supposed to be personal, when it’s convenient for Angelica to want a personal relationship. We don’t know who the dates are that Angelica provides. She’s specific at one point that their clients are male and female alike, but the company is later referred to as “female-oriented.” In the end I was still unsure whether they’re people who want to spend time with business people, or whether they’re business people who want to meet others in similar positions (and have time to clean clients’ houses, apparently). This wouldn’t provide such a stumbling block for me, except that such emphasis is placed on the amorphous and conveniently ever-changing company, and the duties that Angelica, as the CEO, has obviously performed many times. Why, we don’t know. But she’s good at it – whatever it is.
Aside from the fact that Paul’s a sorry excuse for a hero – and he is; the I’m-not-having-sex-with-you-but-it’s-your-fault bit is neither an exception in terms of his behavior nor in the so-called logic of the story – and the inconsistency of detail about Angelica’s job and most other things in the story, the biggest problem is that the characters aren’t much more than sketches, and there are no details to the book at all. And the ones that are there are inappropriately placed, such as when we find out that Angelica’s partner Rand is also her best friend – 11 pages before the end of the book. But as for the characters themselves, well, there are things growing in my refrigerator that have more personality than either of the two – and a lot more interesting chemistry involved than both together.
From what we do know, Paul’s a jerk with a childhood trauma that he never thinks about, yet it interferes with his ability to have an actual love life. Meanwhile, Angelica’s a doormat with an adult trauma that she never thinks about, yet it interferes with her ability to go near water (never mind, it’s not important). Both have jobs that are incredibly important to them, we’re told, but which we either know nothing about (Paul’s), or about which we’re given a great deal of sketchy information, some of it contradictory (Angelica’s). This might all be overlooked, if we were told anything of value about them whatsoever, or, less likely but much more helpfully, actually shown anything about them as people or as a couple. The closest the author comes to this is the subplot about Angelica’s fear of water, and how Paul helps her deal with it. But in a story that has nothing but two characters and how they interact in their so-called love life, this subplot seems strangely superfluous and unrelated, as well as heavy-handed in the extreme.
All in all, in the long, long week I spent with these lifeless characters, I learned nothing to make me interested in them or their future together. I hope you won’t make the same mistake. Leave this one on the shelf, or, better yet, hide it under something heavy so that no one else mistakes it for something readable either.