Under the Millionaire's Influence
Under the Millionaire’s Influence is an unremarkable series romance – a quick read that didn’t really work for me. It has a nice setting (Charleston, South Carolina), but not much else to recommend it.
Starr Cimino lived a nomadic life with con-artist parents until the day social services intervened and she was placed in a foster home. Now she’s a successful adult running a restaurant in her former foster home, helped by her two foster sisters. Although she’s managed to make something of herself, she still finds her past catching up with her – sometimes all in one day. When the book begins, she finds her relatives camped out on her lawn in ugly RVs, and even worse: sexy millionaire David Reis is there as well.
What’s so threatening about a sexy millionaire? Well, Starr and David were high school sweethearts who couldn’t keep their hands off each other, even though they were from opposite sides of the tracks and Starr never really felt she was good enough for him. They grew apart after high school when David took an adventurous job with the Air Force OSI (Office of Special Investigations). Though David offered her the moon and begged her to travel with him on various assignments, Starr refused; her rootless childhood left her with a firm desire to make a home for herself in one spot and stay there. The problem, of course, is that she still loves David and can barely keep her hands off him.
The book plays out about how you’d think it would, with David luring Starr into his world for a little bit and trying to show her how devoted he is. Starr drags her feet before resigning to the inevitable romance between them. It comes across as rushed and not very romantic. Part of the culprit is likely that this is a very short book. Silhouette Desires always are. Sometimes a story lends itself well to that format, and sometimes it doesn’t. This book falls into the latter category. While I’m not sure the book would have worked terrifically with fifty extra pages tacked on, it sure wouldn’t have hurt.
The main problem is David, who comes off as arrogant and (at times) sexist. He continually calls Starr “Babe,” which flat out drove me nuts. It annoyed me so much that I spent a good deal of time thinking about just why it was so irritating. I’m pretty sure I’ve read other books where the hero dropped the Babe bomb without causing a nails-on-the-chalkboard response. What I finally decided was that the class differences between David and Starr made his use of “Babe” come off as condescending. Had he been, say, a goofily-macho football star (a la SEP) calling a brainy heroine “Babe,” my reaction would have been different. Coupled with his sometimes domineering actions (like arranging for Starr to take a trip without her knowledge), the constant Babe-ing gave David a rich, macho jerk vibe.
Starr is by far the more interesting of the two characters. She’s had much more to overcome than David, and her need for roots definitely made sense. Since many of her issues stemmed from her childhood, when she was at the mercy of others, a gentler hero would have made more sense to me. Even at the end, I wasn’t entirely convinced that David respected her homebody nature. And I had to wonder exactly how many OSI agents take their wives with them every time they take a trip somewhere. My guess is none.
While I liked the Charleston setting and maybe even the initial homebody vs. rambling man conflict, on the whole this book really didn’t work for me. I’d give this one a pass.