Tag Archives: January 2014

Review: The Man Behind the Mask by Barbara Wallace

Mary’s review of The Man Behind the Mask (Best Friends Series Book 1) by Barbara Wallace
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin January 7, 2014

The Man Behind the MaskA weekend to change everything…

Delilah St. Germaine fell for New York’s most in-demand bachelor, Simon Cartwright, the moment she began working for him. Four years later, her heart still flutters every time he saunters into the office—much to her frustration. He’s so far out of her reach it’s embarrassing!

Thrown together with him for a working weekend, Delilah glimpses the cracks in Simon’s glittering facade. Now she’s tasted the sweetness of his kisses, she’s determined to uncover the secrets he’s hiding and learn who the real Simon Cartwright is. But will innocent Delilah’s life ever be the same once the truth is revealed?

Boss/secretary isn’t a trope I pick up often since the lawyer in me is usually screaming, “Lawsuit! Lawsuit! Don’t do it!” Occasionally, however, it finds its way onto my Kindle. The blurb caught my eye because it has an unrequited love element which is something I do enjoy. I thought this novel would be lighthearted and quick but, boy, was I mistaken. What I got was so much better!

Deliah is the stereotypical ugly duckling. She views herself to be as boring as plain yogurt. But right from the start, she’s kind, amazingly organized and a hard worker. It’s that dedication to her own professional success that has left her lonely on Saturday nights. That and the massive crush she has on her boss. She believes he’s out of her league – smart and handsome with a revolving door of beautiful socialites to keep him company. Despite her feelings, which she’s never shared with anyone – not even her closest friends – Delilah and Simon make a great team. Together, they’ve built up their advertising company with Deliah being Simon’s necessary and non-expendable right hand.

Simon is completely obvious to Deliah’s feelings for him. He’s not self-absorbed or unkind, just unobservant. He’s stuck Deliah in the “do not touch” box and automatically believes she sees him in the same way. He respects her, enormously, and appreciates her hard work. Along with his clear professional lines, he’s also uninterested in having any kind of long term relationship. He dates women who expect little from him because that is all he wants to give. Normally, this attitude would bother me but Simon reads as a really nice guy. Like a really nice guy. He’s not arrogant or conceited. He’s simply a man who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t, what he’s willing to give and what he isn’t.

The romance in this book was slow burning, but I loved every minute of it. It was also unexpected. Simon has some dark demons – darker than I thought from looking at the cover and reading the blurb. A business trip forces him to face them and he fights it every step of the way. At the same time, he and Deliah are growing closer and, as his feelings grow for her, he is terrified she will find out – and it will change how she thinks of him. For Deliah, the change isn’t as dramatic but it’s no less impactful. Once she starts to catch glimpses of the real Simon, she understands the man she had a crush on doesn’t exist. Her fantasy fades and when reality takes it place, she doesn’t run or hide. She meets the challenge head on, and for that, I loved her all the more.

I have nothing bad to say about this book. Literally nothing. It was perfect from start to finish and I’m marking as one I will re-read if I fall into a book slump. Yes, it was that good.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

 

TBR Challenge Review: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Review: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by AOS Publishing on January 14, 2014

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.

Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.

Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

The theme of February’s TBR Challenge is “Series Catch Up” and to be honest, there’s nothing for me to technically catch up on because I haven’t read any of the series. (Although isn’t starting at book six something of a catch up reading wise? ;)) I have to say, I read this because of all the Laura Florand buzz I’d been seeing constantly … but really because the premise of this book. I’m not usually one who goes for the “enemies” trope, but I’d say this one isn’t that.

I loved Sarah. She’s so neurotic and clueless and wonderful. I just think she’s fantastic. And actually, Sarah is really great – she’s just suffering from a total lack of self confidence, and I think we can all relate to that. I liked that she’s sweet and shy, but has a steel core. She seems so closed off and contained, but has such a huge heart. Patrick describes her as the fairy godmother, and that sums her up perfectly. She’s not the fairy tale princess – Sarah makes things happen on her own for herself, and the ones she loves. It might not always be the grand sweeping gestures, but the little things people take for granted, and she just continues on. Sarah is everyday in that she could be any regular person off the street – but one who excels at what she does.

Patrick Chevalier might be one of my favorite romance heroes because he’s just so perfect. Sarah pretty much describes him as a golden surfer god in looks and character. But he’s so messed up. It’s delightful. Patrick is a phenom in the kitchen, and I loved his casual arrogance. He’s not an asshole, just that he so summarily dismisses anything basic. He knows how good he is and can back it up – but he doesn’t throw it in your face, it just is. That’s sexy. What’s more sexy though, is how he falls for Sarah. He meets her and develops a crush on her basically on sight, and for the next five months just goes gaga for her. Only he can’t show it because basically he’s her boss. Patrick being denied something he wants is a lot of fun. Even sulky Patrick is charming and delightful.

Even though Patrick is Sarah’s superior in the kitchen it doesn’t seem skeevy. I think what helped is that Sarah has had a longstanding attraction to him as well – just that she suppressed it. Also that there are definite boundaries, and they remain professional in the work environment. The turning point (and I don’t consider this a spoiler because it happens so early in the book) is when Sarah tells Patrick she hates him. That’s the catalyst and spurs him into making his move. Sneaky loveable wonderful bastard that he is. One thing that I waver between is his interpretation? I’m not sure if Patrick is like “yes! She hates me! That’s a powerful emotion and means she feels something so I’m going for it! I can’t resist!or if he’s like “hate? She hates me? No! That … no! She can’t hate me – I have to change this.” Perhaps a mix of the two? (I kind of like the latter more, but that’s just me.) The aspect that makes this okay for me is that Sarah doesn’t really hate him – she just “hates” how he makes her feel and act, because she thinks she’s got this major case of pointless, consuming, unrequited love. How can you not love all this?

I had some issues with the book that I won’t get into because they’re hyper technical, and wouldn’t bother 99.9% of people. But if I think about them, it drives me crazy. … So yeah.

This book is just so freaking romantic (and sexy), and emotional – that line – and the following passage with the quote “then why are you still here” – if you’ve read it you know – it makes me cry every time. Every. Damn. Time. I love how developed Sarah and Patrick are. I love the relationship Patrick has with Luc. The way the relationship develops, how Patrick sets out to court Sarah, wooing her from the start with treats from the kitchen then treats outside of it … It’s even nice that there’s conflict and Sarah and Patrick work through it naturally.

I’ve already re-read this book, and I just know I’ll be reading this book many more times – and the other books in this series too. The Chocolate Temptation is probably one of my favorite books of 2014. Get a copy, read it. You’ll thank me.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.