Kendrick specializes in ultra-alphas, but sometimes comes up with a story with more depth and feeling. Count me out as a lover of the Sheikh and Stable Girl book, but this one I enjoyed much more—with one or two reservations.
Giancarlo is an “international playboy.” Sigh. I think that phrase should be retired. He was born to wealth but lost it when his brother inherited, and then made a fortune all by himself. So he’s a workaholic, and during the first part of this story, he actually goes out to work. Which gave a touch of realism. He meets Cassie when she’s working in the fancy candle department at a London department store. She’s there for Christmas only, sent to get more experience by her boss, who runs a craft shop in Cornwall.
Cassie and Giancarlo get it on pretty fast, and Cassie agrees to stay with him until Christmas, when he’s due to go to New York to spend the season with friends, as he always does. But he constantly treats her as his mistress, and while she accepts this, occasionally he hurts her by the implied ownership. He takes her to Paris, buys her things, all of which she leaves behind when she goes home.
My main squick is that Giancarlo is 35 and Cassie is 21. I can cope with a 14 year age difference, but not when the heroine is so young. And her inconsistent behavior would put her somewhere between 18 and 30. She wears old lady clothes, dresses without leggings, occasionally jeans, and she is a virgin and shy. I don’t entirely buy Cassie, she never really became real for me. While sometimes her behavior is that of a 21 year old, the naivety grated after a while. 21 year olds, even ones from a Cornish backwater, are pretty savvy these days. And her shyness comes and goes, too. There were a few scenes, such as the one where she meets Giancarlo’s friends, where I wanted to tell her to get a grip.
To do Kendrick justice, I think we are supposed to think that. And I did enjoy the way she stood up to Giancarlo. When she told him she was pregnant, for instance, and he asked her if it was his, she said no, it was hers, all hers, and he could go to hell. Way to go, Cassie. But then Giancarlo does the fastest drive to Cornwall from London ever, and tells her they will marry.
Giancarlo is, as usual for a Modern/Presents, seen from the outside, mainly from Cassie’s point of view. I’d absolutely love it if Harlequin Presents writers were allowed to show more of the hero. We’re told about his childhood, and the meanness of his brother, offering him a tiny parcel of land, after he inherited the rest of the family’s wealth. And yet later, we’re supposed to accept that the brothers are still close, except for the woman they both loved, and his brother won. Giancarlo is also pretty alpha, in line with most of Kendrick’s heroes, but he’s redeemed by a magnificent grovel scene at the end, and his honesty. He never promises her more than he gives, never leads her on. He also doesn’t see how unhappy she is, until it’s nearly too late.
I’m not sure I believe that Giancarlo and Cassie will have a happy ever after. They don’t seem to have a lot in common. There is a sweet epilogue, but it didn’t entirely convince me.
THE PLAYBOY LOVER AND HIS PREGNANT MISTRESS….
When renowned international playboy Giancarlo Vellutini invites shop assistant Cassie Summers to join him for dinner; how can she refuse? After all, she is an ordinary girl from Cornwall and chances like this don’t come round very often.
Throwing caution to the wind, before she knows it unworldly Cassie is completely at Giancarlo’s mercy. She finds herself agreeing to be his mistress for Christmas….
But will an unexpected gift make this temporary festive arrangement last a lifetime?