I was a bit puzzled when I checked the cover and found that this book really was a Modern/Presents Extra. Because it doesn’t read like a Presents at all. Apart from the British setting, it would fit better in the SuperRomance line.
It’s quieter than the usual Presents fare, and the heroine starts and ends the story a virgin – about which more later. A short read over coffee. Just not what I was expecting from a Presents. Am I complaining? I’m not actually sure. Well, next to the heroine, Rachel, my whining doesn’t stand a chance. And do not let the title fool you, or the blurb, for that matter. On the sexual level, this story is around the lukewarm mark, and there is no full-on sex, or even unclothed petting. So no seduction.
The story is told entirely from Rachel’s point of view. She meets her flatmate’s cousin, Zac Lawson, who is over from Canada, and doesn’t like him, because he’s nice to her.
Yes, she really is like that. She isn’t pretty, although she’s naturally slim and eats like a horse, she has a job she’s close to losing, but it isn’t her fault, and in any case, that resolves itself offstage, and she had an ex who dumped her for his wife. Yes, he already had a wife. Who seemed to be as long-suffering as Rachel herself.
It took me a while to work out why I couldn’t feel sorry for Rachel, even though she did have some reason to feel sorry for herself. Because she does it for herself so well. She’s a 27-year-old virgin who has never done it because it doesn’t feel right. As though virginity is prized these days, instead of being an impediment to a healthy, full life. Well, it’s her choice, although she does seem to believe that it makes her in some way better than her flatmates.
I can usually take virgins in the Presents line as part of the fairy tale, but with Rachel, any boyfriend would have to get through layers and layers of self-pity and an inferiority complex bigger than him before he could get to that little bit of skin that is so precious to her. Even her ex boyfriend didn’t get that far, although she was engaged to him. He turned out to be a bigamist, but I even felt sorry for him, because he had all that angst and none of the fun.
Kisses are described in a vague, perfunctory way, and it’s all about how wonderful they were, rather than the experience itself. Poor Zac barely gets further than first base. Some French kissing, and a bit of clothed fondling is all he gets before he makes his commitment to Rachel, even though they spend a night together when they’re snowed in. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it was so, so vanilla, the bed scene had me goggling in disbelief. He’s hot, he wears clinging black boxers, but she doesn’t look, and she doesn’t touch.
This is the kind of book that, I think, sends the wrong message. If you hold out, even if it’s for good reasons of your own, men don’t hang around. Sad, but true. Not even the good ones, if you add a healthy sprinkling of self-pity and unspoken condemnation of non-virgin friends. If you think you’re bad looking, that nobody should bother with you, then often, they don’t. And if you spend your life waiting for Mr. Right, then the chances are high that you’ll die alone. You have to meet him half way, at least. Make an effort.
When Zac leaves, Rachel doesn’t try to contact him. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want long-term, so she backs off, even though she’s fallen for him. She doesn’t try to fight for him. When he returns to Canada, she doesn’t even try to email him, or send him a letter. She pines. A lot. When the confrontation with Ben comes, it’s a work colleague who stands up for her, not Zac, which is another disappointment, for this reader, at least. She lacked spirit, something even the shyest heroine should have.
I think Zac was too good for her, even though he was a bit of an idealised character, patient, understanding, with the hidden depths expected of a Presents hero. He could do so much better.
Sensible.but ripe for seduction! Sensible Rachel Ellington is used to being invisible to men, and that’s fine. One run-in with male deceit in the past was enough to put her off for life! Now she’s being pursued by millionaire businessman Zac Lawson – what could this dazzlingly handsome man see in her? It’s with trepidation that Rachel accepts Zac’s invitation to a Christmas country house party. And when they end up stranded by the wintry weather she suddenly knows exactly why she was so nervous. This is the perfect setting for slow, sweet seduction, though she’s as pure as the driven snow!
Read an excerpt.