In this series, where some of the stories have taken chances with the usual themes used in the Modern line, this book is like stepping back into the past. And the title makes me scratch my head because Annabelle has been featured and talked about all through the series. Hardly forgotten. Before I get to the matter of the book, the cover is another WTF, because it shows a brunette, and Annabelle is a blonde. I can’t place either of those things at the author’s door, though. She won’t have had much input, if any, into the cover or the title. And the picture is of the Escorial, the huge palace cum monastery cum memorial built by Philip II. Hardly a horse ranch, but at least in the right country.
Annabelle was whipped so hard by her abusive father that she still bears scars, including a nasty one down the side of her face, which she uses make-up, presumably the specialized kind, to cover up. The scar is described as red and livid, although it’s nearly twenty years old now. I couldn’t believe that, since scars tend to fade to a silvery white over the years. The main problem is that it’s dead tissue, so it doesn’t take a tan, and it can distort the surface of the skin. She has other scars on her body from that fateful night. Since they have caused her so many problems, I don’t understand why Annabelle hasn’t had plastic surgery to cover the worst of the scars. They could have made a significant difference to her. And her lover in this book never suggests it, either, if only to make her feel better.
Stefano owns a horse ranch in Spain. Are they called ranches in Spain? I’m not sure, but I had to check the location, as the word made me blink. He only sells his horses to certain customers and has been known to turn wealthy would-be customers down. He was a poor boy and made his fortune in the show-jumping ring (I can hear the guffaws from the participants here, but this is a Modern Romance, okay?) He has a fearsome reputation with the ladies, only spending one night with many of them. And he doesn’t bring them back to the ranch. He hires a room at the local inn when he sleeps with them. What a charmer.
See what I mean about the old-style Modern?
Lucas is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Occasionally her wildly rampant heroes are too much to take, and they don’t just cross the line into abusive, they leap into it with gusto. Stefano isn’t like that. He understands. In fact, the man described and the man in the book have little resemblance to each other, except at the beginning where there is much twirling of imaginary mustaches, and “I will have her” thoughts. I like that he makes friends with her before he takes her to bed and that he shows her how little her scar matters to him.
The style is extreme, in all shades from lavender to deep purple. But I’ve seen far worse from Lucas. The characters are extreme, they are either This or That, never In Between. So Stefano is either the heartless seducer or the kind, gentle lover.
And, sigh, Annabelle is a virgin. At thirty-two. I don’t buy that her childhood beating is enough to put her off men for life. She gets on well with her brothers, and her ice queen persona doesn’t mean she can’t make friends. Her assistant, Marie, is presently on maternity leave, (convenient!) and Annabelle thinks of her with fondness. She can apply her make up with great skill, and in any case, she could leave the lights dim or off. The thirty-two-year-old virgin is a rare thing, and of course, Stefano doesn’t realize she is one when he takes her for the first time. And they go at it like bunnies after that, even the first night. No. Really, no. After a few days, Annabelle is described as “pleasantly sore.” Ugh. I’d have thought she’d have been red, raw, and wincing with every step. Rampant R Us.
But Stefano is an acceptable hero and Annabelle is no doormat.
Annabelle…Reserved. Elegant. Scarred.
Sister to seven brothers, Annabelle should be used to men, but her trust was shattered the night her father almost killed her. Now Annabelle is an ice-queen, whom no man has ever touched… Stefano Cortez can tame a wild horse quicker than any man, and this passion heats the blood in his veins. Annabelle may seem untouchable, but beneath the frost, he sees the real woman…
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