Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and I first discovered category romance, the Desire line was my favorite. But then, over time, things changed. Desire started morphing into what I call “The American HP,” with a proliferation of billionaires, babies, and over-blown back cover copy. I got my head turned by other lines, and we quietly parted ways. However, I do miss Desire and continue to check out the monthly offerings, hoping for a glimmer of the line I fell in love with in the early aughts. Enter Sarah M. Anderson’s debut.
Dan Armstrong inherited half of the family energy (mostly oil) business when his father died, which meant working with his Uncle Cecil. Cecil has been in South Dakota the last several years, working to build a dam and expanding the family’s influence into hydro-energy. The problem? Rosebud Donnelly, a barracuda of a lawyer for the local Lakota tribe. See, Uncle Cecil’s dam will create a reservoir that will flood a big ol’ chunk of the reservation. After chewing up and spitting out several of his high-priced lawyers, Cecil calls in Dan – who isn’t all that happy to be his Uncle’s lap dog.
Dan has been doing quite well with the family holdings down in Texas and doesn’t think much of dear old Uncle. But his company has sunk a lot of time and energy into South Dakota, so he makes the trip. What he hasn’t planned on is Rosebud – who is not only beautiful, but smart and good with a gun. A fact he learns firsthand when she shoots his favorite hat right off his head.
What I love about this story is that the author gives us an adversarial relationship without a lot of needless bickering. Dan and Rosebud are immediately attracted to each other, but he works magic through his charm and she quickly realizes that she’s tangling with a pro. She also realizes that he’s a pretty genuine guy. She certainly doesn’t think much of his uncle, but Dan strikes her as a straight-shooter, and soon these two are working together – albeit somewhat uneasily.
Desires can run fairly hot, and the author keeps the tension simmering for a good, long while before our couple finally succumbs. A smart move since the conflict here is really external. Rosebud and Dan are torn characters. What they want is to just be another man and woman simply getting to know each other. That’s not an option, though. His business is at odds with her people. He’s working to get to the bottom of what Cecil is really up to, and she’s feeling pressure from her family. They’re also both under pressure to turn on the charm with each other, to get close to the other in the hopes of gaining an advantage. Secrets coming out during pillow talk, if you will.
This could have been an extremely unsavory story, but the author keeps it from being so with her characters. Rosebud is a conflicted woman, pushed into the law out of obligation and having sunk three years of her life into fighting Cecil. Dan is a genuinely nice guy. He firmly fits the book’s title. When Rosebud muses, “Dan didn’t exactly wear his heart on his sleeve, but she got the feeling he didn’t win a lot of poker games,” the reader instantly knows that this is a guy who is a success in business by doing things the right way, not by steamrolling over others.
The only real misstep in this otherwise enjoyable story is toward the end, when the author has to bring all that external conflict to a head. Which she does by having our villain pay a call on Rosebud, which ultimately leads to her tarring and feathering Dan. Color me crazy, but I thought the guy had pretty well proven himself to be nothing like his Uncle – but what do I know? I’m just the reader. Still, it leads to a pretty great confrontational moment, and Rosebud finally gets to pour out her soul, all the angst she’s kept bottled up inside her for years.
This was really a well-written, enjoyable story, and quite impressive for a debut. Anderson does a great job of working within the word count of the Desire line, and I felt like I got a rich, complete romance. I knew these people by the end of it all, and I’m happy they were able to find their way out of the muck to their happy ending. I also found a Desire book that reminds me of how much I used to adore this line. I want more, and I want it now.
Attorney Rosebud Donnelly has a case to win. And she never lets anyone see her sweat. But her first meeting with Dan Armstrong doesn’t go according to script. No one warned her that the COO of the company she’s fighting would be so…manly.
From his storm-colored eyes to his well-worn boots, Dan is an honest-to-goodness cowboy. But is he honest? Her yearning for the Texas tycoon goes against reason, against family loyalty, against everything she thought she believed in. And yet, in Dan’s strong arms, Rosebud feels she might be ready to risk everything for one more kiss….