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LynneC’s review of The Price of Success by Maya Blake
Contemporary Romance published by Mills and Boon Modern 7 Dec 12

This is the story of a tough girl gone to mush and a hero who doesn’t seem to have much of a personality of his own. I suspect this is because the book is heavily plot-driven and at times the characters do things that make you go, “Huh”?

These characters bring so much baggage I wonder how they stand upright. There are aborted babies, miscarriages, injuries, and, of course, the evil ex-wife. The background of motor sport is generally well done and there’s more detail than usual for a category, which I enjoyed, but the research seems to peter out in some areas, and there are inconsistencies.

The heroine, Sasha, is a team driver for what is obviously a Formula One team, but it’s called something else here. Not that it matters. I’d have preferred the term to be used, but the owners might not have given permission. Mildly confusing, because I wasn’t sure at first we’re discussing two wheels or four. Comes from having a relative who is nuts about Moto GP, I guess.

The hero owns and designs for the team Sasha works for, and when his brother is badly injured in a crash, she wins the place. What I do find jarring is that there’s no mention of how unusual it is for severe injuries to happen in the sport. I know from the aforementioned relative that motorbike riders in the big races have these incredible suits that mean they can come off their bikes at top speed and bounce a bit and come away with no more than a few bruises. They use similar suits in F1 these days, and it is rare for an accident to cause bad injuries, although the people in the story accept it as part of the sport. It isn’t, not anymore. It happens, but newscasters invariably discuss the rarity of the event. I think the last one was Maria de Villotta, which could have helped to inspire this story, but it was during practice, not the race itself, when conditions are less severely regulated.

Anyway, it could happen, so I let it ride.

When Sasha meets Marco in the story, she’s emotionally wrecked by the accident to Raphael, and yet she still finds time for the “phwoar” moments obligatory between the hero and heroine in a Presents. It doesn’t ring true, and when she describes his penis as a “man package,” I actually laughed out loud. There are quite a few of these inconsistent moments, especially the sexual attraction (I can see the memo from the editor “more sexual tension, please”), which doesn’t read naturally, more as if they are shoehorned in because the line requires it.

I have absolutely no idea why Marco and Sasha should be so deeply attracted to each other. They aren’t each other’s type, and Marco behaves so badly to Sasha that I wouldn’t have shared a car with him, much less a bed. Even though her career depends on it. Of course, that’s because of the Mysterious Past, and here’s my other beef.

It’s a Big Misunderstanding. I had hopes that this trope had died, but it’s still there. It takes a skilled writer to make the Big Mis work without it being an irritable “Why don’t they just talk” incident, and I’m afraid that for me, this falls into the latter category. She could have told him, he could have told her, job done. Because Marco turns out to be a pushover who’ll do anything for Sasha and just melts. He’s a harsh man who is dying inside. She’s unnecessarily prickly and puts off telling him things he should have known. Fortunately, the second big mis later in the story is soon sorted out.

There is so much plot, they don’t kiss for the first time until well past the 50% mark and they don’t go to bed until much later, when they go at it like bunnies to make up for lost time. The pacing of the story could have been better.

Sasha isn’t a consistent character, unless every woman with a driving need to succeed as a Formula One driver secretly harbors a longing to be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wants to make the world better for little children. At first depicted as ruthless, partly because of the big mis, she just wants to do this for her father, who…but that’s more backstory inserted to give her a motive for the volte-face in the last part of the book. Suddenly she doesn’t care about the racing, and neither does he. It’s all when she walks into the Four Seasons hotel, our heroine is astonished by the luxury, as if she’d never been in that kind of establishment before, but later in the story, it’s explained that as a member of a team, they were used to luxury hotels. All right, because their backstory explains it all.

I’m assuming a lot here, and I could be very wrong, but the story reads as if it was something else, and then the editors or marketing people at Harlequin asked for more and more alterations to be made and motives inserted. Who’s to say they weren’t right? But it does make the read inconsistent and not something I found it easy to get into.

The style is similarly awkward. There are weak phrases like “somebody entered the room,” and the problem with speech tags that makes me grit my teeth. Why say something when you can “breathe,” “squeak,” “fling back,” or “rasp”? All those speech tags are taken from one page, and I’m so busy wondering what weird and wonderful tag would come next that I didn’t concentrate on what the participants were actually saying. And more than one prhase that made me go, “Huh?” Take “the butterflies ripping her stomach to shreds.” I paused to imagine the kind of vampire killer butterflies that would do that. Oh yes, and the hero, an amazingly, bazingingly rich million-trillion-billionaire has a BlackBerry. Really? I just junked mine with a huge sigh of relief, in favor of a new Android, and I’m not a billionaire. Not even a millionaire.

I presume the next story will be about the mostly absent but often discussed Marco. I don’t know if I can bear the angst.

LynneCs iconGrade: D

Summary: Owner of the Espiritu racing team, tycoon Marco de Cervantes thinks he knows exactly what’s going on inside Sasha Fleming’s pretty little head…She’s clearly not above using her wide-eyed beauty and tempting curves to become Espiritu’s first female racing driver. The infuriating thing is – she’s the best driver around! Marco’s willing to reap any rewards…on and off the track…but he couldn’t be more wrong about Sasha. Unlike the socialites that flock round him she has no interest in being a billionaire’s trophy wife – and she wills her body to prove this to him. But success always comes at a price!

Read an excerpt.