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LynneC’s review of All or Nothing by Catherine Mann
Contemporary Romance published by Harlequin Desire 2 Jan 13

I enjoyed the last book in the series, so I picked this one up with interest. This is about boys who went to a military school and were recruited by the headmaster to work for Interpol. Why Interpol I’m not sure, but it makes an interesting change from the FBI or the CIA. Either Interpol is a deadly organization who arranges the world or it’s a hidebound, bureaucracy-bound setup with no effective powers in any jurisdiction. It’s impossible to tell, isn’t it? The name is a bit cheesy. Okay, a lot cheesy. ‘The Alpha Brotherhood.’ Who’d admit to being a member of that?

Anyway, I enjoyed the story itself and once I was in, I stayed there until I finished. It’s a reunion story. Conrad is a casino owner who works for Interpol on the side. He finds his work cathartic after making a serious mistake in his youth, but his dedication to it and his secretiveness did drive away his wife Jayne, a woman he still loves. Three years after she leaves him, Jayne returns to his casino to return the ring he won’t accept and to get him to sign the divorce papers. Although she won’t admit it, she also wants to see him again. She tries to lose the ring by betting it at roulette, but Conrad appears and stops it. That’s about the only significance the casino had in the story. I’d have liked a bit more high rolling, but it didn’t happen. The story clips on at a fair pace, so we soon leave the casino behind.

Conrad soon discovers that his wife may be in danger, so he has to look after her. He takes her to his private retreat in Africa, the kind of Africa where you see hippos, leopards, and giraffes in one brief trip into the bush. According to David Attenborough and Simon King, you can go for miles and wait for days until animals show up. And hippos go around in groups. Never mind, it was all cute, and maybe watching Attenborough’s new epic, “Africa” (yes, a plug – do not miss) I’m a bit blasé about life in the bush. So to speak.

Anyway, they do the nasty and carry on doing it, mostly off page, while they learn more about each other. Jayne, who is a hospice nurse (not sure why they kept capitalizing Hospice, and all credit to Dame Cicely Saunders who started the movement), is taking time off work, but, not surprisingly, she doesn’t go back. However, she finds something else to do which is just as rewarding, and for this, big ups to Ms. Mann, who doesn’t end the story with the heroine giving everything up for the hero and doing nothing but having his babies. There is talk of families, but no baby epilogue.

Jayne is a more grown-up heroine than I’ve read recently. She does a few things that raise the brows and also makes some shaky decisions, but she does abide by her decisions and takes responsibility for them, which I like. Conrad is interesting, but apart from his central conflict, he doesn’t completely gel for me. He loves Africa and makes money on stocks and in casinos? Which one, then? His personality seems too split for me. Still, I went with it, as he is a delicious hero, completely in love with the heroine and determined to get her back. Until she shows him she has other ambitions and a life of her own. And one thing about their split I love—he doesn’t behave like a man-whore and expect her to be the pure princess. And he’s gorgeous. I wouldn’t have objected if I’d ended up with a guy like Conrad, but he’s so secretive I’m not surprised Jayne left him.

Mann’s prose is easy and stylish, without being self-conscious, so for the most part the story rolls along nicely. She’s assured and handles the pace and characters well. Although they know each other’s bodies well, the sex scenes are hot, as they reacquaint themselves with each other and enjoy the hell out of doing it.

Only one thing irritates me. Conrad drinks Chivas Regal Royal Salute, which seems to cost him ten thousand dollars a bottle. Not in my world it doesn’t. He should come over here to the UK, where you can get a bottle for £80 from most good suppliers (as they say in the ads). The special bottles, i.e., the older ones, don’t cost that much more. And when you’re talking Scotch, it’s whisky, never whiskey. That “e” makes all the difference. Honestly, it does. I got some even more exclusive whisky for Christmas, and I can see the face of the Scot who made it growing cold as I write “whiskey.” Honestly, you get drummed out of the Scotch brotherhood for far, far less (like asking for tap water with your drink or putting ordinary ice in it!) And while it’s a prestige whisky, it’s a blend (shudder), so it’s not what you’d call exclusive. There is a gimmicky version that costs $30,000, but you wouldn’t drink it. You’d collect it. It’s a commemorative one.

Anyway, the book is fun, I like both the characters and it provids a decent read. I want to read her Michael Buble book next, especially as the hero, Malcolm, has a heroine who has the surname Patel. Although a first name of Celia? Looks interesting.

LynneCs iconGrade: B



“I can’t sleep with a man who keeps secrets.”

Despite the warnings that he would break her heart, Jayne Hughes fell for the bad boy. And Conrad Hughes, casino magnate, did just that with his absences and lies. Now she’s ready to move on, but her husband has other plans….

Conrad’s work for Interpol destroyed his marriage. When Jayne comes to Monte Carlo seeking a divorce, he launches an all-out assault. Seducing his wife back into his bed is child’s play; earning her trust is another matter. Yet Conrad knows the odds favor the house. And he has no intentions of losing….

Read an excerpt.