The last time Sarah Morgan contributed to a continuity series, I was a tad disappointed, but I enjoyed this one very much. It’s a problem when a writer with a voice as distinctive as Morgan is asked to use characters and situations she didn’t create herself or only had a part of creating, but the characters suit her well—the bad-boy hero and the woman who has much more about her than she originally seems.
Taylor Carmichael is an ex-child star making a comeback in a film produced by the Corretti family, Sicilians who have connections on both sides of the track but are trying to keep clear of the illegal ones. After some bad decisions in her past, she is working to gain herself a reputation other than the one for creating trouble and tantrums. Part of that was due to the pressure she was put under at a young age by her mother, but others, she freely admits, were down to her.
She attends a wedding, and she wears a dress she has to be sewn into. She suspects that people only want to see her because “she’s a train wreck,” to quote one of the characters. A bit like Li Lo, only Taylor has brought herself back from the brink.
Luca Corretti is bored, and he’s a real wild one. Drives too fast, drinks too much, but that’s because he thinks nobody cares about him, least of all himself. He also wants to establish respectability, because his business is suffering. So he’s at the wedding trying to behave himself. I like Luca, even when we learn that he’s come to the wedding from a one-night stand and now the woman he was with is boring him. Because there is something likeable about Luca’s unabashed playboy lifestyle. He’s not the bad boy who isn’t, he does it for real. He also runs a company very well. Now they’re asking him to settle down, to turn respectable, and he’s not having any of it. If he makes money for the company, which he does, why does his lifestyle matter? Since it’s a fashion company and an interior design company, part of the family empire, he has a point.
They’re attracted and they act on it. Luca takes an interest in her project to act in the film being produced by Santo, another family member, and the subject of another book in the series. Unfortunately, a new director is appointed, and it’s one of Taylor’s old flames, an older man who wants her back or, rather, he doesn’t want her to belong to anybody else.
What a delicious tangle! But what makes this special is the way the characters are made to appear real, despite their backstories and there is no cheating. By which I mean the bad girl who is really a sweet virgin or a bad boy who has a secret life as a philanthropist. No, they are what they are, and they learn from their experiences and move on. They wouldn’t be the people they are without their backstories, it’s not put in for effect or a superficial reason or a plot twist.
Sarah Morgan can do this because her readers trust her to bring the characters around and to make you like them. She puts something in early that hooks you, in this case for me it’s Taylor’s realistic attitude and her courage in starting again and Luca’s honesty about himself. Except, of course, he does desperately want to succeed in business and to have people appreciate him for what he is, not what he wants them to be. These needs bring the characters together, so that by the end of the story I feel I’d gone through a complete journey and I totally bought into their happy ending.
Lovely setup. On the surface it’s like many a Harlequin, but it has that twist that Sarah Morgan puts on the tropes and the typical setups.
Snapped and seduced: there’s nothing more dangerous than a restless Corretti…
Taylor Carmichael holds one thing precious: the reputation she’s spent years rebuilding. Then one encounter with Corretti lothario Luca, a bottle of chilled champagne and a skintight dress and the paparazzi have their shot.
Cool, calm and irritatingly aloof, Luca couldn’t care less. Splash his face over the papers—he has bigger fish to fry. But Taylor is fuming. Luca had the chance to halt the press and refused. Well, this time she’ll make the headlines work for her:
Stop the press—bad boy Luca Corretti to wed screen siren Taylor Carmichael!
Read an excerpt.