Premise: Claudia was the girlfriend of a famous race car driver (Chris Nash) who died on the track while she was pregnant with his baby. A few months later, Claudia is seven months along into a difficult pregnancy when Morgan Stone arrives at her door, assuming she’s sleeping with his son Mark and is having Mark’s baby. Morgan makes several withering assumptions about Claudia and won’t let her get in a word edgewise to clear up the mistakes. During his visit, Claudia falls and when she’s taken to the hospital she discovers she’s lost the baby. It’s not Morgan’s fault, but in her grief Claudia allows him to believe he was responsible.
Fast forward two years – Claudia hasn’t seen either Mark and Morgan since she lost her baby, when she runs into them both at the hotel she’s working as a PR rep for. The father and son have a better relationship, but there’s a bit of a weird competitive edge to Morgan about Mark where Claudia is concerned. Morgan decides to offer the hotel (and Claudia) a chance to work with him on race-oriented functions surrounding a five-hundred kilometre sports car race in Wellington and sparks fly.
My Thoughts: When they first met, Claudia seemed to have a backbone, mocking and getting angry at Morgan for what he says, but the second meeting – while she tries at first, it seemed like he’d always win the conversation, never really listening to her or twisting things around his way. It was really annoying to read! It did not make me like either of them very much – him for being a jerk, her for being a doormat (she’s also described as fragile and actually swoons at one point). Morgan was definitely the more annoying of the two characters however. Here are some examples:
- Morgan jumps to some conclusions and makes an ass of himself on a regular basis but actually has the gall to point out to Claudia that: “people generally do seem to prefer making unflattering assumptions from the bare facts.” When she assumed something I felt much more minor than what he believed of her.
- Mark calls Claudia while Morgan was in her office about an apartment for rent she may be interested in. Morgan puts it on speakerphone (Claudia somehow doesn’t realize this until Morgan tells her to say no), then takes the phone and tells his son she’s going to be busy and then makes innuendos about the two of them. The weird competitiveness Morgan has for his own son over Claudia was creeping me out. I have no problem with Morgan being almost 40 and Claudia in and Mark in their twenties, but it got weird.
- Morgan actually figures out some of the misunderstandings from their first meeting but never tells Claudia he knows. No, he just uses it and her guilt to further his agenda. When she she tells him the truth and is shocked he didn’t tell her, he says “it was your story to tell Duchess, not mine”. EH? WTF excuse is that?
- At one point he gets very angry, calls her a bitch a couple of times, and “he used a word which made her flush violently, then pale again as he continued with coruscating contempt.” – Isn’t this verbal abuse? So not romantic.
- This also creeped me out (Morgan vs. his own son again): Morgan decides to get very jealous, cups Claudia’s breast in front of Mark, kisses her, and tells her to tell Mark that Morgan is the most important man in her life. Then he calls Claudia Mark’s stepmother and then acts like this is a proposal! A nugget from this particularly wallbanger-worthy seciton of text:
‘Or I could just throw you on that bed and strip you,’ he threatened silkily. ‘You never say no to anything I want there. Hell- a few minutes of foreplay and you’re usually the one begging…’
RIGHT? Isn’t this inappropriate? He’s saying this crap in front of his son? Aieiee!!
Also there really is a scene here with a bodice, but no ripping of said bodice. OK I’m done.
Overall: I liked the other Susan Napier book I read, The Price of Passion (reviewed here) MUCH better than this one. Here I found both the hero and the heroine hard to identify with, and the hero was particularly offputting. I believe this is because this book was written a long time ago (1993), and the author’s writing has improved quite a bit since then. I’m still going to look out for this author and try another one if I find it.