by Caitlin Crews
Publisher: Harlequin Dare
Publication Date: March 1, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Buttons are made to be undone
One wicked touch at a time…
Self-made businesswoman Lucinda Graves is determined to add a tropical hotel to her company’s empire. Devastatingly handsome owner Jason Kaoki is willing to negotiate—but only if Lucinda rises to the challenges he sets! Lucinda passes every test, but as each dare grows hotter and wilder than the last, will she be able to keep her eyes on the prize?
I’ve had a hit or miss time with categories, but this blurb sounded so good and I’ve heard great things about the new Dare line, I just had to try it out. And while it wasn’t precisely my cup of tea, I did enjoy it. This is the third in a series, but I read it as a standalone without any issues.
Lucinda has clawed her way to the top of the hotel business through pure tenacity and strength. The latest target in her sights? Jason Kaoki, heir to a small Pacific island, who’s already sent a handful of businessmen packing. When she finally meets him (after 40 hours of travel) she begins to think she may have miscalculated. For his part, Jason’s intrigued by the prim and proper businesswoman – a black suit in the tropics? – and her refusal to back down from his challenges. But as the spark he feels for her turns into something more, are Jason and Lucinda prepared to risk it all?
“I just want to make you a rich man.”
“I’m already a rich man.”
“You can always be richer.”
“White people always want to get richer,” he observed. “It’s just money, Lucinda.”
“Spoken like someone who has too much of it, Jason,” she fired back.
And he saw her, then. The real woman tucked away behind the prim and the proper, and she was bright. Sharp and wild. All teeth and snarl, and Jason wanted to tangle himself up in her and see if she left marks.
Lucinda’s a bit of a prickly character, not exactly unlikeable, but very set in her ways, moulded by her childhood trauma (which, honestly, I felt beat over the head with the number of times it was mentioned). There’s no place in her life for feelings, only success, and she’ll use any tools at her disposal to achieve that. Lucinda has no issue using her body to entice Jason into a deal, her reasoning being that since everyone already assumes she’s already slept her way to the top, she may as well actually do it. I’m not sure I agree with that, but I liked her ruthlessness! What I wasn’t so sure of was how Jason handled that. Jason purposefully cultivates this sort of barbarian predator image, meant to fend off sweaty businessmen and nosey women alike. Underneath, though, he’s reeling from a comparison to his father, a billionaire who thought nothing of knocking women up all over the globe and not bothering with them except to leave them hotel properties in his will. Through sheer tenacity and a talent for football, he’d already clawed his way out of poverty as the child of a single mom in Hawaii.
“She kept making connections between them and Jason didn’t want any part of that. There was only one part of him that liked connecting, and his dick didn’t talk.”
Despite initial appearances – Lucinda in a prim black suit and a shirtless and tattooed Jason – they actually have a lot in common. Both came from poor origins and worked their way up through grit and talent, and both sacrificed some part of themselves along the way. Lucinda hides her working class Scottish accent, which Jason empathizes with, as he had to lose a lot of his surfer language and Hawaiian-isms when he moved to the mainland. So besides the insta-lust, I could definitely see that they had the solid beginnings of a relationship. The problem for me is that the book only covers up to a few days after their one night stand, then skips ahead quite a bit of time to an epilogue. Sure, I love the initial buzz of love (or lust, in this case), but a big part of reading romance for me is also watching the characters learn to navigate a relationship. It felt like the book quite right when I was getting to the good part! And, frankly, I had serious doubts about the HEA based on how quickly both of them changed their long-held defense mechanisms based on a couple of orgasms. The other part that didn’t sit well with me was the whole dare bit. I didn’t mind that he challenged her to go surfing with him, but that, when she says she has nothing appropriate to wear, he pulls out an itsy bitsy teeny weenie (not yellow polka dot) bikini, and when she protests that her redheaded fair-skinned self will burn, offers to rub her all over with sunscreen. Would he have pulled out a speedo and made the same offer if one of the male businessmen had actually had the same amount of chutzpah at Lucinda? On a lesser note, I was disappointed that the environmental impact of the resort on the pristine, nearly untouched island wasn’t addressed, even if it had only been a line or two about eco-tourism or whatever.
Overall, it was fun and certainly sexier than I’d expect from a category, but I think the shorter length was a problem in terms of some of the plot development. I’d definitely recommend it, however, if you’re looking for a surfer billionaire and like categories.