It's not a secret that I really like Sarah Morgan's books, and her latest is no exception to the happy sigh reading experience.
Polly Prince works at the ad agency her father owns, but in reality, she runs the place because he tends to disappear for long periods of time, usually with a new girlfriend who is Polly's age. This time, dear old dad has run off with Damon Doukakis's sister, who used to be Polly's best friend at school, and both of them are unreachable. Damon is so pissed off, he does what any good Harlequin Presents hero does: he buys out the Prince company, and aims to flush Mr. Prince out of his love nest by decimating the company.
Damon didn't count on facing down Polly, and their interactions are some of the best scenes in the book. Polly begins the novel by taking on the board of directors, who have done little to nothing that's profitable, while taking home huge paychecks. Polly's biggest fear is that Damon's takeover will result in massive layoffs (I believe the UK term is “redundancies”) and she figures she has nothing to lose by challenging the board of directors personally and in front of Damon, especially since they regularly take the credit for her work.
Fortunately for Polly, Damon is clued in that the board is useless but Polly might not be, and keeps her on to continue negotiations for a new client. Unfortunately for Polly, who is very aware of Damon, this means that Damon will join her as she meets with that client in Paris. Polly is deeply misunderstood by pretty much everyone except those characters who know her best, but her true character is revealed bit by bit so that the reader learns about her along with Damon. First and foremost, Polly allows herself to be misunderstood, and while that may seem jarring at first, she has reasons that I felt justified her decisions. But while the reader hasn't prejudged her too much, Damon has drastically, and he has to rethink most of his conclusions about her. That part is delicious. My favorite part is something of a hallmark with Morgan's writing: there's always something small that's so realistic, so possible, it adds to my connection with the characters as they, too, become more realistic. In this case, it was the account Polly is working on. To contrast with the incredibly glitzy locations of the story (London high-rises! Paris! The Eiffel Tower!), Polly is working on something that most women know about: hosiery. Tights and stockings. Fun ones! With glitter and sheen and other things I wanted to buy for myself! The high-gloss locations were contrasted with a familiar lower-cost fashion item that was familiar to me (while Paris, because I've never been there, is not). The high-end lifestyle that Damon leads contrasts also with the shoestring budget Polly is used to working with, and the glitz and glamor of Damon's environment are nothing when faced with Polly's innate creativity. Moreover, Polly's specialty seems to be blending innovative marketing plans with older methods and newer technologies, like social media, YouTube, and online communities. Morgan can establish so much of each character with just a handful of words, and the scenes were Polly briefly describes her ideas for the hosiery marketing plan – and the scene where her outfit for the dinner is revealed to both the chairman of the company and Damon, who at that point was still grossly underestimating her – revealed so much about her, about Damon, and about their differences and similarities with only a few pages. I loved that Polly's creativity and uniqueness were among the most valuable parts of her character, both in Damon's estimation of her personally, and in his understanding of her role professionally. I also liked that they confronted the inappropriateness of their relationship, especially because Damon was so pissed off about his sister and Polly's dad. So why not an A? The scope of misunderstanding surrounding Polly leaves room for her to be just a little to perfect, and I wish that Polly and her father, and their somewhat fractious relationship, had more exploration. Her father is one of the major sources of conflict but he shows up at the end—and given the importance of his character while he was offscreen, I wanted to see more denouement where he was concerned onscreen as well. Plus, the conflict between Polly and Damon rests on both their family crises and their business relationship, and only the latter is fully resolved, really. But even with those points, and the rather unfortunate title – Doukakis? Dukakis?! Eep! I promise, Damon does NOT drive a tank! – I loved this book. Sarah Morgan continues to hang out on my autobuy list, and each book of hers that I discover is a treat.