As Harlequin very generously offered a book voucher as part of the Sony e-Reader test drive, I decided to use it to break out of my preferred romance genre (long historicals) and try some short contemporaries. I hadn’t read a contemporary in years, so I figured the best way to re-introduce myself to the genre was to try some random compendiums and the Blaze series seemed to be about the furthest away from my usual preferences as possible. For the most part, they were enjoyable, but fairly forgettable (kind of like the McDonalds of romantic fiction really). However, there was one book in the bunch that made quite an impact on me – unfortunately it was on the epic fail level (I really wanted to find one that I could give a fantastic review to – but my selection choice was pretty poor really. I’ve since downloaded some single books – non-Blaze – and they are faring much better).
Naked Attraction features Ellie Lee, a brilliant mathematician/data analyst who supposedly has the chops to take over from her father as CEO of the successful family firm. At the start of the novel she has it all: a brilliant corporate career and the Smoking-Hot Man of Her Dreams. Robby Robriquet is the aforementioned SHMOHD – a title he apparently earned solely on the basis of her adolescent crush, a hot bod and workaholic tendencies. Because Ellie is a workaholic too, and Robby also works at the family firm, this is a big plus in Ellie’s eyes.
The first problem: Ellie needs to get Robby to commit. We know this because we’re told so (mid-morning sex scene): “She loved him. That’s all she could think as she looked into his eyes, her heart racing. But she had to get him to commit. She’d wanted him her whole life, and this past six months had been pure torture. Always, he’d been the only man for her. Sure, she’d fooled around at college, but no one could hold a candle to Robby. She wanted more…” Now, aside from the illogical inconsistency of him being the only man for her (well, him and all the college boys), how does Ellie intend to get him to commit? By pausing in the middle of the already interrupted hot sexxoring to ask “When are we going to tell my Dad”? Now I don’t know about you… but I’m generally not thinking about when to tell my DAD about a relationship when I’m enjoying supposedly mind-blowing sex. Either the sex wasn’t all that mind-blowing, or Ellie has Daddy issues. Oh… wait… she calls her father “Daddy Eddie”. I think I have my answer.
Problem two: In addition to having always wanted Robby, Ellie has always wanted to be President of the family company – since she was five years old. Her father had practically promised her the job. Ellie has one qualm about becoming President… Robby would be reporting to her. Ellie is a “modern woman” (who believes only men should propose) and despite Robby being very “macho” and possibly better suited to the role, he’s not a Lee – and therefore not President material. We find all this out (still in the middle of the same round of mind-blowing sex) again because we’re told so. How do we know that Ellie is a modern woman? Because we’re told she is. How do we know Robby is macho? Because we’re told he is. This author is the master of telling not showing – and the master of contradicting everything we’re told when she does decide to “show” anything.
Big conflict: Daddy Eddie and hot-bod Robby betray poor Ellie. Instead of proposing (still in the middle… well… now the abrupt end of the morning rumpy pumpy) Robby asks Ellie how she’d feel if he ran the company – and tells Ellie that Daddy Eddie had offered him the job the previous week.
Immediately revolted by Robby, Ellie hops out of bed, throws out “how could you’s”, storms off to call Daddy (because she’s now convinced the SHMOHD is a dirty rotten liar), only to hear her father say that “It’s true Ellie”. Just that quickly, her loving supportive father becomes a Neanderthal, the macho SHMOHD goes from “sweet and non-threatening” to “cold and calculating, vicious and predatory” and Ellie wonders “what had she ever seen in him”? By the way – we’re not even out of Chapter One yet. Before it ends Ellie has decided to ditch the filthy betrayers, storm off to New York City, start a rival polling company (and eventually stage a hostile take-over of the privately held family firm), and “have sex with a lot of men. Every guy I can”. Sounds like President material to me.
It probably doesn’t help that I’m in business – but this book was already ticking me off – I’m really not a fan of adolescent behavior in adults or one-dimensional characters. I’m even less of a fan of using a business career as a throw-away background (especially when it’s ludicrously improbable). This could be why I read historicals – very little personal experience to interfere with my enjoyment of a story. I can count on two fingers the number of books I’ve not finished in my life… and by the end of the first chapter I would have thrown the book against the wall, except it was an e-Reader, it’s only on loan, and I wanted to see if it could possibly get any worse… so I resisted and pushed on.
Chapter Two did me in though. It starts eleven months after Chapter One ends, by which time Ellie’s new business is a raging success (gee… aren’t all start-ups a raging success in under a year… how hard can it be right)? Ellie has taken business away from her father’s firm, and is now speculating to a reporter about acquiring her Dad’s company. She is about to launch a publicity gambit that will put her firm over the top and resolve her lingering love/hate pining over Robby (who is now the Only Man She Ever Loved).
The gambit? Brilliant mathematician/data analyst Ellie has decided that she can find the perfect man for her solely by crunching the numbers. Ellie is so sure that this will be a raging success that she will offer it as a service to customers – she will find the perfect man, date him, marry him etc all under the gaze of a reporter, so that her success will guarantee good publicity for her company. Of course, since Robby is really the SHMOHD this is bound to fail. The data-analyzed guy (natch) turns out to be a wimp. He’s not handsome, he’s a dweeb, he has confidence issues, he’s not even interesting enough to be bad… he’s just bland. While dismayed at the reality of her paper-MOHD, Ellie is determined to bring him up to scratch. Which, of course, is when Robby appears in New York – all the better to be the foil for the never-ending “I hate him, but he is soooooo hot, how will I ever get over him, I will make paper-MOHD measure up and rub Robby and Daddy’s nose in it” angst fest that is Chapter Two. I can suspend disbelief for a short time… but I just couldn’t take it any more – I quit.