Giving in to temptation never felt so good!
Ruby Bell has put scandal and relationships behind her to forge a successful career in film. Then the talk of Hollywood himself, actor Devlin Cooper, strolls onto her Outback set—fired from his two previous movies, and looking decidedly tempting! The last thing Ruby needs is Dev making outrageous demands and causing her to question her “no romance at work” rule….
But what's a girl to do when Dev's taking her on a lavish date one moment, then calling “cut” on their growing closeness the next? What exactly does he want with her—and what's causing the shadows behind those famous blue eyes? Now she's too intrigued to walk away….
And here is Cate's review:
This is set in Australia, which is infallible Harlequin catnip for me, so it was strange to find myself initially resisting being drawn into the story. But I was really, really reluctant at first, and my problems were all with the heroine.
Because for the first chapter of this book I thought the heroine was an idiot, and then later she briefly morphed into Overly Attached Girlfriend, and neither of those is conducive to my enjoying a romance.
Let's back up for a minute. The book takes place on a film set in rural Australia (and the sense of place was subtle and perfect). The heroine is, wait for it, an Australian who works in the film industry, and the hero is an internationally famous Hollywood actor originally from Australia. They meet when the heroine walks face-first into him and doesn't recognize him.
Think about that for a minute. Say you faceplant into Hugh Jackman's chest. Even if you didn't know he'd been hired for this film, and therefore weren't expecting to see him on set, how likely is it you'd think it wasn't him because:
“This man had dark circles beneath his eyes, and his darkest blond hair was far too long. He was too tall, surely, as well—she'd met enough leading men to know the average Hollywood star was far shorter than they looked on-screen.”
So her reasoning is that this cannot be famous star Devlin Cooper because:
1. He has dark circles under his eyes;
2. His hair is too long (it's not like that stuff GROWS or anything); and
3. He looks the same height as he does on-screen (tall), and that can't be right, because actors often look shorter in person.
So, true confession, I almost ragequit right there in chapter one at being expected to swallow that. But I am so, so glad I didn't, because it turned out to be a decent story, with just enough flavour of country Australia to make me want to go back there ASAP.
This is more a book of character unveiling than character development. Dev does develop in that he recognizes his [situational] depression and takes steps to start working through it by making peace with his family. And Ruby comes to understand that her current method of coping with her past—by avoiding all relationships because she's grown up enough to know that she doesn't need a man's attention—is not, in fact, the final stage of her development. She can, and does, move on to having a relationship because she chooses to, not because she desperately needs attention and approval.
But it's the gradual revelation of their current situations, and of the pasts that got them here, that really made the book for me. Ruby burned through a bunch of men back when she was young, a foster child, and in need of reassurance that someone desired her for something–and all of that's presented without a trace of slutshaming or undue angst, but with a sensible nod to the reasons for her behaviour and the harm caused by other people's gossip. I almost stood up and cheered at a couple of points, because it was a really nuanced presentation of not-great behaviour without heavy-handed moralizing.
Dev, meanwhile, is experiencing depression—triggered by his father's death, but rooted in a lifelong struggle for his father's acceptance. And just like in real life, it's not immediately clear that depression is the problem. Initially it looks like alcoholism, maybe, or drug abuse, or Excessive Angst over the woman who recently dumped him. Only gradually, as you see his sleepless nights and sleeping pill use and sheer emotional numbness, does it become obvious that he's depressed.
Within the length constraints of a category, and in spite of the insta-lust, this manages to have something of an emotional slow burn while they sort out their histories and try to connect.
This was a solid B+ for me. Almost an A, but the hero was a bit too much of a manipulative jerk at first (it made sense given his emotional state, but coercion doesn't sit well with me even if the heroine is the only thing making you feel emotions right now). Also, the heroine tried to turn their first serious I-have-feelings-for-you discussion into a fight about whether he wanted her to give up her career and lifestyle to move to Hollywood and just….I'm sorry, but before either of you has even said “I love you” is TOO SOON for that. Especially since he hadn't said a freaking word about their future or anyone moving anywhere or anything.
But aside from a slight case of Intermittently Stupid or Possible Psycho Heroine, I really liked this book.