On my top however-many list of â€œreally freaking cool professions for heroines in a romance novel,â€ I have to be honest and say that â€œAccountantâ€ is not even near the top 10. Or even the top 20. Hell, 50 even. Even reading the back cover and finding the words â€œforensic accountantâ€ wouldnâ€™t make me grab the book and run for the checkout. But after reading the first few chapters of Show Her the Money, I had to go to Wikipedia on my lunch hour and look up the details of the Enron accounting scandal and how it happened exactly, and why the accounting involved was as much a factor as the corporate fraud itself. From a woman who has absolutely no math skillz whatsoever, lemme tell you, accounting is freaking cool.
So if a book like $how Her the Money can make accounting cool to a person who canâ€™t even remember a phone number without mentally dialing it with her fingers, I have to give it a hearty recommendation, since not only was author Stephanie Feagan able to create an interesting heroine, but she created an interesting heroine who was able to explain the fix she was in without info dumping all over the place and boring me out of my mind.
The book opens with said heroine, Whitney â€œPinkâ€ Pearl (for the eraser, get it?), testifying before a Senate Finance Committee regarding her former employers, a prominent accounting firm which was being investigated for aiding in the Enron-esque financing shenanigans of Marvel Energy. The firmâ€™s intentions had been to try to pin the entire mess on Pink should the fraud be discovered, even though the responsibility for the monetary monkey business went back several years and up several corporate levels above her head.
The context of testifying gives Pink the opportunity to explain to the committee and the reader what the heck the problem is: she has proof that the executives of her firm and her boss specifically cooperated in the Marvel financial funny business that has bankrupted the company. Her proof is in the form of a single disk with copies of email and documents she swiped from her bossâ€™s computer. But the disk was stashed in a box that was mixed up with another similar box, and sold at a yard sale, along with a blow-up sex doll named Mr. Bob, to a daffy older woman who has since gone on vacation. So Pink has to wait for the woman to get back from vacation, find the box, and bring the evidence to the finance committee to prove she isnâ€™t making all these allegations out of a desire for revenge for having been fired for bringing her findings to her boss in the first place.
The explanation of her testimony sets up the plot marvelously, and gives a great deal of insight into Pinkâ€™s character â€“ sheâ€™s wicked pissed off on the behalf of all the people who are getting screwed out of their entire investment portfolios because Marvel couldnâ€™t manage to practice sound business ethics, and sheâ€™s doubly pissed that sheâ€™s broke, notorious, and unemployable in her field while the executives in question are living the same luxury life they always did. But by virtue of being broadcast on television, her testimony creates a situation wherein everyone with an interest in the case itself knows that all that stands in the way of years in the big house for the guilty parties is a sex doll with a disk nestled next to his plastic ass. Plenty of time to interfere, and threaten Pink â€“ which is exactly what happens.
Pink, as the whistle-blower, was not popular with either her former employers or the employees of Marvel Energy, and even though sheâ€™s on the news and something of a household name, sheâ€™s forced to move back to her hometown of Midland, Texas, to take a job with her motherâ€™s small town accounting firm. Someone is following her, leaving poop on her doorstep, ransacking her hotel rooms, generally scaring the hell out of her, and making the process of rebuilding her life while dealing with her notoriety AND trying to clear her name a pain in the ass, if not a complete impossibility. Doing the right thing can suck a royal wang, is the subtext of this book. It takes a very strong person with a great deal of smarts to actually navigate the consequences of pissing off high powered executives, entire corporations, and investors, all while having to testify live on television in front of members of the US Senate.
This was my first Silhouette Bombshell, and after a bit of exploring online and bothering Candy, I understood the format, which I didnâ€™t quite get at first. The focus is very much on the heroine, and very much on the process of her kicking ass in an untenable situation, and the romance aspect is almost secondary to the ass-kickingness of the heroine. In this book and its sequel, thereâ€™s not just one hero, there are two. Possibly three. Any more, and you need an accountant to keep up with them all.
First, thereâ€™s Senator Steve Santorelli, who is on the finance committee and an easy person to gaze at while testifying. He seems to believe Pink is trying to do the right thing, but, as a widower and one of the most eligible bachelors of Washington, his seeming romantic interest in Pink is personally flattering and professionally dangerous.
Then, thereâ€™s her new direct boss, Sam, who looks like Sammy Hagar from Van Halen, and who teaches her the intricacies of investigating on behalf of their clients. Thereâ€™s definitely chemistry between Sam and Pink, but itâ€™s never addressed by Pink directly in her narration of the story. She thinks heâ€™s good looking and finds him fascinating, but there isnâ€™t any forthright mention of zings of electric hot mamajama shooting up her arm when she touches his hand. Sam is mostly for noticing but not acting upon.
But then thereâ€™s Ed. Ed, heâ€™s got the mamajama zing shooters and she’s got definite intentions of acting upon that zing. Pink spends a lot more time discussing the hots she has for Ed than she does the attraction she may feel towards Steve or Sam. To make matters excellently complicated, Ed is retained by Pinkâ€™s mother as Pinkâ€™s new attorney after Pink fires the attorney who negotiated a useless immunity deal with the finance committee. Ed is a free spirit hottie who owes Pinkâ€™s mother a favor and is equally easy to look at, but at their first meeting lays the core of the situation on the line for her: he will represent her, but due to the sequence of events leading to the missing disk (no one really cared about the sex doll with the disk, and thatâ€™s a shame, if you ask me), she has to both stay away from Marvel Energy employees in Midland, and be careful because obviously someone wants her removed from the situation, preferably permanently.
This is where the book started to lose me a bit. This isnâ€™t one of those mystery situations wherein some people know some things, and other people know other things, and once you figure out who knows more than they should, you know whodunit. In this book, Pink tells everyone everything, and is way trusting of the police, her attorney and the people she works with, almost to the point of seeming contradictory to the ass-kicking smart-alec she is. Pink is no dummy, and I sometimes felt the savvy part of her character was often offset by the number of times she filled in one character or another on the details of what had happened to her that day â€“ and in one day, Pink has a crapload of things that can happen to her.
Also, itâ€™s hard to tell who the primary hero of the situation is, because as far as she gets with Ed, and theyâ€™ve definitely rounded third, she still doesnâ€™t brush Steve Santorelli off whenever he asks her out and demonstrates how interested he is in spending time with her once the committee business has concluded. Is she feeling pity for him because heâ€™s never, according to his own admission, asked anyone out since his wife died? Is she charmed by his banter whenever he calls her? Is she flattered by the attention from such a powerful, hot man, despite wanting to dive into Edâ€™s pants at any given moment? Itâ€™s almost disingenuous, and doesnâ€™t always come across as â€œtorn between two menâ€ as much as â€œI really want dude A but dude B doesnâ€™t suck either, in case dude A is too much for me to handle.â€ Part of her reticence could be from not knowing who she can really trust, or from Edâ€™s slightly bad-boy lifestyle that reminds her of her ex-husband, or from just not knowing who to pick. And since this is a series, there will be some degree of triangulation going on for a good while. But I was never 100% sure if she was as interested in Steve as she was in Ed, or if she stopped herself from cutting Steve loose out of some need for a safety net in case things with Ed didnâ€™t work out, and vice versa.
As for Ed, thereâ€™s a lot to wonder about in his character, too. Not only does she not always listen to his advice (which would make for a boring Bombshell character, I agree) but heâ€™s just this side of suspicious to me.
Not only is he ALWAYS around whenever Pink is in danger, but he is alarmingly close by whenever she needs someone to help her out of a seriously tight situation. At one point, he saves her ass and she asks him, â€œHow did you happen to be there?â€ He spins a tale about seeing her car and following her out of curiosity, but thereâ€™s still that lingering doubt in my mind whether heâ€™s legitimate or if heâ€™s a bad guy. Heâ€™s just over the border into possible villainy at some points, but then his admitted feelings of zingful hot attraction towards Pink go a long ways to redeeming him.
The oddness of Ed keeps him intriguing, and while I found myself annoyed that it wasnâ€™t all spelled out for me, I also had to take a step back and remind myself that this is a series, and that all the questions wonâ€™t be answered in the first book.
Now, if youâ€™re going to write a book with an independent, smart woman who investigates crime and attempts to kick dangerâ€™s ass, and who is torn between two, possibly three, men, you are going to get comparisons to Evanovichâ€™s Plum series. I donâ€™t want to skirt around the topic, but I also donâ€™t want to even begin to suggest that this is a copycat series. Hardly! But if you enjoy the Plum series, like I do, it is a valid question to ask how one compares to the other.
Thereâ€™s a definite difference between the two heroines, though both do a good share of stumbling into situations that quickly go beyond what they expected. Pink is perhaps sharper than Stephanie, who often wanders into situations completely unprepared and makes her best way out of them. Also, I donâ€™t know if Plum can add, because if she could, sheâ€™d have figured out that she couldnâ€™t be making a living on the number of documented cases sheâ€™s brought in.
The similarities between the series extend beyond the heroines, though: both books share a character created by the setting. Texas and specifically small-city Midland, Texas, is as much a character in the book as Trenton, New Jersey is in the Plum series. Further, both women find themselves in situations that most of us would never encounter, and reading about women kicking danger’s ass in various forms is always satisfying.
However, a key difference is that thereâ€™s a large streak of humor through the Plum series, from the supporting characters in Plumâ€™s family to the general bizarre hilarity of the situations Stephanie finds herself in. You donâ€™t blink if the next person brought in has coated himself in olive oil and rolled in oregano for that crispy-fried texture.
The situations Pink encounters in this novel arenâ€™t as superficially funny, because corporate shithole-ness reminiscent of Enron and Tyco did happen and there are people all over Texas who lost their entire retirement plans after the fraud was revealed and the company went under. So thereâ€™s an element of emotional and factual realism to the story, even if on the surface youâ€™re rooting for a heroine named Whitney who was given a nickname based on a rubber pencil eraser. Essentially you are rooting for the unexpectedness of the heroine: a woman who had an incredible job and a lavish salary and position â€“ who chucked it all to do what was right because of an unwavering moral compass.
Watching her put her life back together is more of a focus than the romance, but Feagan has balanced quite a few Big Questions, from the integrity of one of the heroes to the future of the heroineâ€™s relationship with the other, in such a way that these questions can continue through multiple books in the series without losing my interest, because my interest is held. By an accountant. No kidding.