Rafe's Redemption by Annie West
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Revenge is a dish best served cold, but what's a man to do when he feels irresistible passion for the instrument of his revenge?
Rafe sees Antonia and he wants her instantly. He believes that's mainly because his deadbeat dad is sniffing around her, and he wants to take away his lowlife father's would-be sex toy. However, Rafe has some intense feelings for Antonia that complicate things. Is he cold-blooded enough to go through with his plan to make her his mistress for six months and use her to bring down not-so-dear old dad?
Antonia is reeling from her father's death when drop-dead gorgeous Australian Rafe Benton approaches her with a business offer. He will pay off all her debts if she'll be his mistress for six months. Antonia's appalled. She doesn't even know this man, and she'd never sell herself for money. However, money turns up missing from her father's foundation for cancer research in honor of his beloved deceased wife. Fingers will point towards her father. She can't bear the thought of her father's reputation being tarnished. She agrees to Rafe's proposition, asking for an immediate cash bonus, money that she'll put back into the foundation's accounts. Rafe just takes that as a sign that she's just the gold digger he pegged her for. But there's no reason why he can't enjoy their time together. He doesn't realize that she's going to steal his most closely guarded treasure, his heart.
I'm not a big fan of the mistress storyline in general. I admit that the drama-hound in me does like the themes of blackmail sex, revenge and enemies becoming lovers that come with this theme in some books. (I can be honest in my reviews!) And I love Annie West's writing. It was intriguing to see what she could do with it. She does a good job. She gives Rafe some heart and depth that make him more than the sexy bully he appears to be. I can see his vulnerability and understand why vengeance dug its claws deep in him and wouldn't let go. I like that he had to fight to keep Antonia out of his heart from the beginning, and she continually amazed and charmed him with her complexity and generous heart. He saw that she was a good woman, with a lot more integrity that he thought possible when he first saw her. He didn't understand the relationship (or lack thereof) she had with his father, his perceptions flawed as he viewed the situation through the rage at a father who abandoned him and his mother instead of meeting his responsibilities, and the subsequent slow decline in his mother's life until she died prematurely. On top of that were the feelings he had for Antonia, something he'd never experienced in the past with his lovers.
Annie West writes a passionate, involving romance that made for a quick, satisfying read. I liked seeing the evolution of Antonia and Rafe's relationship, and I admired Antonia. She's a principled, strong, loving woman. I had no troubling believing that Rafe would fall hard and fast for her. And I could see why Rafe appealed to Antonia and why she fell in love with him, despite fighting so hard against it, in light of the circumstances of their relationship.
This isn't my favorite book by Annie West, but I really enjoyed it. I'm glad I didn't kick it to the side because of my typical distaste for this theme, because she did it very well. She had all the emotional complexity that takes the typical Harlequin Presents storylines to the next level. I'd recommend it to Harlequin Presents readers.
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