The Brazilian's Blackmail Bargain by Abby Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Abby Green has written a sizzling and emotional story about revenge tied up in a relationship built on unrequited lust turned to love. Caleb Cameron has Maggie all wrong. He thinks that her bid to seduce him was a coldhearted action designed to cheat Caleb in the favor of Maggie's stepfather. The truth is Maggie had to act on a genuine attraction she had to Caleb or her mother would suffer the consequences. In the end, it backfires, and their tryst is unconsummated with ugly words said before they parted. And many months later, Maggie has to protect her widowed mother from the consequences of her unscrupulous deceased husband's actions, and Caleb's revenge. Caleb will take everything, including her mother's house (from her first husband), if Maggie doesn't agree to be his mistress for two months. Maggie still has feelings for Caleb, but it hurts that he believes so poorly of her. However, she has to go through with their business for pleasure arrangement, and keep her heart locked away in the process. When it's over, will either walk away heart whole?
Maggie is a very sympathetic heroine. Her situation with her mother is tough, and she does tend to act as a sacrificial lamb, which may annoy some readers. I can identify with her need to look after her very vulnerable mother. I couldn't blame her for the choices she made, especially in light of the fact that she still loved Caleb, and wanted a real relationship with him. But now that's not a possibility. Maggie is a nice mix of emotional integrity, independent practicality and iron resiliency.
Caleb isn't really a bonafide jerk. He does come off as callous at times, and almost willfully determined to believe the worst of Maggie. He's fairly emotionally brutal towards Maggie initially (although I think it was more of a deliberate act to protect himself). That aspect is standard Harlequin Presents fare, but I think Ms. Green layers this story with deep emotion and poignant writing. You actually see Maggie and Caleb getting to know each other and fall in love, and see that while their relationship seems sexual, it's much more than that. I think his gesture near the end is very satisfying, and it has particular resonance for earlier moments in the story.
This is a satisfying quick contemporary romance read, and one of the Harlequin Presents books that very much captures the feel of the line, but also has deeper, powerful emotion that drives the story to a fulfilling conclusion.
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