Untamed Italian, Blackmailed Innocent by Jacqueline Baird
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This book was a delightful breath of fresh air for the current mode of Harlequin Presents. I loved how resistant Sally was to Zac. She saw him and dismissed him on first glance because he wasn't her first priority!! How nice. She didn't become a drooling, melting pile of female flesh because of his unbelieveable appeal (rolling eyes). Yes, he was attractive, and she was attracted to him, but she kept a good head on her shoulders when it came to him, for the most part.
I like mutuality in a romance. I like seeing the hero and heroine are mutally engaged, and their affections are even on both sides. In real life, the sad thing is that one person seems to love more than the other. I realize this. So, I tend to not go for that scenario in romances.
Unfortunately, I've read way too many where the man holds all the sexual and emotional power in the relationship. It bugs me. Why should the heroine always be the one to concede, to give in, to change for love? Why shouldn't the hero have to work for her? This was a nice change for this reader.
Zac had to work hard to get Sally. He did some less than ethical things, and made some bad assumptions, and he had to eat some crow, more than once. And the great thing was that Sally wasn't out to treat him poorly or out to use and abuse him. She was just trying to deal with the bad situation she had with her ailing mother and loser, lowdown father. Yes, sometimes women do have more important things to deal with than their sex life or love life, or men.
I think Ms. Baird did a great job writing this story. She showed Sally to be a normal woman, with desires and needs. But Sally was a strong woman who had priorities, and those priorities didn't involve chasing men, casual sex, or being someone's sex toy. Zac gave her an ultimatum, and that gave her an excuse to give into him, because she was very attracted to him. But, before that, she did resist him pretty well, because she didn't want the kind of relationship he was offering. Bravo to her. She didn't give her up needs and goals for some less than satisfactory relationship with a guy who didn't love her. Some might not like that she waited so long to say, "I love you." But it completely made sense, based on the baggage she had with her parents, how her father was a serial adulterer who completely took advantage of her mother, his lovelorn wife. She'd be pretty silly to fall easily for a seemingly inconstant male with her background, in my opinion. And I liked how Zac might have been the typical Italian sex god hero, but in some ways he wasn't. He'd been celibate for almost a year, he worked hard to get what he had, he was able to realize when he was wrong, and make up and apologize for it. And he was willing to take Sally on her terms until she was emotionally able to give him more. I quite liked him for those reasons. I enjoyed their separation (I guess it's my sadistic streak), because Sally was trying to go and find out what life was like without carrying the baggage of her parents on her shoulders. I liked that Zac was the one who was pining. (Yes, I guess I am sadistic. It was so refreshing for me).
I honestly hope to see more books like this in the Harlequin Presents line. With rational, educated, independent women who are not ruled by their libido, and who won't settle for less than they deserve for some 'hot' guy who makes me as a reader question if he's worthwhile for her in the end.
This a was nice book, and such a palate cleaner after a prior Harlequin Presents, who got everything wrong with the sexual/emotional dynamic for this reader.
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 stars. A for Effort, Ms. Baird.
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