It happens every now and then. You see a book, look away and then walk back and pick it up. The author’s name is familiar but you’ve never read her. You like the title, think the cover blurb sounds promising and decide…why not?
Then you get it home and realize the book is a bit different than you thought. It’s not a standalone title. It’s one in an ongoing series where the hero and heroine and their relationship date back two books. These folks already love each other. The courtship is over. You missed that part, which makes you wonder what’s left to discover about these two. Sure, J.D. Robb manages to keep the interest alive in her “In Death” series with Eve and Roarke. Your book also revolves around a wealthy, sexy hero and a tough-talking heroine and a mystery of some sort. So…maybe Suzanne Enoch can pull it off? And, for the most part, she does.
Billionaires Prefer Blondes is the third tale following the relationship of Samantha Jellicoe, recovering cat burglar, and Richard Addison, current billionaire. This installment begins five months into Sam’s crime-free life. Palm Beach functions as the couple’s usual playground. But this time they travel to New York City so that Rick can cut a deal to buy a hotel. Sam’s presence in NYC fuels her need for danger, as does her very public relationship with live-in Rick. Sam’s stolen from many of the folks she now mingles with at parties. If caught, she faces decades in prison and, for her, that adds to the excitement. For Rick, the possibility of Sam getting caught, or worse, of Sam leaving him, is a constant concern.
In her new life, Sam runs a security firm catering to Rick’s social circle. She’s straight but the itch to stray back into her old life is so strong that she sometimes breaks out of the mansion she shares with Rick just so that she can break back in. Attending an auction with Rick feeds her need for an adrenalin rush…until she sees her father Martin in the room. The same master thief father who taught Sam her trade. The same guy who supposedly died in prison. Without telling Rick, Sam slips her father a note to meet her later that evening. Sam goes to the meeting as planned. When Sam leaves the house for her planned rendezvous with Martin, someone steals Rick’s brand new twelve-million-dollar painting. Sam returns home in time to be arrested for the theft. Rick gets her out, but the temptation to return to her old life increase. Her father tries to lure her back. And he’s not alone.
Separating the mystery from the romance becomes necessary at this point. The possibilities provided by each and the success of each aspect of the story are not equal. The romance between Sam and Rick works. From the beginning their attraction is infectious. There is an underlying dynamic that works to provide a satisfying romance that continues to move forward despite the fact they fell in love in previous books. Their relationship, though an odd pairing in an objective sense, plays out through very real arguments and conversations. They get angry and frustrated with each other, feel disappointment and question their loyalty to each other all in ways that are very identifiable to real-life couples. Enoch does an admirable job of something very difficult – dropping readers in the middle of a connection that continues to grow and mature.
One problem is that the majority of the development here happens in Sam. Rick’s needs and wants, as separate from Sam, are never very clear. Sam fights an internal battle between who she was and who she wants to be with Rick. Having her father return to the world of the living only confuses her priorities more. Rick satisfies her needs, but she functioned on other needs for years before Rick entered her life. Figuring out how to reconcile those two realities plagues Sam. In turn, the pull on Sam forms the basis of Rick’s conflict. He is self-assured except when it comes to Sam. The panic he feels at the idea of losing her motivates him. There is a side concern about his reputation should he be associated with a criminal, but the heart of his conflict remains his love for Sam and the fear he has in losing that. As a result Rick stays distant to the reader. He remains charismatic and a bit mysterious, but not as rich in terms of character as Sam. The hope is that the next book in the series will allow him to break out a bit so that he does not become one-dimensional.
Then there’s the mystery portion of the book. This part proves more problematic. In part, the issue is with the resolution of Sam’s dilemma. The ending and sole choice for Sam appears obvious. Since it lingers for hundreds of pages, apparently it is obvious to everyone except Sam and Rick who, except in this instance, act like intelligent thinking human beings. Sam’s options are limited. While her conflict between a loyalty to those in her old life versus trusting law enforcement is a realistic one for her, the conflict plays out for far too many pages with scenes that lack coherence and move the plot sideways instead of forward. The bok reaches a climax in a “she suddenly knew the answer” way that feels out of step with who Sam is and how she process information. The mystery portion provides the foundation for Sam’s inner confusion, but the conflict itself rings hollow when compared to such a complex and dynamic heroine.
Billionaires Prefer Blondes succeeds as a romance between established characters. Enoch manages to sustain the heat and turmoil of a developing relationship without letting that relationship feel stale or resolved. Witty dialogue, a heroine with a compelling backstory, a romance with sizzle and smart internalizations on the part of Sam make this a very readable story. This is not one you read for the mystery since the mystery portion actually slows the pacing to some degree. However, it is one worth a read for those who want a romance that starts after the initial attraction and before the obvious happy ending.
You can visit Suzanne Enoch here and buy this book here or here.