The most important thing in Amanda’s life is negotiating a successful merger between her company and Brant Computers, a family-held competitor. It should be a done deal: Company president Eric Brant is on board with the idea. But when Amanda arrives in Eric’s office, it is his cousin Simon Brant who greets her—and Simon is anything but agreeable. He’s not about to give up control of the family company or lay off loyal workers. Squaring off against the sexy, brilliant, sexy, obstinate, sexy, eccentric, not to mention sexy Simon is completely frustrating—and a total turn-on. And when he walks out on her presentation, sidetracked by another one of his brilliant ideas, Amanda is shocked…and intrigued…no, furious!…and…and…and so attracted she can barely enter data into her Palm Pilot…
Simon has never met a woman as passionate and driven as Amanda, or as devastatingly attractive. He can’t decide if he wants to put her on the next plane home—in the cargo hold—or kidnap her and spend a long weekend showing her exactly the kind of negotiating he likes best. Come to think of it, if the lady wants war, maybe they should engage in full-on battle…in the bedroom…and see who will be the victor. But when intimacy leads to an explosive passion, it might be time to think of a different, more permanent kind of merger…one that’s less about business and all about pleasure…
Wendy: Lucy Monroe’s The Real Deal reads like an homage to romances from decades gone by. Monroe employs dreaded genre constructs and clichés, but somehow infuses them with enough charm to make them work. Amanda Zachary is a woman emotionally ruined by her cheating ex-husband, unloved by her family and unaware of her self-worth. She’s bright and articulate, yet not smart enough to realize how devastatingly attractive she is. At twenty-six she has the firmly cemented career of someone ten years her senior, a condo on the water in Southern California (though it’s never explained when Amanda won the lottery to afford that real estate), and she’s never had an orgasm—even on her own because, well, she’s old fashioned. Simon Brant is a reclusive, security obsessed genius. He graduated with a double college degree while still in his teens, he’s part owner of a successful computer company, he practices Tae Kwon Do in his private gym, he’s rich, he’s gorgeous, he’s a socially inept warrior of a hero, and he’s so well endowed he’s afraid to take his pants off in front of women for fear of frightening them. Wait, he also has a ponytail.
Amanda leaves Southern California—a piece of geography no more clearly defined than this term meant to encompasses half the state, but greatly vilified at every possible turn—for the beautiful and pristinely perfect Seattle to negotiate a merger between her company, Extant Corporation, and Brant Computers. As would happen, Simon is against the union. Despite his lack of people skills, he worries for the welfare of the little man and opposes the joining on grounds that some of his employees might be laid off. Determined to change his mind, Amanda moves in with Simon, seeing the shared living quarters as the only opportunity she would have to present her business proposal.
The set-up and the plot are nothing short of eye-rolling, but the urge to do just that never occurs. Amanda and Simon’s story is perfectly paced to keep the pages turning and delightful enough to forgive the plot. The characters and the story are likable because they never bother to be anything they aren’t; The Real Deal is a cheesy romance and makes no apologies for it. The difference between it and so many category romances is The Real Deal is well constructed, smooth and readable.
The book’s one true fault—that its lightness and charisma can’t overcome—is the jacket copy declaring this work to be like “a classic Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn/Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie.” The Real Deal no more fits that bill than should it be declared the next To Kill A Mockingbird.
The Real Deal doesn’t trouble itself to be mentally engaging but it does skip sweetly along, allowing the reader along for the ride.
HelenKay: If you’re looking for a contemporary romance that centers around the gritty and sometimes difficult world of a woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated business environment – read something else. Know before you start that there are many things The Real Deal is not. It’s not a realistic look into the business world. It’s not cutting edge. It’s not mentally challenging.
In many ways The Real Deal reads more like a tribute to the office romances that were popular in the 90s. Specifically, this work by Monroe is familiar, almost eerily so, in tone, structure and plot to earlier works by Jayne Anne Krentz and some by Fern Michaels. That is not to say The Real Deal is a rip-off or carbon copy of those early works. Rather, it stands on its own while bringing back fond memories of romance works from the past that didn’t try to be anything other than simple and charming. The voice differs but the end result is the same: a fast and easy read with likable characters and a predictable storyline. The book version of cotton candy – good while it lasts but not something you want everyday.
The Real Deal tells the story of a wealthy eccentric genius, Simon, and the feisty woman who blows into town and rescues him from a life of desolation and intellectual repetitiveness. Amanda walks out of a degrading marriage and focuses her life on her work. All work and no play make Amanda a safe girl. With her insecurities still hovering at the surface, she meets Simon and his cousin in an attempt to convince them of the positive aspects of a business merger. Cousin Eric is in. Simon is out….or is he? Simon insists on a one-on-one business meeting at his isolated home on an island accessible by ferry. A convenient device to strand Amanda with Simon, yes, but it works here. This also is where the professionalism angle falls apart for Amanda and the reader. A visit turns into an overnight stay, which turns into something other than separate bedrooms.
The Real Deal is a romance you pick up and don’t put back down until you’re done, not because it’s brilliant but because there’s no reason to stop when you know the payoff is only an hour or two away. Monroe’s style is engaging. She creates in Simon the lovable recluse you can’t help but cheer on. Part alpha, part geek with every stereotypical positive hero attribute you can imagine. Yes, that one too.
Amanda is dense but lovable, flawed and endearing. Even though she doesn’t come off as smart as you might want her to be, you do want her to have a happy ending and know, almost from page one, exactly what will happen to her from chapter to chapter. This includes a visit from the nasty ex.
The secondary characters move in and out of the story without unduly drawing attention away from the main action. They don’t intrude. They add bits and pieces to the plot – there really aren’t subplots here – without interfering with the book’s pacing which clips along without much stuttering.
HelenKay’s response to Wendy: Amanda is not the typical romance heroine we see outside of sweet romances today. Her sexual experience is limited and her business judgment suspect. Did her character work for you and grow in a way that you found believable or did she suffer from the Too Stupid To Live syndrome romance readers and authors grumble about all the time?
Wendy’s response to HelenKay: I didn’t feel Amanda was TSTL—it’s not as though she went into the basement clutching a flashlight with creepy music playing in the background. However, she isn’t what I expect from a modern heroine. I liked her well enough even if there were times I wanted to shake her and tell her to be more confident. Ultimately this work is about as complex as chewing gum and Amanda fits in nicely.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: The Real Deal is what it is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. As long as your expectations are as realistic as this book is unrealistic, you’ll enjoy. I recommend it.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: I enjoyed it immensely even if I had to check the copyright date three times. Recommended.