I am home sick with laryngitis and a chest infection AND a sick, feverish son. For the first few days I attended my own pity party and what is better than a comfort read at a pity party? A Charlotte Lamb angsty romance!
Suki Black is a successful singer who exudes sensuality on the stage. However off the stage she is sheltered by her manager and his wife, Buddy and Rosie who are more like parents than managers. As the story develops, you discover that Suki was abandoned as a baby and was brought up in a refuge/home/school. Having moved out at 16, she was discovered singing in a bar by Buddy and Rosie at 17 and had been living with them for the past 5 years – working her hard but treating her well and lovingly.
Enter the hero after a kickass performance that opens the book. Joel Harlow is a smouldering, dictating asshat of a hero who keeps turning up like a bad penny harassing Suki. At no time did I feel any warmth toward industrial magnate, Joel (whose description reminded me of Jamie Arrogance Packer). Joel becomes obsessed with Suki while he watched her perform on stage at the beginning of the book and decides that he must have her. Suki keeps saying no to him. I guess Joel is not to blame as he is a hero in a late 20th century romance, but his commandeering and browbeating of Suki was distasteful. Joel kidnaps her, forces her to kiss him, buys the company that holds her contract, buys the villa home she is holidaying in, he does not listen to no means no, in short, he is a stalker. Joel and Suki do not consummate their attraction in this book though there are plenty of punishing kisses.
While Suki is living with Buddy and Rosie she feels protected and they too go out of their way to shield her from Joel who keeps insisting that she needs to be independent from the couple. Up until the last few pages, I found Buddy and Rosie to be the more interesting romance in the book. There is a comfortable companionship between the two which stands in contrasts to the angry coupling between the main romance protagonists. Rosie is quite the feminist and working woman. She is as much Suki’s manager as Buddy is as they are running the star management business together. It is Rosie that gives me my favourite quote in the book is when she is discussing her dislike of cooking
Cooking isn’t creative…it’s masochism. Why else would somebody spend hours making something for somebody to wolf down in five minutes
This was a magical moment for me. I am going to make a far out inference here and claim that this is how Charlotte Lamb felt about cooking and I am now even more in reader love with her and I will claim that quote as my kitchen motto and I will even embroider the sampler to go with it. But I digress…
It is when the couple discover they are having a baby after 15 years of marriage that Suki’s situation changes. Rosie, at 40, discusses the issues of having her first child as an older woman, the disruption this will have to her life and her concern that her relationship will suffer due to the interference of a baby in their life. This horrifies Suki, not because she doubts the feelings that a mother has but because of her own sensitivity at having been abandoned as a baby and she struggles reconciling herself to her friend doubting her maternal feelings. This pregnancy causes Suki to feel like an outlier. This is more due to Rosie being sick than the couple rejecting Suki as they are unable to go on their planned holiday together and Suki goes alone….well until the bad penny turns up and asshat Joel plays on Suki’s upbringing and vulnerabilities on this issue of no longer being the centre of Rosie and Buddy’s attention.
Within a few days, Joel browbeats Suki into marrying him but at no time did I feel a love connection between the two of them. And the interesting thing is that though Joel harps on about his need and love for Suki and how nothing gets in his way of getting what he wants and Suki is what he wanted (asshattery), Suki does not declare love for him. In actual fact, she calls him on his obnoxious behaviour and tells him that he would never accept anyone talking to him like that so why should she. There is no love declaration from Suki in this book at all which allows me to imagine that the years after the book ends will be very interesting indeed.
And this makes me love Charlotte Lamb even more.