Author: Roxanne St. Claire
Read copy: eBook
Published: February 12, 2003
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing
Ava Santori is cooking up a storm in the family restaurant in Boston's North End when a call from the Coast Guard brings shattering news: her beloved brother was lost in a shipwreck. Determined to find out why the ship was steered into a hurricane, Ava packs her bags for the lush isle of St. Barts—where she puts the blame squarely on the broad shoulders of the ship's owner.
Dane Erikson built the luxurious Utopia Adventures cruise line from the ground up and he's not about to let it sink. Enlisting Ava to help discover the truth about the doomed Paradisio, he finds himself unbearably tempted by this fiery, impetuous woman. And as their investigation causes danger to close in, he and Ava find their hearts leading them to the same place. . . straight into each other's arms.
It started like a worst nightmare...With, literally, my worst nightmare in fiction—a bitch of a heroine. Then it turned out she wasn't as much of a bitch than on a loooong guilt-trip looking for someone, anyone to blame...And then she got stupid. Or she was stupid before, but I just didn't know it until the author showed it to me. Because let me tell you something about out valiant Ava Santori. She wasn't the brightest bulb in the box as far as character-judging went...Or learning from her own mistakes...Or jumping to conclusions...
Her "act-before-thinking" attitude alienated her brother five years ago, but did she learn anything from that? Nope, she went on doing whatever she wanted without thinking about consequences.
She quickly realized Dane (the hero) wasn't the bastard a lawyer wanted her to think he was, but did that improve her attitude toward him, did it alleviate her suspicion. Nope, she continued not trusting him, because for some reason he found her attractive and she thought he had an ulterior motive. Yeah, girl, it's called "get into her pants"!
She realized (in the course of the book), she was a very poor judge of character, but did that stop her from trusting the wrong people? Nope, she assumed, because the villain treated her nicely, he was the good guy...While she suspected the hero of having ulterior motives (again, the "get into her pants" ploy) for "seducing" her. There actually was no seducing until after the life-or-death situation (that luckily didn't happen at the very end).
And it is because the life-and-death situation didn't happen at the very end, that this book got the rating it got. Because by then I've grown rather fond of out idiotic heroine (though she did act mostly like a teenager and not a mature over-thirties woman), and I somehow learned what made her tick. And I really liked her toward the end, though the whole unwillingness to compromise, while the hero had to completely change, grated a little.
Lucky for me, there was more to this story than just the heroine (whom I actually liked in the end). There was the hero, for starters. Dane Erikson. Tall, blond (though I don't really fall for blond Vikings), green-blue eyes...Yummy, sexy, hot, obsession-inducing Dane Erikson. He had it all. The looks, the charm, the heart, the money, the hotness...The right flaws that made him seem real, appear human. And he knew when he was wrong, accepted it, and said he was sorry. The heroine didn't have that quality.
Then, there was the setting. The story took place in the Caribbean, for Pete's sake. The freaking Caribbean. White, sandy beaches, aqua-blue surf, half-naked men, top-notch ships, VIP treatments...What's there not to drool about? Did I mention Dane Erikson was there? ;)
And third, the suspense. The suspense part. Was. Absolutely. Fan-freaking-tastic. I loved the pacing of it, the slow unraveling of the mystery, the uncovering of clues, the guessing game of who else might be involved, the guessing game of what really happened in the middle of the hurricane...Loved it. I actually loved a mystery/suspense sub-plot where two normal people played P.I. They were a "tycoon" and a cook and they tried to solve a huge and rather dangerous mystery.
Did that make it a bit unbelievable? Strangely not. Because their efforts were written the way one would think a normal person would go about solving something like that...Gather clues, gather enough evidence, and then go to the police. They didn't try to take the bad guys themselves, they sought help. And they sought it (thanks to Dane) when they really had something tangible to show and not just because they overheard something (a-la Ava).
So, was it perfect? No. In a perfect book the heroine would've been reasonable. But then I would not have enjoyed it that much. There's something to be said about heroines I severely dislike. The stories are never boring.
Granted, it wasn't prefect, but it certainly wasn't bad. Quite the opposite, really. Wonderfully written and well-paced, this was a gripping story augmented by colorful characters and setting. A keeper and highly recommended.