New Man in Town series, book 2
Harm Connolly wants to leave his bad history with women on terra firma. Two weeks of business on a cruise would help accomplish that. First complication: the sexiest woman he's ever met is on board the vessel. Second complicaiton: a dead body -- one of his associates.
Adventure chef Cate Campbell knows his type -- arrogant corporate hotshot, taking his guys out for some R & R. No problem. She'll have Harm eating out of her hand in seconds flat. No problem ...until a killer on the loose forces her to find safety and comfort in his arms. Will mayhem at sea throw any chance of romance overboard?
I'm not quite sure how I wound up picking this book, or even adding it to my TBR. I'm not usually a follower of the formerly titled Silhouette Romantic Suspense (couched now as Harlequin RS) line, but I'm sure the back blurb's description of the heroine (adventure chef) had something to do with it. I love anything to do with cooking, am a devout subscriber to Food Network and its magazine, and think Tyler Florence is a hottie, so there you go.
I don't have any huge plot dislikes when it comes to my reading, although I typically stay away from secret baby books. Not sure why, I've never read any that I hated, but I've also not read any that I lurved. I'm taking a quickie route with this review and, since I've included the back blurb that apparently piqued my interest, I won't even try a plot summary. The back cover describes the plot succinctly, but I try and provide some filler.
Mesmerizing Stranger is a neatly written romance, tied up with a pretty little bow. Almost too neatly. Maybe it was the length of the book, but I sometimes have a hard time buying into a HEA within just over 200 pages. Sometimes it just never seems enough time for the hero and heroine to work out all the kinks in a new relationship. I'm not sure that's the fault of the author, since I did like Harm and Cate - I just think it's one of my many quirks; I like to see fictional folks experience a little more angst and emotional uncertainty. Harm was almost too froggy to fall head over heels in love with Cate, and she's a bit gun-shy. Given that she and her sisters (the other two heroines with their own stories in the series, Secretive Stranger and Irresistible Stranger) had grown up in foster homes after their parent died in a fire, I can see why Cate carried her own Samsonite baggage.
The suspense in Mesmerizing Stranger is a bit lukewarm, but enough to have carried me through the end of the book. There's a very small cast of secondary characters who could all fit the bill for the bad guy, mainly all employees in Harm's newly-inherited pharmaceutical/research company. The cruise described above is not a pleasure cruise, per se, but a desperate attempt for Harm to reconnect with his employees. Maybe they can put their heads together and figure out who has stolen and cashed in on the cure for pancreatic cancer Harm's uncle had been so close to before he'd died. And on a ship, there's not many places the guilty party can hide.
As a whole, if I were going to rate the book, I'd say it's somewhere within B- territory. What really kept me turning the pages was the sense of dark coziness on an Alaskan small vessel cruise and Cate's love for her work (I'm a culinary suck-up!). Those both stood out for me almost more than the story and romance. It's enough for me to look up the other two books in the series which I think in itself is an accomplishment for many authors. If one book whet your appetite for others written by her, then that's success in and of itself.