Reviewed: September 16, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Line: Harlequin Blaze
Series: www.gIRL-gEAR.com, Book 2
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 256 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Chloe Zuniga's job as one of the VPs for gIRL gEAR is on the line. Sydney Ford, the company's CEO, is tired of Chloe's different-date-a-day social life and locker room potty mouth threatening the image of the company, especially as several prime events are slated in coming weeks to elevate the company into the next tier. To put forth the impression of cleaning up her act, Chloe turns to sports-loving Eric Haydon for help. As sexy as he finds Chloe, however, experience with her makes him more than wary, and in return for acting as her escort for the three events for her company, he's demanding three wishes in trade. He figures he should get something out of the deal, after all. If that something is more time spent with the delectable Chloe on his terms, then he's all for it. Neither one anticipated just how life-altering three little favors could be.
I kept wondering as I read Kent's No Strings Attached if I would have had a different opinion of the story had I read the first in the series. It's a stand-alone book, sure, but it lacked quite a bit of exposition and subtext. I felt Chloe and Eric's scavenger hunt history was well explained, but I have no idea why he wasn't returning her calls at the beginning or what his less than gung ho reaction to her was based upon. I never felt like I had a firm grasp on Chloe's past with the company to give her such a lousy reputation, and I felt like the friendships she has with her gIRL gEAR pals were more important than the book explains. I have no idea why Annabelle Lee is called Poe and she's an active secondary character, so she was around enough to keep me wondering. I was left feeling like I was always just a step off in my grasp of the world Kent's created and the characters inhabiting it.
As a reader, that put me in a position to have to accept - or not, depending - at face value the situation as Kent laid it out in this book, with all the motivations and behaviors and emotional responses as written. Much of that wasn't a problem for me at all, but there were a few things I had trouble with to start and I'm afraid it made me more critical of the book as a whole because of it.
Maybe I'm asking too much of a Harlequin Blaze - that's certainly possible - but there was little about Chloe's character that I found consistent in her development. Her family history scarred her, but while she clearly stated she dated so many duds in her quest for Cary Grant, when one falls into her lap she can't push him away and keep him at arms length fast enough. She's also pretty wretched to Eric, who is, in fact, doing her a favor - and even his 'wishes' turn out to provide her with pleasure, so repeated instances of churlish behavior and attitude on her part didn't make her very sympathetic. Or appealing. I couldn't figure, besides her body, why he loved her. Eric was pleasant enough - though towards the end he seemed like a bit of a doormat - but the relationship never really worked for me as it lacked the give-and-take that I prefer in a developing relationship.
The jumpy narrative and seemingly random plot points didn't help, either. Gaps in time were spanned between events that Chloe and Eric attended and the narrative didn't dwell much on the between times, and with no warning a week or more passed in the story timeline. It made keeping up with the evolution of the relationship a little confusing and felt very choppy at times. Throw in a surprise appearance by Chloe's eldest brother, who shows up out of nowhere and suddenly starts spouting off about family skeletons and life-changing truths, and several parts of the story seemed awkward and heavy-handed as a result.
Now, despite all that, Kent excelled at the sharp, quick, and witty dialogue between Chloe and Eric, and definitely kindled the blaze of the sexual relationship quite nicely. Their sparring in and out of the bedroom...um...not that they were limited to the bedroom, by any means...was the high point of the story and provided, once I'd resigned myself to the issues I had, a sexy, slightly shallow but mostly harmless reading experience. From a technical standpoint, there are a few pluses as well. While the narrative did jump forward in time with no warning and was pitted with inexplicable plot point bombs, it's written with a sophistication on a technical level and what's there flows smoothly as a result, highlighting the dialogue to its best effect.
I may not feel motivated to go back to the first book in the series, All Tied Up, nor continue with the series with Bound to Happen, but I can't say I disliked No Strings Attached, either. I've read other titles by Alison Kent, though, and this one wasn't my favorite.
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