This is the first book by Joan Kilby I have read, and it will probably be the last. There were so many things that bothered me that I don’t even know where to start. First and foremost I should say that my review has spoilers, because I can’t explain why it didn’t work for me without giving away some of the plot.
The story is set in Australia; Renita, the heroine, has been in love with Brett since high school, where he broke her heart after he refused her invitation to prom. Fast forward some years, and he’s back in town. He’s a former football player that comes back to his home town after retiring and plans to start a gym. To do it he needs a big loan (Australian footballers don’t win that much money and he’s recently divorced and still hasn’t settled that), so he goes to the bank were Renita is in charge of the loans, he tries to charm her but only gets enough money to buy the old gym and not much else, he still needs to replace every single machine for state of the art equipment.
Renita sees what he’s doing and isn’t happy about it, but she tries to maintain a professional relationship and not get into personal territory. Brett finds out that Renita’s father is a diabetic and needs exercise, and offers him a two for the price of one three month membership, and one on one training sessions, hoping that she will go too. Her father convinces her and thus Brett becomes her personal trainer, up to this point and towards the middle of the book, the story was good, but then it all went downhill.
By the time she starts losing some weight, gets a makeover, and becomes confident in herself -although I’m not so sure about that- he realizes that she’s hot. The scene that leads to the first time they have sex is crazy: he invites her to his daughter’s prom as a chaperone, once there he kisses her, but she feels the kiss is a bit off and asks him if he’s doing it to compensate for what he did to her in high school, he says yes and the next thing I know they’re at his house having sex. After they sleep together she asks him if he would have made love to her had she not lost the extra weight, again he says yes, but now she’s hot so it’s ok. I understand and even appreciate his honesty, but the only reason he likes her is because she’s not “ugly” anymore, not because she’s smart, honest, goodhearted, good with his daughter, nope, she’s hot and that’s it, now he can date her. Oh, and then he adds: I didn’t asked you out before because you didn’t like me and I don’t deal well with rejection (not to mention that he didn’t like her at first and the only thing he wanted was the loan), but the worse thing is that she stays and doesn’t get angry, she feels like he just gave her a compliment, and she believes him when he says that he was afraid to ask her out!
I admit that at first the story sounded really good, I’m a sucker for those “ugly duckling gets the prince charming” type of story, and I like when the heroine isn’t perfect. In this case Renita is a bit overweight and feels really insecure about it, is she ugly? No. Is she morbidly obese? No. She just has low self-steam, and she’s still feeling sorry for herself after she got turned down by the hot jock when she was in high school. To be honest, I just wanted to yell at her to get over herself and get a life!
What comes next is even worse, he needs almost two hundred grand, and sells something dear to him, but the sale doesn’t comes through and he finds himself with two hundred grand worth of equipment and no money to pay for it. Of course Renita comes saving the day, she offers him the money out of her own pocket, here at least he shows some reason and declines, but Renita doesn’t take no for an answer and comes up with a plan to get him the money without him finding out, this master plan includes taking on a second mortgage for her house, and having his 13 year old daughter snooping trough his things and keeping secrets, and she does all that for a guy who she knows is acting immaturely crazy, a guy who tells her point blank that he only likes her for her new body, and a guy who she doesn’t really know that well.
This is how she explains to her father why he deserves the money:
“He cares about people. Look what he’s done for you. He didn’t have to go to so much trouble. I think, maybe, he did it partly for me”
Oh yes he did it for her! Because he wanted the loan! He was trying to get on her good graces so she would approve the loan, it wasn’t out of real concern for her father, it wasn’t because he secretly loved her, it was because of the money.
And then she questions herself and her decision (just for a second though, she ignores her own concerns and gives him the money anyway):
“Was she doing the right thing in trying to help Brett? Or would it be in his long-term interest to let his fitness center fail? Either way, did she have any right to affect his life so significantly? Especially when he’d turned down her offer to help?”
Of course she didn’t have the right! He’s behaving like an immature spoiled brat, he wanted the fitness center on his terms, and he wanted everything perfect now, no matter what. Come on! He had options, he could’ve bought used equipment for a fraction of the cost, he could’ve kept the equipment he already had, he could’ve bought just the strictly necessary, and then, once he had more money, buy the rest, but no, he wanted all and he wanted it now. She should have let him face the consequences of his actions. And even if he was the best entrepreneur ever, why is she lending him all that money? She was going to get a second mortgage for a guy who is a financial risk just because she has a crush on him? He didn’t even deserve the crush! At this point I was ready to stop reading altogether.
The ending wasn’t satisfying either, he did show some emotional growth, but it was too little too late, I didn’t like him, I didn’t sympathize or connect with the heroine, and I wasn’t rooting for them to be together. I would recommend just skipping this one, or checking it out of the library.
I debated whether to give this one a 2 or a 1, because I did read it almost in one sitting and the writing was good, the first half was engaging, but the second half was terrible and I almost didn't finish it, that’s why I ended up giving it a 1.
Review by Brie
Renita Thatcher never imagined she'd see Brett O'Connor in town again—let alone in her office. Over the years, Renita has only caught glimpses of her old crush in the tabloids as Brett jet-set his way to football superstardom….Oh, who's she trying to kid? She'd followed his career religiously. And his marriage to the gorgeous, high-profile trophy wife. Ex-wife.Now Renita, the only loans officer in Summerside Bay, has something Brett wants. Just like in high school, she's in a position of power over him, but this time, she doesn't want to mess it up. Her next move is critical. Does she want revenge or does she want to surrender herself to a guy who looks even better than her best fantasy?
Harlequin. February 1, 2011.