The Royals Collection, Book #4
Heat Factor: It’s hot. Sex on the desk hot.
Character Chemistry: Secret office romance chemistry. It’s good.
Plot: Workaholic lawyer (barrister, really) gets distracted by sassy new assistant.
Overall: I’m going back for seconds.
All things considered, I think the trajectory of this narrative is very clear. And I plan to discuss some of the heroine’s behavior at the end of the book, so please consider this a “spoilers possible” warning.
We meet Violet in New York: broke, fired, stagnating in her life after her ex took the company they built together in college. The company is about to have its IPO, and Violet is not handling it particularly well, but in the bottling-up-feelings-avoiding-it way, not in the wasted-hot-mess way. Violet is out with her sister, Scarlett (book 3) and her sister’s sister-in-law, Darcy (book 5), who is visiting from England. Conversation turns to Violet’s situation because that’s how big sisters are, and Darcy suggests that Violet go to London for a few months. She can live in Darcy’s family townhouse rent free and get out of her rut! At first, Violet thinks this is absurd, but after a moment’s consideration, she does see the sense in her older sister’s point (as it should be) that her life of freedom is more of the same-same rut than it is any real sort of freedom.
Off Violet goes. With Darcy’s help, she’s able to get an interview at a Chambers (law office), and when we meet her again, she’s on the Underground on her way to the interview. It’s on the Underground where she runs into a Very Sexy Man. VSM and Violet have a little interlude, but it looks like that’s all it’s going to be–until Violet gets off the train and VSM bumps her arm so she drops her phone onto the tracks. This would simply be an annoyance normally, but Violet was planning to use her phone to navigate to her interview. Now she has no idea where to go! Luckily VSM is going to the same place and offers to walk her there. Interesting.
Violet and VSM don’t talk at all on the walk because of course he’s the sort of man who would talk on the phone for the whole walk because he’s also a Very Busy Man. They part ways at the Chambers and both think that’s the sum of their interaction. It’s not. VSM is actually Alexander Knightly, and the position Violet is interviewing for is a temporary assistant position to help Alexander clean up and organize his office and sort out his billing. Violet will be working for VSM. Uh oh.
This is your standard free-spirit-teaches-uptight-workaholic-to-embrace-life narrative. It’s a bit of a roller coaster. Violet and Alexander are magnetically attracted to each other, but Alexander is a control freak workaholic who doesn’t see the need for an assistant and resents Violet invading his office and his thoughts, while Violet is trying hard not to screw up this opportunity she has to push reset on her life. Still, they’re unable to stay away from each other, and eventually things come to a head in Alexander’s office. There is some marvelously hot up-against-the-wall sex. But this can’t be a thing, they agree. Violet has a job to do and Alexander has a case to win. They need to focus and keep their hands to themselves.
They succeed for a little while, but during the second half of the book they’ve decided to move forward with their relationship, so the story is less about unsatisfied lust and more about the expiration date on their relationship and navigating Alexander’s constant drive to work. He ruined one marriage by putting work first, but he didn’t intend to stop working all the time with his first wife. He actually wants to stop and spend time with Violet, but old habits die hard. It isn’t until Alexander and Violet are talking about a longer-term future that these old habits become problematic. Violet had never expected to be in London for more than three months, and she’s already extended her stay by another three months. Her goal to turn her life around has worked, and she’s thinking about her skills and what she wants to do with her future, which starts with graduate school. Now, Alexander doesn’t want her to go, so he encourages her to consider graduate school in England, not just in New York.
Here we come to the problem. Can Alexander be the man that Violet deserves, or will he be a self-centered workaholic jerk?
This is the point where we might get spoilery, so if you’re concerned read no further.
Okay, this is a situation in which I think the “contemporary romance runaway” is not handled very well. The runaway is something I have noticed in many contemporary romance novels. It invariably happens because one of the protagonists, usually the heroine, decides that leaving in the middle of a conflict is the right answer. It’s incredibly dramatic, so I get why it’s used, but it’s really, really obnoxious if it’s not well executed. In this case, the backstory is all there, what with Alexander being an acknowledged workaholic with a failed marriage clearly illustrating just how bad he is. The moment Alexander fails her is incredibly important to Violet. It’s all there.
Here’s the thing–this is the first time Alexander is a colossal screw-up. He doesn’t miss any other important dates or put off any other events with Violet at all. In fact, up to this point, his desire to be with Violet has created a serious shift in his priorities, and he’s seen the benefit to his overall productivity and mental clarity after taking breaks from work to spend time with her. Here’s the other thing–Alexander is mere days from arguing his big case. Now yes, he’s a barrister (an exceptionally good one) and his whole life is arguing cases. But the days immediately prior to opening statements (or whatever it is in Britain) when you’re racing to make sure your ducks are in a row and make filings are not the same as the early days of discovery and case preparation.
So what do you think? Alexander misses a big dinner Violet prepared for him on the night they were planning to discuss their future. Violet decides this means he’s not going to prioritize her and decides to go home to New York without telling Alexander about it or letting him apologize to her (which he tries to do repeatedly). Is that appropriate?
Now, this is the wake-up call Alexander seems to really need to figure out where his priorities actually are. His processing where his choices have brought him and considering where he wants to go in the future might be my favorite part of this book (other than the super hot sex and overall chemistry). Would he have gotten there if Violet hadn’t left? I’m not sure he would have. It’s a difficult thing, having my favorite part of the book rest on actions that enraged me (and that Violet herself later considers to be immature). Alexander has sorted out his priorities, but does Violet even care? Would she even accept this, or is it too late? Ack!
Runaway aside, I really liked this book. I liked that it got me all riled up but I was still totally with both Violet and Alexander as they sorted out the messes they’d made.
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