by Adrianne Byrd, contemporary (2011)
Arabesque, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-373-53447-0
King's Promise is the second book in Adrianne Byrd's series called House Of Kings, but this one can stand alone very well as the books in the series are linked together only by the fact that the three heroes are all hot filthy rich brothers who run a strip joint empire called the Dollhouse. In this one, Xavier King co-owns and manages the Dollhouse in Atlanta, and it's his turn to bite the big one.
Oh, and yes, you read that right: the hero runs a "gentlemen's club" and he's not averse to sampling the merchandises on display as well. And he's a pretty over the top combination of sexist pig and sex pig. But that's the beauty of this book: when the hero falls hard, it's a long way down, and it's so much fun to see him take such a big fall. Anyway, if you prefer your heroes to be a bit on a less slutty side, you may want to approach this one with caution.
The story here is actually a familiar one: our heroine Cheryl Grier is a cop who goes undercover as a bartender at the Dollhouse to investigate the alleged criminal activities that take place there. You know, drugs and stuff. So what happens when she discovers that it's too easy to become addicted to the boss of the joint? Stay tuned, although the whole thing unfurls in a predictable manner if you have read enough of these "the person shagging you has a secret, ooh" stories.
I'm basically repeating what I said in the review of the previous book, but that's because this book shares the same strengths and weaknesses as the previous book. This story is funny - it's really, really funny. Ms Byrd cheerfully lets it rip here, displaying an excellent sense of comic timing and getting her characters to exchange such amusing snappy one-liners with each other. The secondary characters are basically horndogs egging our main characters on, and they only add to the racuous festivity.
The romance here is quite believable, more believable than the one in the previous book anyway, mostly because Xavier really does some soul-searching here before he calms down and gets back with Cheryl. The two main characters have good chemistry and the sexual tension between them can cut like a knife. I also like that Cheryl lacks the usual weird sexual hang-ups that tend to plague too many romance heroines. When she wants to get down to business, stand back and just watch her move.
The thing is, this story has some suspense-lite elements, and this is a big problem because in order to make the story work, Cheryl has to do plenty of unbelievably dumb things. She doesn't really have any reason to trust Xavier, but that's what happens anyway. Unfortunate, this, because poor Cheryl comes off as the sad stereotype of a woman whom a man only has to boink in order to wrap her around his big, er, finger. But this is actually one of the better aspects of the story - there are far worse displays of stupidity from her. For example, she gives her name to Xavier as "Cheryl Shepherd", and, really, is it so hard for an undercover cop to adopt a different first name? If Xavier is really that drug dealer that the cops suspect him to be, it won't be too hard to locate a Cheryl in the Atlanta Police Department and order a hit, I'd think. It gets worse when Cheryl introduces Xavier, a suspect, to her family members. Yes, she's introducing the guy she's checking up on, undercover and under the covers, to her family members, the young niece included! This is crazy, if you ask me. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the things Cheryl does in this story that mark her as the most stupid law enforcer in possibly the entire world.
Xavier is pretty stupid too, but unlike the stupid stuff associated with Cheryl, Ms Byrd is aware of Xavier's stupidity and pokes fun at it. For example, when Xavier kicks Cheryl out after discovering that she's a cop, a secondary character points out with devastating - and hilarious - accuracy that Xavier, for all his bluster about the importance of honesty in a relationship, seems to prefer the Cheryl who is a junkie hiding her habit from him (he suspected her to be this at first) to the Cheryl who decides to come clean about her job. That silly moose cleans up his act nicely by the last page, so all is good in that department, at least.
But there's really no way I can overlook the absurdity of the suspense elements here. Still, I've been so entertained by this book that I can't help but to give it a final score that is higher than it deserves. What can I say, I'm easy sometimes.
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