Wicked Game
by Mercy Celeste, contemporary (2011)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 978-1-59578-860-3


The future of Jaime Dalton, our hero, in the NFL is so bright that he has to wear shades. Actually, he needs to get a personal assistant first. And naturally, there is no better candidate for the job than Cass Pendleton, an unemployed schoolteacher and our heroine. She has no money left, there are bills to pay... you know, the usual stuff that plagues a romance heroine. She and Jaime go way back, when they detest each other at first sight back in kindergarten, and now they meet again when Jaime asks the nanny agency that Cass happens to be attached to for any prospective candidate for the PA job. I know, asking a nanny to fill in the PA slot is not exactly something an ordinary Joe will do, but let's have Jaime explain his reasons.

"So you decided to call up the local nanny agency for what, then? Kicks?"

His smile widened, becoming almost menacing, and Cass found herself taking a step back toward the door. Something was definitely off here.

"Well, Cass, I guess I'm busted." He leaned back in his chair, his hands caressing the armrests as he watched her. “The owner of the temp agency you are with is a friend of mine from college. She has helped me with staffing problems in the past. I thought I'd call her up and see if she had any semi-intelligent applicants who could actually read and write, not to mention type, with a pleasant speaking voice. Someone who isn't looking for a sugar daddy to put a rock on her finger."

That's reasonable, don't you think?

Then there is another oddity in this story. The above snippet offers just a small glimpse of how... uh, alpha, I guess, Jaime is. He smirks, "becoming almost menacing", causing Cass to take a step back toward the door, his eyes shine with triumph when he has the upper hand over her... and we are talking about a conversation that does not take more than twenty minutes tops. Poor Jaime comes off as positively deranged here, like a serial killer trying very hard to pretend that he's only a control freak from everyone's favorite Harlequin Presents "I browbeat my secretary and impregnate her with my purebreed seed PHWOAR!" melodrama.

The rest of the story sees him buying her pretty stuff and controlling her schedule while masterfully demanding that she assume the ripe and ready position, and she alternates between feeling like a cheap mistress and quivering with desire at his masterful personality. I don't know why the author even bothers making Jaime an NFL guy, because he is a straight cliché of the usual jealous, possessive, rude, and obsessive tycoon/millionaire/asshole hero from you-know-where. Jaime and Cass are so busy playing their typical roles with faithful adherence to the script that I have a hard time seeing any tender emotions between them. She's either delirious with desire or trying very hard to resist his barking commands and he's looming over her all the time with his suffocating presence.

In other words, this one feels like an effort that tries very hard to emulate the tropes of those rich bastard/poor mistress stories. Readers who like those stories may get a kick out of this one, but I personally feel that the author is trying too hard here. There are many things here that are too exaggerated to be taken seriously, and I never get this impression that the exaggeration is deliberate in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Rating: 55


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