by Rae Monet, contemporary (2007)
Liquid Silver Books, $4.25, ISBN 978-1-59578-359-2
I'm coming in late to Rae Monet's race track-themed romance series - The Winner's Circle is the third book in the series - but I think I can safely say that this book stands alone pretty well. I may have missed out on a few things or get a fact or two wrong in the backstory, but I'm just basing what I know on this book alone.
Lovely Cosmetics, in an attempt to stop losing its market share to a rival company, decides to carry out an unorthodox ad campaign. It will sponsor a female driver in the professional competition circuit to appeal to the female fans, which make up a larger share of the fandom that one may imagine. The previous spokesperson, the heroine of the previous book Racing Hearts, however got knocked up by her hunky mentor before the publicity blitz could begin. In The Winner's Circle, upstart driver Shawn Lewin is picked by Lovely Cosmetics to be the new spokesperson and our inexperienced heroine is eager to make her mark and capitalize on her fifteen minutes of fame in the Darlington Raceway.
Professional racer Jimmy Normin views Lovely Cosmetic's "Woman on the Track" campaign with both amusement and trepidation... until Shawn bumps her race car into his repeatedly and distracts him enough to cause him to come in tenth while she comes in third. It's not entirely her fault - he is also trying to block her way on the track so in a way it serves him right that his action eventually backfires on him. These two eventually embark on an affair, which causes them to learn the hard way that racing against your lover on the track can be distracting to the point that it affects their racing. Shawn also begins to lose her nerves as she starts having what seems like panic episodes on the track. Oh dear.
There is a "quit my job to be a wife and have babies" message here that won't please some readers but then again, The Winner's Circle is pretty upfront about the hero being "old-fashioned". That aside, this story is a short and pleasant tale of two people falling into lust and love. There are no long-drawn angsts or external conflicts to muddy the relationship. While I really like how Ms Monet manages to bring to life most vividly her characters living the fast life on the race track, the romance often takes a backseat to the rush of the race and the love scenes. I feel that the characters rush into bed too soon.
That's not to say that this story is all about the sex and fast cars. There are some conscious attempts by Ms Monet to show me that Jim and Shawn have a mental and emotional as well as physical bond between them. However, the length of this story prevents these attempts to be anything more than superficial and sometimes rushed moments of Pop Psychology 101. Nonetheless, despite its superficial treatment of romance, The Winner's Circle captures the rush of the race track very nicely and the main characters do have sizzling chemistry between them. It doesn't have much depths, but it will do nicely as a quick and breezy read to pass the time.
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