by Shiloh Walker, contemporary (2008)
Ellora's Cave, $4.45, ISBN 978-1-4199-1623-6
Drastic Measures is a novella published under the Exotica imprint. I'm not sure why this is the case though, because I've always entertained the assumption that the Exotica line is meant for straightforward erotica, romance may not be included, and this one isn't particularly steamy. Perhaps it's because of the not-so-romantic premise? But that will make Exotica a dumping ground for stories that some readers will find "controversial", won't it?
The story is like this. Pamela Janes is going to marry Shawn. Shawn's business partner Ethan decides that he wants Pam for himself. While Pam and Shawn are going to walk down the aisle six weeks or so from the time when the story takes place, that doesn't stop Ethan from wanting her. As he puts it, it's not as if Shawn is his friend, so the lady is fair game. Because Shawn owes Ethan $250,000 and he can't pay Ethan back the loan, Shawn and Ethan come to an amicable solution to their dilemma: Ethan will forget the debt if Pam will go with Ethan as his date to an event called the Midnight Madness Bash. If Pam doesn't agree, Ethan will just claim the club that Pam had worked so hard to make a success (Shawn's name is also on the deed because Pam borrowed the money needed to front the club from him).
Even if Pam doesn't want to keep the fiancé, she definitely wants to keep the club, so she has best put on her sexiest dress for Ethan. Before she does that, she tells Shawn that she wants him to sign her club over to her completely. I approve. She's getting the hot and well-moneyed guy as well as her club in one fell swoop, she's just my kind of lady.
Reading this story, I wonder why Pam will pick Shawn over Ethan in the first place since Shawn comes off as weak and shady here. Ethan is loaded, tall, dark, and handsome the way romance heroes are since Heathcliff bashed his head bloody against a tree and howled like a loon because he loved/hated a woman named Catherine so much. And he is definitely interested in Pam. So why wouldn't she pick Mr Hot and Loaded? Of course, if she picked Ethan from the get go, there will be no story.
Likewise, I wonder why a man like Ethan would have to treat Pam like a high-class hooker to get her attention, but I suppose he believes that he's out of tactics to get her to give out to him. To give Pam plenty of credit, she doesn't make it easy for him to come in and take over once she's kicked Shawn out of her life.
Despite the fact that the set-up of the story is more contrived than I'd have liked it to be, Drastic Measures makes an enjoyable sexy fantasy of a woman pampered and cherished in the lap of luxury by a hot bloke who may be a Harlequin Presents wannabe on the surface but soft as a putty inside when it comes to the heroine. Indeed, Ethan's obvious vulnerability where Pam is concerned is what makes this fantasy a palatable and even enjoyable one. He's a hot guy, which is sexy, and his bank account is figuratively overflowing with dollar bills, which in my opinion makes him even sexier, so I can see why Pam will succumb to his charms in the end.
While the romance may not be the most believable in this story, Drastic Measures is a short story that sells a fantasy about being cherished and pampered by a bad boy who is crazy over the girl, and this story sells it very well indeed. There is a distinct Harlequin Presents feel to it, only without an asshole hero and a doormat farmgirl heroine. I like it.
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