What worked for me (and what didn’t): Cain Ford owns a strip club, “Penny’s” in Miami. His parents and sister were killed in a drug related murder and Cain feels some responsibility, in particular, for his sister’s death. He feels he should have looked after her better and if he had, she would not have been with their parents when they were attacked. Cain made a lot of money from underground fighting and then opened a strip club with the express purpose of giving girls who choose that line of work (for whatever reason) a safe place. He actually goes further than that – he will help girls get out of that line of work and into something better if he can – this includes paying for therapy and helping them get an education and/or get clean of drugs. He has a strict “no sleeping with the staff” policy and he runs a clean place – strictly no drugs and no prostitution. The girls can do whatever they wish as long as it’s legal and he will see they’re protected and offered opportunity to move on if that’s what they want. Cain’s halo is very sparkly and the only thing that saves him from being a complete white knight is that he has a darker edge to him. He is not above using violence or setting someone up for a drug offence if it means protecting his girls. He can be pushy and he does a thorough background check of any potential staff but he’s mostly just a really good guy – except that he will cross the line in pursuit of a good cause.
“Charlie Rourke” comes to Penny’s looking for work. She is in Miami under a fake identity and is involved with some seriously bad people through no fault of her own. Her ID says she’s 22 but she’s actually only 18. She wants out, but “out” generally means ”dead” for the people she’s involved with – and she doesn’t want to get dead. If she takes a job as a stripper, she can make lots of money fast. When she has enough, she’s going to buy herself a bright shiny new ID and disappear. Fortunately, she has a “bangin’ bod”, years of gymnastics and recent pole dancing classes to help her achieve her goals.
Cain is immediately attracted to Charlie but because of his “hands off the staff” policy, he manfully fights against it. Charlie, for her part, is also very attracted to Cain but she knows that if she tells him the truth about herself he will try and save her and most probably end up dead. Their romance is fairly swift but they were together so much it felt longer than it actually was.
I read this book over 2 days. It was very engaging and easy to read. At about the halfway point I was seriously wondering how the author was going to pull off the HEA. Suffice to say she did it and, how it was done made sense and, for the most part, didn’t stretch my credulity beyond breaking point.
Cain and Charlie do make a great couple. I will admit I was a little concerned by their age difference – well, by Charlie’s age, I should say. She came across to me as older than 18 in the story which is probably why I was able to go with it.
I liked that the book wasn’t slut shame-y even while I occasionally rolled my eyes at how all the girls needed a man (mostly this was Cain) to save them. That said, I do like the rescue trope – it’s kind of my catnip. So even while I knew I was being shamelessly manipulated, I was lapping it up.
Despite the setup, the book isn’t erotic romance – it fits squarely within contemporary. I read the first book in the series and skipped the second but the books are so loosely connected they can easily be read as stand alones.
I enjoyed the community Cain and his friends had made and I liked Charlie very much. I’m still trying to work out why a guy would spray a water gun on a BBQ though – maybe that’s an American thing? 😀
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