Wife for A Week by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it:  I was browsing through my reader and this one jumped out and said “read me”.  I picked it up in a Harlequin sale a while back.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Nicholas Cooper must produce a wife for his business deal, and Hallie Bennett is beautiful and intelligent enough to pull it off. She needs the money, and Nicholas has determined some strict rules for their week together. Rule No. 1: Displays of affection in public onlyKeeping their hands on each other in public turns out to be surprisingly easy. It’s keeping them “off” in private that’s the problem. Hallie is falling for Nicholas, but will Nicholas make his contract wife his real-life bride?

What worked for me (and what didn’t): This was so much fun! It’s short, only 120 pages or so but the author manages to create a believable, amusing and sexy romance, not only in a short word count but in a short space of time also – the whole book takes place in just over a week.

Hallie and Nick meet when Nick’s mother is searching for shoes in a shop Hallie is working in and the witty banter and consensual double entendres begin between the two protagonists, egged on by Clea (Nick’s mother), who is outrageous but huge fun.
‘No, they met at a birthday party. Clea was in the cake. I try not to think about it.’
Nick is heading to Hong Kong the following week to cement a business deal which has been months in the making.  His potential business partners is widower John Tey, who has a nineteen year old daughter, Jasmine.  Last time Nick was in Hong Kong Jasmine put the moves on him and to let her down gently, he told her he was married.  Now he feels like he has to keep up the pretense of risk the deal and the feelings of both John and his daughter, neither of which he wants to do.  He also doesn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations, as he’s not in the market for a serious relationship, let alone marriage, so paying someone to pretend seems like the best solution.  After Clea quite outrageously (also shamelessly matchmaking) suggests Nick hire Hallie for the job, things quickly progress to offer and acceptance.

The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it: I picked this up from NetGalley.  I’m fast becoming a major fan of Kelly Hunter.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads) Good job? Tick. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting. Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking. Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever, and this time he’s not going anywhere…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Really, she had me at “tortured”.  I have a weakness for a tortured hero and the reason for his distance was so damn honorable too!  In a nutshell, Logan’s father was an abusive, controlling, violent piece of work and Logan is terrified that he’s just like him.  So he doesn’t like to feel too much or get too close.  He doesn’t – won’t –  trust himself. But Evie makes him feel.  Makes him want to get close.  The tension is delicious.

Her Singapore Fling by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it:  Previously (also?) published under the title Red Hot Renegade, it’s a book I’ve heard from a number of blogger/Twitter friends is worth my time.  Kat from Book Thingo is a big fan of this book and she even mentioned it in the recent DBSA podcast with Sarah Wendell. So I picked it (and 10 or 11 other Kelly Hunter books) up from the recent eHarlequin 50% off sale.  I’m so weak.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads)  In desperate need of protection, Jianne Xang-Bennett reluctantly turns to her estranged husband, martial arts expert Jacob Bennett, for help. But there are problems: they’ve been separated for twelve years and cannot be in the same room together without arguing or ripping each other’s clothes off–often at the same time.

But Jacob will go to extremes for those he loves, and Jianne is the only woman who can bring this honorable warrior to his knees. Can they delve beneath their red-hot desire and blazing anger to find the love that has always been hiding?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): There so much to like about this book – so much that’s unusual and well done – for one, it’s set in Singapore and the sense of place is strong throughout the story.  The heroine is Chinese and she is written that way.  I’m no expert, but she didn’t have the same Western sensibility I know – insofar as I can judge, she seemed Asian to me.  The hero is an Australian martial arts expert with his own dojo in Singapore.  Then there’s that the heroine is super rich – way better off than our hero.   Add to that, that it’s a second chance at love story (they’re married and have been estranged for 12 years) and really, it’s made of win.
The reasons for the estrangement felt realistic, as did the changes in their lives since then (but not their fundamental attraction) which made it possible for them to successfully navigate a relationship.   
The stalker plot was a little weak I thought, especially since this dude has been bothering her for FIVE years (which seems like a really long time to put up with something like that and for it to finally come to a head).  But, it’s main purpose was to bring our main characters together again and for that, I can only be grateful.
The story is a part of a series (I believe it’s the final book but I could be wrong on that) but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the previous books to understand this story.  Kat assured me of the same thing in the podcast I mentioned earlier so it’s not just me who thinks so.  As it happens, in the sale I also picked up many (perhaps all) of the other books in the series – Wife for a Week and Untameable Rogue are two of them – and both of those books also come highly recommended.
Some of the prose in the book felt a little odd to me – for example the use of the word “for” instead of “because”.  It’s something I see in very formal books or historicals and it felt a little out of place here.  But, that is a small niggle and it didn’t really impede my enjoyment of the story.
Jianne and Jake have scorching sexual chemistry and Jianne gives as good as she gets.

Gasping as he stroked long fingers down the crease of her buttocks with a sensuality that was his alone, down and down and then lifting her effortlessly so that she sat on the bench. His hands on her thighs now, pushing her skirt up and parting her legs wide as he stepped in close and dragged her against him again, and all the time his lips not leaving hers for more than a moment.

‘I thought of you,’ she confessed. ‘I thought of you, and I made do,’ she whispered as she slid her hand to his wrist and forced it down between their straining bodies. ‘Like this.’ And she surged against his hand as he took his cue and stroked her, his stroke so much bolder than her own and vastly more effective. ‘Jacob?’

‘What?’ he asked hoarsely.

‘I’m tired of making do.’

Their sexy banter was the highlight of the book for me – especially the scene about the whisk and the wooden spoon. 🙂

What else? If you’re looking for an exotic setting with an unusual hero and heroine, this is your book.  I recommend 🙂

Grade: B+

Wish by Kelly Hunter

Why I read it:   After my less than successful experience with my first try of something from the Destiny imprint, I was keen to read another which I liked.  I’ve heard about Australian author Kelly Hunter from various trusted reviewers and I even have another of her Harlequin books on my TBR but I hadn’t read any.  When I saw this on NetGalley, I felt like this would be a sure bet.  I was right.
What it’s about:  (from Goodreads) All single mother Billie Temple wants for Christmas is to trade her hectic Sydney lifestyle for simple country living and a place to call home.

All widowed cattleman Adam Kincaid wants is for Billie and her son to go away.

Someone’s got a problem.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I’ve always thought it takes a special talent to write short.  To tell a good story in less than 100 pages is a talent I both recognise and envy (if I ever do write a book, I can’t imagine it being short!).  And, sure I could happily have read more about Billie and Adam, but, the story was told and very enjoyably too in that less than 100 pages.  

Ms. Hunter creates characters using bold strokes but which nevertheles feel complete.  She doesn’t use a lot of words to explain the characters, letting them largely speak for themselves, but there was enough that I had a very clear picture of the main players, without any of them feeling like caricatures.   I enjoyed the humor too – the way she portrayed Adam’s initial interest in Billie is one example:

Billie was doing the rounds for empties when he walked in and she looked businesslike and efficient in tailored black trousers and a crisp white shirt. Not that he’d been expecting a miniskirt, fishnets, and six-inch heels, no, but a man had his fantasies and that one had been particularly vivid.  

I had half expected the book would be on the sweet side of the steam scale, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the heat level was higher than that – no shying away from use of the word clitoris.  There wasn’t tons and tons of sex – it’s not an erotic romance and of course, it’s not very long, but there was enough for the story and it was well done too.

Billie is open about her desire for Adam from early on and it is obvious he is struggling with feeling the same way even though after the death of his wife and son in a car accident some years before, he’s not looking for a relationship.  The presence of Billie and her son on his property is enough to give him the heebie geebies and it’s bringing all sorts of uncomfortable emotions to the surface.  He’s gruff and outright rude but he is at heart, a good man and a protector and he is drawn to Billie.

Eventually they start up a friends with benefits type arrangement, on the quiet and with no strings from either side – Adam can’t bring himself to use Cal’s name referring to him as “the boy” and Billie knows that a relationship with a man who can’t include her son in his life is doomed.  But, he’s sexy and she’s lonely so, despite her better judgement she embarks on a fling.   When some strange things start happening in town and it looks like Billie is under threat, Adam’s protective instincts outweigh his reticence and he takes Billie and Cal into his home.   And he finds, against his will, he likes it.

I enjoyed the Australian setting and farming work peppered throughout the story and  I liked how Billie stood up for herself with her new boss at the pub Roly and got her way in getting the pub modernised and bringing in new customers.  The “suspense” plot was a little thin I suppose but it all made sense and as I read for the romance I wasn’t bothered by it.

Billie has been through a lot in her life too and I appreciated that she was the sort of person who could take a little time to grieve but then got up and moved on with optimism, without being a Mary Sue.  Adam sees that and takes some inspiration I think.

I also enjoyed the scene where Adam went shopping.  Very fun. 🙂

The book is nothing earth-shattering – just a sweet sexy and short contemporary but I really enjoyed it.  The length is just right to finish in an evening and it left me with a smile on my face. 

What else?   According to Goodreads, the book was first released last year but it is up at NetGalley now as release for the new Destiny imprint so I guess it is getting a new audience. 

I enjoyed Ms. Hunter’s writing voice and will definitely be reading more from her.

Grade:  B+

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