Luck of the draw A chance of a lifetime

Kate Clayborn

eBook - 2018

Buying a lotto ticket with her two best friends didn't change Zoe's life. Only following her heart would do that . . . Sure, winning the lottery allows Zoe Ferris to quit her job as a cutthroat corporate attorney, but no amount of cash will clear her conscience about the way her firm treated the O'Leary family in a wrongful death case. So she sets out to make things right, only to find gruff, grieving Aiden O'Leary doesn't need-or want-her apology. He does, however, nee...d something else from her. Something Zoe is more than willing to give, if only to ease the pain in her heart, a sorrow she sees mirrored in his eyes . . . Aiden doesn't know what possesses him to ask his family's enemy to be his fake fiancée. But he needs a bride if he hopes to be the winning bid on the campground he wants to purchase as part of his beloved brother's legacy. Skilled in the art of deception, the cool beauty certainly fits the bill. Only Aiden didn't expect all the humor and heart Zoe brings to their partnership-or the desire that runs deep between them. Now he's struggling with his own dark truth-that he's falling for the very woman he vowed never to forgive.

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Clayborn, Kate. Chance of a lifetime romance.
Romance fiction
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[United States] : Lyrical Press 2018.
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1 online resource
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Main Author
Kate Clayborn (author)
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hoopla digital (-)
Review by New York Times Review

SOME PEOPLE SAY that summer reading - whether poolside or briskly air-conditioned - means big, unwieldy books, too heavy to lug farther than from the shelf to the lounge chair, a single volume to last the season. These people baffle me. The best summer reading is absorbing, delightful and, in the sun or shade, will make you break a sweat. That's romance, and here are eight new releases for the summer. They'll take you from Regency England to Gilded Age New York to present day, from summer camp to a Broadway stage to, yes, a sex-commune chateau in rural France. let's start with that sex-commune chateau. Tiffany Reisz's THE CHATEAU (8th Circle Press; paper, $14.95; ebook, $5.99) is both a spiritual sequel to the midcentury erotic novel "Story of O" and a prequel to Reisz's erotic thriller series, Original Sinners, but it works beautifully as a stand-alone story. There are a few hints at its prequel nature, but let those flow by and there's a surprisingly engrossing erotic thriller here all on its own. I say "surprisingly" because the plot, on paper, is thin. Kingsley Boissonneault, a lieutenant in a secret French military intelligence agency, is tasked with rescuing a supervisor's nephew from a suspected cult. What Kingsley finds is a fully consensual commune where men serve the women and everyone is very happy with the situation. Kingsley is a secret masochist, which gives him an edge in gaining entry to the chateau as well as a thorny past to work through in his time there - he's haunted by dreams of his high school lover, a beautiful and sadistic boy who abandoned him. By the strictest rules of romance, "The Chateau" isn't one - the core of the book isn't a romantic relationship, but Kingsley's coming to peace with his past. But it's surely a romantic thriller, and a very erotic one at that. Reisz writes sadomasochistic scenes that are charged with love and care alongside the sex and suffering, and Kingsley is an engaging hero to follow on this strange fantasy of a mission. IN WICKED AND THE WALLFLOWER (Avon; paper, $7.99; ebook, $6.99), Sarah MacLean sets out to capture a different kind of darkness - that of the criminal underbelly of 1830 s London. MacLean has moved back and forth between Regency aristocracy and outlaws before; here she kicks off a new series, The Bareknuckle Bastards, that promises her darkest take yet. But even when MacLean goes dark, or tries to, the sparkling wit and essential goodness of her characters shine through. Devil, one of the aforementioned Bastards, is as noble as a crime lord comes; his adopted name doth protest too much. He's determined to stop his half brother, who's assumed the title of Duke of Marwick, from marrying 27-year-old spinster Felicity Faircloth and having an heir. Devil plans to ruin her before Marwick can make her a bride, which of course creates some problems when he finds himself truly in love. It's a good thing Devil is a smuggler, an architect of roughly victimless crimes, because he's so damn benevolent that nothing darker could be believed. But Felicity is the real diamond of the story, smart and strange and brave, just off-kilter enough that her spinsterdom and irresistibility both ring perfectly true. ELOISA JAMES'S LATEST, TOO WILDE TO WED (Avon; paper, $7.99; ebook, $6.99), also pokes at historical romance's reliance on the aristocracy by bringing together the heir to a dukedom and a woman determined not to be a duchess. Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde - who thankfully goes by plain "North" - returns from two years fighting for England in the Revolutionary War to find that Diana, the fiancee who jilted him just before he shipped out, has taken up residence in the ducal home. She's taken employment as governess to North's youngest sister, and she's brought along a toddler who everyone assumes is her own out-ofwedlock son. In the years of North's absence, Diana has found freedom in employment; she understands more than ever that life as a duchess would be a prison for her. Which is a shame, as she and North, now unengaged, start to fall perilously in love. North has returned from war traumatized by the loss of nearly all his men in a disastrous battle. What starts to heal him isn't sex or romance; it's the friendship that blossoms between him and Diana now that they're unburdened by courtship. When sex and love do creep into the picture, Diana's insistence that they're still just friends seems ridiculous but completely believable, too, since she refuses to give up her independence. Don't let this talk of friendship fool you, though - this is a love story, and a sparkling one at that. Diana is a refreshingly adult and self-aware heroine in a genre full of sheltered ingenues, and her romance with North doesn't negate their friendship but builds on its solid foundation. IF LYNN TURNER'S PAS DE DEUX (; paper, $16.99; ebook, $3.99) has a few stumbles, that's only for its ambitious reach. Mina Allende is a black prima ballerina, American-born but working in France, who moves to New York to star in "Lady in Red," a Broadway musical by writer/dancer/director/choreographer/star/genius Zachary Coen. The show is speeding toward opening night at a clip that Türner thankfully acknowledges is nonstandard - not a workshop or out-of-town production in sight! - but there's plenty of time for Zack and Mina to dance together, fight together and smolder, smolder, smolder. Türner describes choreography with great clarity and emotion, but her descriptions of New York City can be vague. Mina and Zack's relationship is a solid anchor, a vivid push-and-pull that grows from instant chemistry to deep connection. Although the book isn't particularly long, it starts to drag in its second half since the romance is resolved well before the ending. That makes the remaining plot threads - the success of "Lady in Red," never actually in doubt, and a late-stage thriller story line that's not bad but totally unnecessary - feel a bit like a very long epilogue. It's a testament to Türner's prose, then, that her characters ring true to the very last page, and the actual epilogue - a meaningful glimpse into Mina's future - left me with tears in my eyes. in the author's note appended to the kiss quotient (Berkley; paper, $9.99; ebook, $9.99), Helen Hoang writes that as she was researching the book, about an autistic woman who hires an escort for lessons in the bedroom, Hoang came to understand not only her main character but also herself, finding a framework that explained the struggles she'd faced her whole life. As she writes, "Sometimes instead of confining you, a label can set you free." And indeed, Hoang writes Stella with insight and empathy, especially when Stella's actions are inscrutable to the people around her. Stella's aware of that disconnect, too, and her frustration is a sharp sadness in an otherwise gentle, frothy book. That's not to say it's without conflict - there's Stella's overbearing mother, who pushes her to date; the obnoxious co-worker who corners her with unwanted kisses (why is no one reporting this to H.R.?); Stella's struggles to communicate with Michael, the dreamy escort she hires; and Michael's own secret-keeping about the work he does to pay off a mysterious debt. But the stakes only feel serious when we're in them with Stella. She's baffled, for example, when Michael's mother isn't grateful to learn that she's contaminated food by microwaving it in plastic. Stella may be oblivious to some social cues, but she's potently aware when she blunders, and that's a heartbreaking tension. What's most beautiful about her blossoming relationship with Michael, then, is that he shows her that there's nothing wrong with her at all. it's odd that the lightest romance on this list, Kate Clayborn's luck of THE DRAW (Lyrical Press/ Kensington; ebook, $3.99), has one of the heaviest premises: After winning the lottery (O.K., that part's light), a corporate lawyer, Zoe Ferris, quits her job to try to figure out what's next. She decides that to move on, she needs to make amends, and high on her guilt list is the way her firm treated the O'Leary family in a wrongful-death case. Aiden O'Leary doesn't want Zoe's mea culpas for his brother's death, but he does want her help as a fake fiancee as he tries to buy the campground he and his brother loved as kids so he can convert it into a holistic rehab facility. (I know, I know.) In execution, it's hardly convoluted, and once you take the leap of faith into fake fiancee land, you get a warm and lively romance. Clayborn deals with Aiden's grief thoughtfully and gently, and Zoe's and Aiden's circles of friends add a real sense of the characters' lives beyond each other. I was also grateful to Clayborn for making Zoe's Type A tendencies a strength rather than a personality flaw. Most impressive, though, is Zoe and Aiden's complicated dynamic, a messy mix of animosity, attraction and empathy that never feels contrived. You understand why they resist their attraction - and why things are so turbulent when they give in - but just like their knowing friends who watch them play darts at the bar, you can see that Zoe and Aiden actually care about each other, and it's a pleasure to read along as they figure it out. HISTORICAL ROMANCE IS full of smart, strong women eking out a reprieve from patriarchal oppression and risking ruination for passionate love. In Regency England, the space they can eke is usually tiny, the size of a marriage and no more. Sure, there are outliers, but authors can only stretch historical constraints so far. Which is maybe why a romance set several decades closer to the present gives me a feeling I imagine is akin to taking off your corset at the end of the day: There's just more room to breathe. The heroine of the Gilded Age-set ASCANDALOUS DEAL (Avon; paper, $7.99; ebook, $6.99), Lady Eva Hyde is still plagued by sexist limitations, of course. She hides her ambition and skill as an architect by designing under the name of her father, whose progressive dementia prevents him from working. On a ship en route to New York, where Eva will oversee her "father's" latest project, she - for lack of a better phrase - hooks up with a dashing fellow passenger. She expects to never see him again, but there he is at her first day at work - Phillip Mansfield, owner of the hotel project that Eva has secretly designed herself. They both realize it would be terribly inappropriate to continue their affair, but that hardly stops them. Joanna Shupe vividly evokes 1890s New York, from glamorous restaurants to a Bowery boxing hall to the original Madison Square Garden. Eva faces sexism from the construction site staff and a more insidious implicit skepticism from Phillip. His journey to be the kind of man Eva can love, to understand and respect her ambition and independence, is deftly drawn. And Eva is a heroine for the ages - brilliant, sensitive and headstrong. It's only right that Phillip has to work like hell to win her. there's testing the boundaries of convention in historical romance, and then there's breaking them down altogether - and that is the glorious work of Cat Sebastian, whose unmasked BY THE MARQUESS (Avon/Impulse; paper, $5.99; ebook, $3.99) features a bisexual marquess and his nonbinary love interest. Charity Church has been living as Robert Selby for the last six years, first to go to Cambridge in the real Robby's stead and then, after Robby's death, to protect his sister (by his continued alive-ness) until she can marry. When Robby calls on Alistair, the Marquess of Pembroke, to request a favor, the normally stingy marquess is unable to refuse the winsome young man. The layers of deception that accumulate from that point are dense, and the stakes of revelation are high, though less for a woman wearing men's clothing and more for impersonating a deceased gentleman. Alistair is a nuanced version of a classic alpha-grump, gently and beautifully won over by Robby's sprightliness and open heart. In an early encounter, before anything has been revealed, Alistair says the young man he's just met doesn't seem like a Robert and declares, "Robin. That's what I'll call you." It's a christening of sorts, a genderneutral benediction, the gift of a name and an identity Charity can make her own. In an author's note, Sebastian writes that she uses female pronouns for the nonbinary Robin/Charity because "I don't think feminine pronouns would have bothered her." She also points out that people have lived beyond their birth-assigned genders throughout history. Robin feels no confusion. She is not wearing men's clothing for a trick or social freedom, but because that's how she feels most like herself. The most implausible elements of the story might be the easy triumph over gossip and social mores - there seems to be nothing that the clout and riches of a marquess cannot fix. But if that small implausibility is the price of admission for this swooning, sweeping romance, I'll pay it 10 times over. This book is a marvel and a gem. JAIME green is the Book Review's new romance columnist.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 3, 2018]