The title: Heated Rush
The author: Leslie Kelly
Publication: Harlequin Blaze, 2008
Got it from: The Sony Store
Back in March of last year, I gushed about how much I adored Leslie's Kelly's Slow Hands, where the bios of two bachelors at auction get mixed up and Maddie Turner ends up with a guy who she thinks is a gigolo, but is actually a paramedic. Now we get to see the flip side, where wholesome Annie Davis needs a nice paramedic to take home to meet her parents and ends up with suave -ahem- international businessman Sean Murphy.
I had my doubts that the sequel could live up to its predecessor. I loved hunky-but-wholesome Jake and smart, curvy Maddie because it was an atypical role reversal: she was the world-weary, rich business type and he was the down-to-earth one. But I'm happy to report that Heated Rush was fun and sexy with loveable characters and sparkling dialogue. Leslie Kelly is fast becoming one of my favourite writers of contemporary romances. If all the Harlequin Blaze books were this good, I'd go broke.
Annie Davis is a Chicago daycare owner who has just gotten out a relationship where she was burned - badly. She goes to the bachelor auction on a whim, hoping to find a suitable replacement boyfriend to take home to her traditional farm family. Seeing Sean Murphy's picture in the program, she instantly falls in love. What she doesn't know is that he isn't a paramedic at all. He's an international businessman who runs an escort service and was once an escort himself. She ends up bidding all her life savings on him and they experience immediate sparks on their first meet-and-greet. But Annie quickly realizes that there's more to Sean than meets the eye.
Leslie Kelly does a nice job of not letting the "big secrets" become a big issue in the plot and they get resolved well before the end, where the big crisis is whether Sean will be able to compromise his lifestyle for this woman. I love how Sean's struggle for independence from his overbearing aristocratic Irish father is juxtaposed with Annie's struggle to prove to her family she can thrive in the big city. It's the key element in bringing them together - because they get one another in a way nobody else can. Yes, there's definite sexual attraction (an erotic encounter in a ball pit comes to mind) but despite major lifestyle differences, they're not so different that Annie can't appreciate his travel bug and he can't appreciate her need for home - because they both share those qualities. They are also each mature enough to address their concerns in a straightforward way, rather than doing the passive-aggressive dance so prevalent in romance.
It's well-rounded characters like these that elevate this Harlequin beyond just marshmallow fluff and create something so much more satisfying.