To preface this review, Stephanie James is one of Jayne Ann Krentz’s several pseudonyms, and it is hard to read any book of hers and not draw comparisons. In fact, this particular James novel is very close to what would become Ms. Krentz’s trademark style – one feisty heroine plus one attractive and dangerous male equals instant sizzle!
Ariana Warfield is certainly feisty. In fact, she’s a little over-the-top when it comes to feistiness. So she finds it hard to believe she’s met her match in a lowly magician named Lucian Hawk. Ariana believes that appearances are important, money should be made and handled properly, and is about as upright as you could imagine. So how Lucian gets her flat on her back within a short time of meeting her – and yes, he happens to be on top of her at the time – is quite fascinating.
Both characters are really very interesting. Contrary to the popular style of the time, Ms. James isn’t afraid to present Ariana in a less than flattering light early on in the story, only later does she delve more deeply into Ariana’s life and the reasons behind her opinions. Lucian, on the other hand, is perfect hero material, attractive, dark, decidedly dangerous and mysterious, and with secrets of his own.
When the two join forces to thwart a con artist, more than plots are hatched. The sparks that strike up between Lucian and Ariana are quite explosive, again hinting at that wonderful Krentz sensuality that pervades her later novels. I very much enjoyed this book on several levels. Firstly as a work by an author whose current writing I enjoy, secondly as a good story in its own right, and thirdly as a change from some other Stephanie James novels, which have catered to the “little woman” mentality and the “big hero in charge” scenario. If you’re going to check out some early Krentz, be warned... they are a volatile bunch of tales, with some really good ones, and a few that will make any twenty-first century woman cringe!! Thankfully, this isn’t one of those!