by Christie Ridgway

August 2005
ISBN: 0-06-076348-5
Reviewer Graphic Button Avon Books
Mass Market Paperback

Téa Caruso is an interior designer in Palm Springs and she has just landed an account that could finally take her business into the big time, an account so important that it may, finally, help people forget about her connections to the notorious Mafia don, Cosimo Caruso, her grandfather. It’s too bad Johnny Magee has hired her because of her connections. He needs an in to the Caruso family and he’s not above using Téa to get it…too bad he’s so attracted to her though.

Téa has lived all her life with the guilt she carries due to her connection to California’s Mafia. She just wants to forget her family heritage, but with Cosimo’s eightieth birthday coming up, with the pressure from her sisters to make amends with him, and with her strong attraction to her client, it seems forgetting isn’t going to be as easy as she’d like it to be. Especially considering the fact that the missing loanshark book is still around, hidden by Téa, just in case her father ever returns. Her father disappeared sixteen years ago never to be heard from again.

Johnny Magee has an agenda of his own. He wants to find out what happened to his own father. Johnny knows he was killed by the California Mafia, by the Carusos, as revenge against the murder of Sal Caruso, Téa’s father. Johnny needs to find out what Giovanni Martelli was doing, legally or illegally, before he died. It’s his mission and the reason he moved to Palm Springs. Getting involved with Téa is just a side benefit, and he tries to tell himself over and over again that he has no reason to feel guilty for their attraction, for their mutual satisfaction.

But as things heat up between Johnny and Téa, the truth starts to rear its head. Can these two figure out what really happened sixteen years ago? Can they let go of the past in order to make a better future for themselves?

An Offer He Can’t Refuse takes a close look at what it must be like being part of the Mob. Fans of The Sopranos will enjoy this book because it has a strong focus on not only the Mob, but also the importance of family. Téa and Johnny both feel strong guilt and loss over what the Mafia has done to them. This is their initial connection, but Christie Ridgway takes pains to prove that there is more than secrets between them, that what they share is a strong and abiding attraction, which subtly but quickly is turning into love. This story is infused with many different tones, including humor, sadness, guilt, and of course, love and happiness, all of which combine to make An Offer He Can’t Refuse a strong start to the “wisegirls” trilogy that will also feature, one assumes, stories about Eve and Joey, Téa’s sisters.

The one caveat I had to this book was the character of Johnny was at times too slick and too cruel for my tastes in a hero. His initial attitude towards Téa put me off of his character for much of the book, even with his reasoning, but in the end, I felt he redeemed himself by the actions he took when he learned the truth. And, despite my initial misgivings about his character, there was no doubt in my mind about his feelings for Téa, which is very important in any romantic hero.

All in all, An Offer He Can’t Refuse proved to be an intriguing story that will please readers. There were some unanswered questions that I hope get addressed in future books.

Reviewed in July 2005 by Sarah.

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