I can barely remember the last time I sat down and read a Harlequin, or really any short series books really. But I've been curious about this one, and as it happened to be available on paperbackswap, I swapped in a credit and it arrived on my doorstep last night.
The reason for my interest was because the author Jessica Bird also writes under the name JR Ward, and unless you've been hiding under a rock, you're probably aware that Ward is the author of the very successful Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I've read all of the BDB and enjoyed them (although to varying extents), so I was curious to see what her writing would be like outside of that particular world. I'm happy to report that it's quite good.
Sean O'Banyon has risen far above his humble working class Boston roots to become a powerful Wall Street financier. He's successful, gorgeous, filthy rich and trusting of no one, least of all women. Back in Boston, nurse Lizzie Bond mourns the death of her landlord and crusty old neighbor, Eddie O'Banyon. When she notifies Mr. O'Banyon's next-of-kin about his death, she has no idea that the man she's talking to on the phone is a famous corporate baron. When he comes down to Boston to pack up his father's belongings, they find themselves drawn to each other. Sean is wary of women lusting after his money, but Lizzie only knows him as the son of her neighbor. This anonymity allows him to be himself around her and they spend time getting to know each other and gradually falling in love.
Of course the road to the HEA can't be totally smooth. Sean is hiding some major emotional issues from Lizzie, primarily the truth about his father. Although Lizzie knew him as a kind old neighbor - a sort of surrogate father figure - to Sean and his brothers, Eddie O'Banyon was the nightmare who destroyed their childhoods with alcohol-fueled physical abuse. The after-effects of this upbringing haunt them all still. Sean makes mistakes on more than one occasion because of his tendency to view all potential emotional entanglements through a lens of suspicion and mistrust. But Lizzie is a refreshingly open person who doesn't put up with crap and doesn't play the martyr.
I really liked this book. It was an easy quick read and it pushed none of my major hot-buttons. Misunderstandings were cleared up without taking pages and pages of angst. I particularly liked that Lizzie made it a condition of their relationship that Sean begin to see a therapist. I've read too many books in which the hero's serious emotional issues are swept aside as if a declaration of love is going to make it all go away and that the heroine can somehow "fix" him. This felt way more realistic.
As for the Bird/Ward thing, I will say that I noticed a few similarities in the writing styles. A little name-brand dropping (although way WAY less than in BDB), a few times where Sean uses that pattern of speech "..and um, yeah..." which makes him sound like one of the Brothers having a heart to heart, and the mention of Sean's childhood friend one Butch O'Neal. But no extraneous h's, so s'all good, you feel me?