This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Western Romance
Released on December 20, 2013
I read this one as part of The Red Hot Lovers Box Set which is a variety pack of romances by eighteen different authors. Cora Seton was a new to me author. I was eager for the fun setting of a reality show competition involving the billionaire and the country vet. If she wins, she gets enough money to keep her vet practice and animal shelter open, but if he wins, he gets the requisite bride to keep his family hi-tech invention and development business from going to his brother who will turn it into something else. It was a contest of wills and a class difference romance all rolled into one entertaining read.
The story is part of a series, Cowboys of Chance Creek, about characters from the same small town, but it can easily be read as a standalone.
The story opens with Bella Chatham realizing that she will soon lose her business and all the animals she has saved because she is putting out more money than taking in. Bella feels the pain of failure, loneliness and isolation that come from a huge mistake in her past that her whole family blames her for, and the uncertain future when all is gone. But then things take a twist toward the exciting when her receptionist and friend shares that she might have entered Bella in a TV show contest and well, the producer and staff are arriving that very day to begin. Bella will win four million dollars if she beats another contestant, a billionaire, at several challenges. However, if she loses, she must marry this stranger and stay married for a year. No pressure!
Evan Mortimer only has a month left as stipulated by his grandfather’s will to get married or forfeit the company to his brother. He has worked hard to build it up and takes pride in the innovations they produced to better the world and he won’t let it all go so his brother can turn it all in another direction. Evan has an absolute phobia about letting anyone get close to him so winning a wife is what he decides is his only viable options. How hard can it be to beat a hick who can’t even keep a country veterinary business going?
The sparks fly when Evan looks down his rich nose at Bella and Bella proves that there is at least one woman not interested in him for his money. They are forced into close contact and never allowed a moment’s privacy between competitions. Somewhere along the way, understanding begins as they learn more about each other and both realize that they might stand to lose a great deal even if they win, but their reasons for the win haven’t changed.
This one seems like a light, fun read of sizzling attraction and exciting competition on the surface. It wasn’t long before I realized that there was an unexpected depth to the story because of their heartbreaking pasts. Evan comes across as a real jerk from the beginning, but as his past is revealed and his real fears come out, it humanizes him. Being with Bella gentles his harsh edges, eases his jaded outlook, and makes him willing to open up for the possibility of a true relationship. Bella is a bleeding heart for animals and is awkward around people, but then when her past comes forward, it all makes sense. She also learns to soften her stance and realize that Evan might have reasons for being the way he is just as she does. She also learns to see the past in a different light when Evan prods her to see it from the eyes of an adult.
With all that, this story became a little something more and I was glad for it. Their equally compelling needs to win were a nice touch and kept me wondering how they could ever possibly get together. The competition served to bring them close in ways and broke down their inner barriers. They were quite the passionate pair and quite competent in finding a way to get around the constant cameras for a bit of nighttime sport in the sleeping bag.
So all in all, I found the story an engaging read and I would definitely read more from this author. The fun of the competition setting, the depth of the character’s development, and the romance were all strong positive factors that I think would appeal to Contemporary Romance fans who like opposites attract and a bit of spice.
Additional Note: Last I checked this one was free at Amazon along with the first book in the series, The Cowboy’s E-Mail Order Bride which seems to be permanently free.