When Tessa Donovan's older brother Jamie makes an error in judgement that threatens her family's brewery and the relationship between him and their eldest brother Eric, Tessa flies into damage control mode. She'll do anything to re-secure the deal that Jamie's impulsive behavior had blown, just to keep the peace in her family. Making her life more complicated is her attraction to police detective Luke Asher, the cop investigating the robbery of the brewery's computer and some of its product.
Not that the attraction itself causes complications. Her over-protective big brothers do that all on their own. And when Jamie, who knew Luke from their shared college days, informs Tessa that Luke isn't the man she thinks he is and explains some of Luke's dark past, Tessa has that much more to think about. She's the queen of keeping secrets, but those that Luke hold may threaten the foundations on which she rests her heart. And that's way too big a risk to take...no matter how much Tessa may want to.
I've got a big problem with this book. I thoroughly enjoy Dahl's writing style and admire the breezy, fast-moving narrative, sexy dialogue, and lighter tone. I loved Luke, and was particularly pleased with the way Dahl added some depth to his character by shackling him with a truly nasty reputation. The way truths were slowly revealed was very appealing and made him and his backstory seem genuine and his pain heartfelt. I enjoyed him in the book immensely.
Then there are the Donovans. Rarely have I been as disgusted by two characters as I was of Tessa and her older brother Jamie. I was leery of them both from the very start. The book begins with Jamie confessing to Tessa that he had sex with the daughter of the man who owns the company with which their eldest brother Eric has been negotiating for months to secure a distribution contract. Despite being repeatedly warned against doing just that...though the fact that he needed the warning to begin with sort of makes a statement all its own - one that nearly screams that he's a frickin' moron with impulse control problems.
Jamie didn't mean to sex up daddy's little girl, of course. I guess he tripped and fell on her while his...flag was flying high. Oops.
Then, to compound that idiocy, Tessa not only plans to keep Jamie's rampant hormonal stupidity a secret from Eric, but when Jamie further confesses that the woman's father may have seen him as Jamie left her place that morning, she dives headfirst into a covert life of backdoor negotiations, pleas, and begging to prevent the man from backing out of the deal that had been moments from being signed. She lies to Eric and when Jamie wants to do the right thing and confess, she convinces him not to. She lies to...well...almost every other primary and secondary character in the book, also, including herself. Even Luke is not spared her falsehoods, prevarications, and omissions, and she LIKES him. In fact, from what I could figure judging from various sections of Tessa's internal monologue, that whole lying thing is second nature to Tessa by now.
I can't like a heroine who is so completely incapable of honesty, regardless of the reason. Tessa didn't stop there, though. She multiplied my displeasure by not only being a pathological liar, but by being what, for me, is the only thing worse. A complete and utter hypocrite. It's apparently fine for her to lie to anyone and everyone, but don't so much as omit a detail to her, regardless of its consequence in the grand scheme, or she'll treat you like you're a communicable disease. Charming girl, really.
By the time some glimpse of reason for her neurotic pathology and her emotionally needy self-absorption came into the story, I was beyond caring. I already hated her. A lot. No amount of the author trying to convince me that Tessa acted like such a freak because of a deep-seated fear of losing her brothers and being hurt by Luke was going to make her character seem sympathetic to me.
Unfortunately, if I don't like one of the two lead characters in a romance novel, than the romance doesn't work for me, i.e. the book doesn't work for me. Sadly, it doesn't matter how well-written the plot, or how appealing the other characters, or how pleasant the writing style, I just don't enjoy the read.
I didn't enjoy Good Girls Don't, and though Jamie did end up being a character I felt for by the end, and he did want to be honest with Eric from the start, given his unbelievable stupidity in the beginning of this book, I'm very concerned about what's coming in his own. Dahl certainly has the ability to completely redeem a character and provide a thoroughly entertaining book featuring Jamie as the male romantic lead. I just hope she does so.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.