Melanie George delivers a riveting and enticing novel with "To Die For." Rarely have I read such a heart stopping depiction of a contemporary romance hero. Although this story occurs in a corporate setting of a successful magazine publisher, the main characters definitely carry the majority of the story. Often, it seems, in a romance novelist's efforts to set the environment of the novel, the reader is deluged with facts and figures and sometimes dragged down in too many details. Most readers, I would presume, read a romance novel for the romance and we want it to be in a believable, accurate setting. But we are not reading the book, as in this case, to learn more about publishing. We are reading about the lives of the people who manage the publishing. This author has created an interesting publishing arena for her story that frames a remarkable romance.
Abby St. James has just inherited her father's business, Bastion, a highly successful gentleman's magazine. Abby has never been involved in her father's business and lives in Idaho. Abby has not lived with her father since her parents' divorce when she was a child. She has lived with her mother, caring for her until her recent death. Abby's twin, Michaela, has both lived with her father since the divorce and has worked for his magazine.
Michaela has a bad reputation with men. She has cruelly used men and actually married several older men, all who have died. Her reputation also reaches to the magazine publishing business where she is known to be vindictive, autocratic, and impulsive to a fault. Through her actions at work, she has alientated the publisher, Stefan Massari, and he hates working with her and distrusts her is all matters. When Abby inherits all of the magazine company, Michaela goes to Europe for an extended vacation and Abby begins working at Bastion. Upon her arrival at work her first day, she is blasted by the magazine's publisher, Stefan, for Michaela's actions prior to her trip to Europe. Abby has no intention of deceiving any one about her identity, but just as Stefan has mistaken Abby for her twin, others within the company do so as well. Almost immediately, Abby decided to keep her true identity a secret to give her time to assess the possible damage her twin has done within the company. Needless to say, no one likes Michaela and Abby contends with her enemies within the company as well as in her personal life.
Stefan is appalled to find he is consistently drawn to Michaela when he has never before. He cannot figure out what she is up to because she is no longer the hostile, demanding, and selfish woman he remembers. Abby is a gentle spirit and as opposite her twin as possible. She is inexperienced with men and basically a very shy person. This is the person that Stefan is drawn to and Abby is definitely fighting a strong attraction to Stefan.
This book is not a light read. It covers a lot of heavy issues such as rape, suicide, illness, sexual perversion, and murder. It is not your typical romance novel. I usually read several novels concurrently. It helps me savor each story if I do not allow myself to rush through a book to see how it ends. This, however, is one book I could not read while reading other books at the same time. It demanded all of my attention. I did not want to quit reading it and did read it non-stop with only one or two breaks.
The hero, Stefan, is certainly dreamy. He is not so much the forceful dominant male we see so often in romances but yet he does dominate any scene he is in because of his immense self-confidence. He is also not your typical rake - he is choosy about who he dates and does not play around just for the sex. He has a very mature personality and carries the role of publisher of this very classy magazine easily. He seeks to understand the motives of a person's behavior and is a well-liked and accepted manager.
Abby is a saint compared to her twin, Michaela. She works hard, treats her co-workers with respect, and offers smart, sensible suggestions. She is thoughtful and conservative and is the type of woman Stefan has always wanted. He has the desire and need to have as his future wife a person he can take care of. Michaela could never fit that role but this new Michaela he sees - does. Yes, he is one confused man.
The romance between Abby and Stefan is bittersweet until Stefan discovers her true identity. The two don't communicate through fighting and misunderstanding. The growth in their relationship is truly touching. The chemistry between the two is rich and tangible. On a scale of one to five, the sensual scenes are a solid four (see "more about me" for sensual rating guidelines) and occur several times.
Any time in the book that Abby and Stefan are on the same page, you have got some great interaction going - even if it is a disagreement. You truly feel their emotions when in each other's company. The story is moving and heart wrenching. Stefan is one of my favorite contemporary heroes. I will definitely keep this book to read again at another time. I could read it again right now. This is the first book I have read by this author and am now looking forward to reading her other novels. Although this book has been referred to as melodramatic, it is still a wonderful story!