Crooked Creek Series/Book 1
Bantam/June 26, 2012
A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Tara Jean Sweet knows that opportunity will never knock. She'll have to seize it. Elderly Texas rancher Lyle Baker has a dying request: He will give Tara Jean a stake in his leather business in exchange for a little family subterfuge. All Tara Jean has to do is play the part of a gold-digging fiancée to lure his estranged children home. And the mission is soon accomplished.
Now, Lyle's gone—and his ridiculously handsome son, Luc, an ice hockey superstar sidelined by injuries, is the new owner of Crooked Creek ranch. He's also Tara Jean's boss. But being so close to sinfully sweet Tara Jean does crazy things to his priorities. Like make him want to kiss her deepest secrets from those irresistible lips. But when Tara Jean's past demands a dirty showdown, will Luc stay and fight?
The setup for Can't Buy Me Love made me think of something J. R. Ewing would pull. The way it's execute is a little bit different but no real surprises. It was pretty obvious early on what would happen and while part of that is to be expected, a couple of surprises would have been nice.
Luc Baker is facing the ending of his career, he just doesn't want to acknowledge it. With a serious head injury and the potential for it to become even more serious if he continues to skate, Luc needs to face reality. Then his father is back in Luc's life after years of estrangement. It's a messy, angry reunion that Luc is forced into. His only real family loyalty is to his mother, sister and nephew. Throw in a gold-digger with big boobs and short skirts and Luc is ready to leave this nightmare of a family reunion. I did like Luc but found his stubbornness regarding his injury juvenile. He's thirty-seven and he says hockey is his life, his doctor is telling he may not have a life if he continues to play hockey. He's not even suppose to train but he does that anyway. It's hard to respect a man who has so little respect for himself and his body. Wow, that sounds very judgmental but it's what came across to me.
Tara Jean, oh boy did we have some issues. She's not only from the wrong side of the tracks but from the wrong side of the law. She is trying to be good and has been working (legally) very hard for a number of years. But as the blurb says, her pasts comes back to haunt her in a big, nasty way. I did respect her wanting to better herself. The issue I had with her was her continued respect and to a certain extent, defense of Lyle Baker. The guy was a complete asshat of a father to his kids. Just because Tara Jean believes he treated her well, he used her, doesn't erase the years of abuse he inflicted on his children. The other thing about Tara Jean is I never felt I really got to know her. She kept switching who she was to the point where Luc even said every time he turned around he didn't know who he was going to get. I didn't either.
Victoria is Luc's sister and Lyle's daughter and only feels she has value as a wife. She's going through a rough time but I had very little sympathy for her due to her continued poor me attitude and not learning from her recent and very big mistake of trusting the wrong person, her deceased husband. Instead of learning and focusing on her son, she decides she needs a man and trusts a guy she knows little about. I did like her son Jacob. The kid was cute and brought out some good in Victoria.
Tara Jean and Luc's romance definitely had some steam. They did get to know each other very well with their clothes off. It was with them on that needed the work. I do think Luc brought more to the relationship after he changed his opinion of Tara Jean. At first he was very attracted to the big boobs and short skirts, which pissed him off and I found amusing. Then once he became to understand her situation he was far more forgiving of Tara Jean than she was of herself.
I wish this romance had been able to work it's magic on me. I could have done with Luc working through his retirement from hockey rather than fighting it. And Tara Jean's "demon voice", as she called the voice inside her head which she had conversations with, I could have done without. I think for now I stick with Ms. O'Keefe's Harlequin romances.
Crooked Creek Series ~
Can't Buy Me Love
Can't Hurry Love (July 31, 2012)