On the back cover the editor promises that this is a “fast-paced, sexy, sassy contemporary romance,” and it is. It’s also pretty much unrealistic, unsubstantial, and only skims the surface of both plot and characters.
Vanessa Tower is a slender, redheaded, prim and proper professor who has been a good girl all her life. She has a Ph.D. in art history, teaches in a small New England women’s college, and is working on her second book, about a local artist named Thomas Dunmoor. Dunmoor’s widow, Eugenie, who is a feisty, fragile, and determined old lady, has been working with her and asks Vanessa to do her a favor. Her grandson is her heir, about to inherit $2.6 million dollars worth of her husband’s work, in spite of the fact he has been estranged from his grandparents for twelve years. Eugenie has colon cancer, isn’t expected to live much longer, and wants a reconciliation with her grandson before she dies. So she asks Vanessa to talk to him for her.
Christopher “Crash” Dunmoor, said grandson, is about as different from Vanessa as anyone could be. He’s a daredevil who runs a parachute jumping school, and has tried every kind of wild adventure he can find, from scuba diving to mountain climbing. He’s tall and blond and built like a Viking with piercing green eyes. And he wants nothing to do with his grandmother or his grandfather’s paintings, until Vanessa tells him she’s dying. But when he agrees to go see her, neither he nor Vanessa realize that Eugenie has several tricks up her sleeve that they don’t know about.
Eugenie skillfully manipulates Crash into taking Vanessa’s class on his grandfather’s work, saying that if he passes with an A, she will give him the whole collection of paintings, but that if he doesn’t, the college will get them. This has Vanessa’s boss, the smarmy head of the Fine Arts Department, salivating and scheming.
Naturally, Vanessa and Crash fall into hot and heavy lust the moment they see each other, and so incendiary sex is a given. But Crash is a student, and Vanessa is his teacher, an assistant professor struggling for tenure. If their affair becomes public knowledge (as of course it does), her career would be not art history, but just history. In addition, they are both carrying fairly heavy loads of family baggage that complicate the relationship, and provide the only hint of complexity in the book.
The characters are somewhat stereotypical and Crash is little more than an overgrown adolescent, who jumps from one job and glamorous location to another, never committing himself to anything or anyone. Of course, as soon as he sets eyes on Vanessa, all that changes, and home and hearth begin to look pretty good
The plot is also pretty predictable, to say the least. Once the hero and heroine fall into instant lust, on about page 3 or so, it’s a given that Crash will give up adventuring, that Vanessa will get tenure and that the smarmy boss will get his comeuppance. The scene in the college president’s office when Crash uses the paintings to Vanessa her own endowed chair is not just predictable, but also ridiculous. And her sudden decision to get married as part of a parachute jump is completely out of character, right up there with wanting a husband named “Crash”, who makes his living as a daredevil. Even the secondary storyline about Vanessa’s sexy best friend who is pursued by one of Eugenie’s lawyers is without many complications. Eugenie is an intriguing, charming and interesting character, but she doesn’t really have enough front-and-center-time for her to make a difference in the predictable plot.
As for the stuff and nonsense about the $2.6 million collection of paintings and how they eventually end up where they do, there’s no way this could ever happen in a real academic setting. In fact, there’s really not much to sink your teeth into unless it’s Crash’s hunky body. (And even if I do prefer brunettes, it was a temptation!) This is cotton candy romance, sugar sweet, insubstantial, and gone in just a poof or two. If you’re looking for more than that, give this one a pass.
--Joni Richards Bodart