The Lone Wolf

Unlikely Hero

One Hot Number by Sandy Steen
(Harl. Tempt. #880, 3.99, PG) ISBN 0-373-25980-8
Samantha Collins’ life has hit a rough patch. She has just lost her job as an accountant, she’s having major car trouble, she hasn’t had a man in her life for eight months, and she’s forced to drive out to a ranch in the middle of nowhere to do one final appraisal for her good-for-nothing boss. There she meets Ryder Wells, who has been dreading the appraiser’s arrival. He is desperate to save the ranch, which has been in his family for generations, and has run into some dire financial straits. It turns out that Ryder just doesn’t have the financial know-how to save his ranch. But what does he have?

You guessed it, a stud-muffin body and a face that could be right out of GQ. What does Samantha have? The financial know-how to save his ranch. Do you see where I’m going with this? Yes, indeed, it is another case of the “cold, hard business deal that turns into a romance.” While I’ve seen this plotline work effectively before, this particular “business deal” just didn’t sit right with me. Samantha wants lots of great sex (presumably with no commitment). Ryder wants help figuring out the finances so he can save his ranch. Samantha talks him into trading sex for brain power. Call me old-fashioned, but this just doesn’t seem very romantic.

Samantha begins her work at the ranch the very next day, abandoning her apartment and whatever life she may have had there. That night Ryder plans to seduce her by taking her for a sunset walk. A nice idea, right? Maybe he’d like to get to know her better as a person. But no, Samantha doesn’t want or need any of that stuff. She wants to get right down to it, and pretty much pulls him into bed. They have known one another for 24 hours at this point. The story plods along in this vein pretty much for the duration of the book. By day she’s working hard with the numbers, trying to figure out how to help him. By night they’re having an affair based on little other than their physical attributes and their “business deal.”

Both characters spend a lot of time looking at and describing one another physically, but don’t really get into any emotional territory for the most part. There is no real tension between the characters. Not only have they consummated their relationship before it ever began, but then they don’t really proceed to build any kind of relationship based on anything but their attraction to one another and their loneliness.

Some insight into Ryder’s character is given throughout the story. We learn how he has been hurt in the past both by events in his family life and by a past relationship. He flies into a rage at Samantha at one point (quite inappropriately), and she prides herself on being able to take it and not “running away.” Running away probably would have been the smartest thing she could have done at that point, because she ends up being the victim of his emotional baggage again later in the book. It really became tiresome.

Samantha’s character never really came to light, which was frustrating. Aside from vague references to her upbringing in a Catholic orphanage, and her tendency to be “too good” (this was never demonstrated in the book), not much was said about her. She seemed desperate and lonely, and this made her a sad character. She apparently had no friends or family to speak of, and latched on to Ryder and his ranch staff like they were the family she never had.

One Hot Number was difficult for me to get through. I found myself putting the book down and then not picking it up for at least 24 hours. The plot was slow-moving; there wasn’t really enough going on. The characters seemed shallow, and their relationship wasn’t really interesting. It was a shame, because some of the writing was really very good. There was some genuinely funny dialogue in there. Unfortunately, as whole, One Hot Number left me cold.

--Kerry Keating

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