Tempting the Negotiator
Zana Bell (Harlequin Superromance)
**released in Australia/NZ in April as a 'Special Moments' two-in-one
Reviewed by Nikki Logan
Really, really close in the case of Sass. Chemistry is immediate between the two opposing forces—for better and for worse—but eventually the two long-celibate campaigners take all that seething tension to its inevitable conclusion.
Bad idea – really bad idea. Sass is a list-lover, she thrives on systems and keeps the world safely at arms-reach by maintaining a careful control of her environment. Jake is a surf bum, he wears chaos like cologne, and his recent bout of responsibility is not sitting well with the man who likes to flit between countries, women and projects. Deep down, Sass knows there is no way Jake’s going to be able to keep separate what goes on beneath the covers from what's beneath the cover of the contentious report she’s preparing for her head office. But in Arohra Bay—named for the fatal attraction between two Maori lovers—nothing can keep them apart. Not even certain heartbreak.
I loved this book. With its contemporary down-under setting, its nature/conservation focus and really likeable, really human characters it’s exactly the book I like to read and try to write. Being a Superromance, it has the word-length to indulge a posse of minor characters, notably a group of at-risk boys that Jake is taking through a surf-camp type development program. That sub-plot and the environmental thread kept me engaged and reading on well after I should have turned out the light.
Zana’s Sass (“Pain-in-the-Sass” according to Jake) is the kind of flawed heroine I like to meet. She may look like a fresh-from-the-pack Barbie Doll but she’s addicted to cigarettes, she has trouble with intimacy, she comes from a damaged background and she’s let her family—all she has in the world if you don’t count her back-breaking job—fragment and become estranged.
Jake’s a commitment-phobe who comes from a wealthy background but has reactively eschewed all things commercial and turned beach-bum as only someone with a financial fall-back can truly do. Sass rightly pings him for forgetting that there are others in the bay who struggle for a dollar and for whom the resort would be a godsend. In fact, you get the feeling that the charismatic Findlaysons are the only ones actually against the project. But they’re a big force in the town and a big hurdle to scramble over.
I’ve not been to New Zealand, yet I have a good mental picture of gorgeous Arohra Bay and of the Maori culture as well as contemporary New Zealand culture. Zana’s writing style is easy to read, and her kiwi characters are suitably potty-mouthed and laconic to make it feel just like home for this Aussie. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Superromance/Special Moments, but if Tempting the Negotiator is a sign of their coming direction I say bring it on!
Zana - you've done the LoveCats proud!! Can't wait for your next one.