Annie and the Red-Hot Italian (Balfour Brides #6)

Annie and the ItalianBy Carole Mortimer

Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: December 21, 2010
Genre: Category Romance
Source: Purchased

Annie is a single mother who adores her young son–but as one of the notorious Balfour heiresses, she will have to work hard to give her baby a normal childhood. Then a chance meeting forces her back into the world of Luca de Salvatore, the gorgeous father of her child
Luca doesn’t know that he has a son. Annie has to tell him, but Luca can’t see past her spoiled and scandalous Balfour reputation. Can Annie find a way to make Luca understand–and let her little boy know his father?

Goodreads Summary

Thumbing through this past month’s stack of Harlequin Presents subscription delivery, I was a little disappointed to see there wasn’t a single unexpected or scandalous pregnancy, no virgin sheik bride or innocent secretary mistress.  There was however a new, *gasp* Balfour Brides book!  I settled in with popcorn (I never start these things with chocolate), expecting either something crushingly beige like Zoe and the Tormented Tycoon or well, something better.  I never advanced to chocolate since it was a little boring, but this still was one of the better entries, thanks to the capable hands of Carole Mortimer.

For the Balfour Brides newbies, Oscar Balfour has eight daughters (one of whom isn’t really his – that’s Zoe) who generally spend a lot of time Being Misunderstood, Acting Out and ending up in the tabloids.  He’s been sending them off one by one to discover their destiny, under the guise of finally making them earn a living and stop sponging off of him; the wily old goat seems to have some sort of crystal ball and manages to send each daughter to exactly the place they either find an old lover or some other Destined Thing.

Young Annie Balfour had a one night stand with a gorgeous guy named Luc (the titular Red-Hot Italian), except it wasn’t supposed to be one night; he was called away when his father had a heart attack and never got to let Annie know, so she thought he ditched her.  Now nearly four years later, Daddy Balfour’s sent Annie back to Italy to a conference at a hotel owned by none other than…Luca de Salvatore, the man she’d shared a passionate night with.  She’s stunned to see him and not too happy when she finds out he doesn’t even remember her. Ten pages in, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to guess why Annie’s been sent to Italy by her meddling father.  When she ran into Luc she’d been talking lovingly to someone named Oliver.  Yeah, this should have been titled, The Obvious Red-Hot Italian’s Love Child.  When Luc finds out about his son, his reaction is red..oh, this is just too easy.

There were the usual HP plot points to check off: angry alpha male demands custody of child he didn’t know he had, feisty woman swears he won’t get near her baby, alpha male decides they’ll get married to solve the problem, feisty woman swears she’ll never submit, issue with child occurs and both realize they need to put differences aside.

What gave this a little twist for me and made it readable was that Annie and Luc actually seemed like nice people; Luc wasn’t an ass out to hurt Annie most of the time.  He was carrying around a load of shame from things that had happened around the time he met Annie and while he made a lot of judgments about her based on her family name – hey, I read the books, the Balfours are a nutty lot – he occasionally made an effort to apologize when he realized he hurt her.  He generally just didn’t do anything that would require a huge amount of groveling later on, and while I do love a good grovel, it was nice to see a hero that wasn’t such a pig that he would require one.  Annie was a good woman too; she never set out to deceive Luc about Oliver and had intended to tell him once she knew who he was, but things went a little haywire.  She didn’t want to marry without love and while she knew what she felt, she never was sure about him.

What ultimately kept this a little boring was that this just had an air of not really being about any grand passion.  Maybe it was that lack of jerk-ness that did it in, but there seemed less conflict, so less of an explosion when all was said and done.  It didn’t mean the story wasn’t good – and I really liked Annie and Luc – it just meant that for me, it just was okay.

Just one weird observation: I’ve read a bunch of HPs lately and this has to have been the most sexually explicit one I’ve come across.  There are only a couple of scenes, but they’re very racy.  There’s oral sex (unfinished) and pretty descriptive discussion of aroused female anatomy.  I very prudishly blushed.  Okay, not. But my mom’s face would have been bright red and she continued turning the pages.

My Rating: C+

Barbara

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