Far From Perfect

Far From PerfectBy Portia Da Costa

Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Purchased

At age twenty, Anna Felgate rid herself of her unwanted virginity with the one man she adored – Nick Lisitano, long-time family friend and legendary lover. But that one taste of passion branded her soul for all time – and still casts a long shadow, four celibate years later.Their single night of matchless lovemaking left Nick racked with remorse for taking advantage of Anna’s innocence. Thanks to his parents’ stormy marriage, he’s sworn off commitment, but believes Anna deserves deep, enduring love, not a temporary liaison.

In the intervening years, they’ve managed to keep a cordial distance, but when a crisis in Nick’s family brings them together again, Anna is shocked by Nick’s daring plan to cheer up his dangerously ill father – a temporary façade of an engagement. Against her better judgment, she agrees to it, fully aware of the emotional minefield yawning before her.

As if destiny has been waiting for them to touch once again, their volcanic mutual attraction reignites, threatening to burn the terms of their pragmatic bargain to ashes. Each begins to wonder privately if their passion can become permanent – or whether it will crumble under the weight of past sins and present secrets…

Goodreads Summary

Sliding into the bed of family friend Niccolo Lisitano one night, Anna wanted more than just to lose her virginity.  Desperately in love with the playboy, she’s hoping that spending a night of passion with her will convince him to give a relationship with her a chance.  When Nick fully recovers from their lovemaking though, he’s horrified and angry that she came to him to lose her virginity and that she thinks he’s interested in any sort of commitment.

Four years later, Nick approaches a cooler, more sophisticated Anna with a proposition: his father is extremely ill and not recovering as he should be.  He thinks an emotional boost is what he needs and since he’s always been very fond of Anna and thought Nick and Anna should have been a couple, he asks her if she’ll pretend to be his fiancée until his father recovers properly.  Now it’s Anna’s turn to be horrified.  She’s still in love with Nick and the thought of even pretending to be engaged to the man who stomped on her heart makes her sick, but he takes the decision out of her hands when he announces their engagement to her own thrilled father.

Nick isn’t as indifferent to Anna as he pretends to be – not now and he wasn’t four years ago either.  He still refuses to think of them as a permanent couple and he has remorse about hurting her, but it’s not going to stop him from trying to get back in her bed while they play the engaged couple.  He keeps blowing hot and cold, but Anna keeps holding out hope that if she shows Nick that she loves him, she’ll change his mind about marriage – but she’s rudely shown that he hasn’t changed his playboy ways.

I was surprised that this ended up in Samhain’s regular contemporary line-up because it doesn’t seem like it’s a terribly good fit.  I like Da Costa very much – if there is such a thing, her writing style is very British, full of slang, atmosphere and attitude.  She’s also very versatile – the last story I’d read of hers was from an anthology called Naughty Bits 2.  Her contribution, Chance of a Lifetime, was about a maid who’d caught her boss enjoying some spanking videos and decided to offer him the real thing.  It was some very saucy erotica and as different as night and day from this.  This, I’d have put in a Harlequin Presents line, both for the storyline and for the lesser degree of sexual content.

The “let’s get engaged to make my father get better,” storyline is sort of dated.  It’s a good way to bring those lusty Italian lovers together with reserved British misses in HP novels, but not something I’d really expect to happen in 2010.  It may just be that I’m addicted enough to those HP’s (I totally am) and I like Da Costa a great deal (I do), but I kept reading.

The plot moves along at a very slow pace – I glanced down at my progress bar on my Kindle at one point and saw I was at the halfway mark and the pair hadn’t even gone past the night after their engagement.  What there is, is the building of tension between the two as Nick advances on Anna and she tries to back away from him.

The story alternates between Nick and Anna’s perspectives, and that went a long way towards making the story interesting.  If I’d only known how Anna felt, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this, because most of the time, Nick acted like an ass.  She was very vulnerable to him, almost to the painful point of a sort of hero-worship, yet each time he pushed her away she seemed unable to stop herself from going back to him.  I was relieved to see that at some point she did finally make a stand.

The saving grace of the story was that Nick was completely unsure of his welcome with Anna each time he approached her and loathed himself each time he hurt her, even knowing he’d be doing it again when he left her.  He may have been confident that he could keep her sexually, but knowing that it was all he’d ever have of her hurt him too.  His reason for not being able to commit to Anna was pretty stupid, but honestly, people have had dumber reasons.

My Summary: The title of the book may sum up more than just the characters and situation in the story.  I think that had this been placed somewhere else, it might garner an audience more suitable for it, and it’s a shame because it’s a sweet little story that I think might get lost where it is. It doesn’t carry the erotic elements of some of Da Costa’s other work but it still has the rest of her trademark writing style, characters worth caring about and a nice swoony ending.

My Rating: B-

Barbara

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