Luke Whitford’s father doesn’t think much of his only son. And this is despite the fact that Luke has done everything to mold himself into the kind of man his father wants. In an attempt to make his father proud, Luke takes a meeting for him with dangerous Russian businessman, Roman Demidov. Roman is less than impressed and initially dismisses the boyish Luke out of hand. But then he decides to kidnap the man in order to force the elder Whitford into paying back a large some of money.
But from the start, the kidnapping doesn’t go according to plan. Roman finds himself inexplicably drawn to Luke. Roman and Luke attempt to manipulate one another, all the while trying to ignore their growing feelings for one another. Luke manages to escape, but finds himself consumed by thoughts of Roman and their time together. When his father’s shady business deals threaten Luke once again, he has no choice but to turn to Roman for help. But with Roman back in his life, Luke must decide if he willing to let his chance at love walk away or risk his heart to a man who could destroy him.
I chose Just a Bit Ruthless for our September Reading Challenge Month because I’d never read anything by Alessandra Hazard, but had heard good things about this author. And while I definitely had issues with this book, I will be seeking out more of Hazard’s work. Just A Bit Ruthless is a part of the wider Straight Guys series, but easily read as a standalone. Any references to other books and characters were limited and didn’t affect my understanding of the overall plot. The basic structure of the story is simple: a guy is kidnapped and falls in love with his captor, who in turn falls in love with his hostage. The writing is solid and while occasionally wordy, the pacing is even and the book moved quickly for me. Both Luke and Roman are fairly well developed, though somewhat formalized in their personalities. Luke is a man who struggles with his sense of self and while he has accepted he is gay, he wrestles with his needs and sexual desires. We are told far too often that Luke is innocence personified and youthful in his appearance and this becomes an almost excessive point of Luke’s connection to Roman. A few mentions would have been fine, but I felt I was bludgeoned over the head with this particular aspect of their relationship. Roman is more of an enigma and though we are told about his past and upbringing, he still comes off as something of a stranger. But this works for his character and plays into the tall, dark and mysterious vibe he carries.
Unfortunately the romance didn’t work for me. Almost from the start Roman and Luke seemed like they were going through the motions rather than engaging in any kind of believable relationship. Almost everything romantically themed between them read as stilted and lacking in realistic passion. Luke never felt like an equal member of the partnership and while this possibly stems from his self identify struggles, it just came off as awkward and implausible.
Just a Bit Ruthless didn’t work for me because I couldn’t buy into the romance between Roman and Luke, and as this was such a huge part of the plot, the book suffered. This said, the writing was relatively strong and there was enough to like about the book that I will be seeking out more of Alessandra Hazard’s work. So while this particular title won’t be a favorite of mine, I’m thrilled the challenge month has given me a new author to explore.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from Interlude Press. One lucky winner will receive a selection of signed print books, as well as a variety of ebooks by authors new to Interlude Press this year. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!