Emile Lebottier is their heir to the Lebottier hotel empire and lives his life going from one hook up and party to another. His father wants nothing to do with him as long as Emile stays out of the news and out of his way, and so Emile lives a life of empty decadence combined with drugs, sex, and endless parties. When he finds out his father has been murdered, Emile has no choice but to return to France, particularly when he finds out a half-sister he never knew was murdered as well.
Sky Vaillant works security for the Lebottier’s Paris hotel. When he is called into work by one of the senior-most staff, he knows something is wrong, but Sky is not prepared to hear the owner has been murdered. He is even more shocked to learn he has unknowingly been being groomed to protect Emile in the case anything happened to his father. Emile’s handlers want Sky and Emile to pose as an engaged couple and hide out in the hotel until they can figure out who killed Emile’s dad and sister. But Emile has no desire to sit back and wait; he wants to go and find out who killed his father. While Sky is initially reluctant, he can’t help but find himself charmed by Emile and sympathetic enough to want to help him.
Neither Sky nor Emile has ever thought of themselves as relationship material; they are both more interested in one-night stands. But as the get to know each other, they realize that there is not just an attraction, but real feelings between them. However, the men also find themselves in the middle of danger from every turn. People keep showing up dead, someone is trying to kill Emile, and they don’t know who to trust. As they begin to discover more about who is behind it all, things become even more dangerous, and making it out alive isn’t going to be easy.
Dangerously French is the start of Lula Duval’s Dangerously International series and it is sort of a crazy romp of mystery and suspense. The story is fun and playful with a nice light tone. It is told in first person, present tense from both Sky and Emile’s POVs, with some breaking of the fourth wall on occasion as Emile talks directly the reader. It is over the top, occasionally silly, and at times completely unbelievable, but at the same time, it is entertaining. I think how much you like this book is really going to depend on where you fall on that line between wanting believability and things to make sense, versus being able to just go along for the ride.
On the plus side, like I said, I found this one fun. There is a nice energy that keeps it just on the edge of spinning out of control, but also kept me caught up in the story the whole time. I think the present tense style works to the story’s advantage, giving it an immediacy that enhances the suspense plot. I like that Emile and Sky are both fairly unrepentant about who and what they are, particularly with regards to sex. I also found it fun to watch these guys run around the city solving the crime. While I found the development of the relationship from hating one another to being in love to be way too fast, as well as these guys way too open about their feelings given what we know about them, there is still a nice sweetness about Sky and Emile together. I liked that they are both able to look past what they initially see about one another (particularly Sky being able to see past Emile’s party boy facade) to get to know the real person behind it all. There is a nice (although, again, somewhat unrealistic feeling) HFN for the guys afterward and I enjoyed them together.
But ok, if you have read my reviews before, you probably also know I am not one who can easily go with a story that doesn’t make sense, and some of this is just bananas. Like I said, that may be good or bad depending on you as a reader. So here we go. First off, Emile is told that his dad was murdered, and he has a clause in his will that if he is murdered, Emile gets nothing, unless he takes over and runs the company for a year. We are told this clause is all so that his dad’s second in command, Doris, can eventually take over. Because the plan is that Emile will be the figurehead and Doris will do all the work and then she will ultimately take over for him after a year. Which, ok… but why the murder clause specifically? Why if his dad just dies wouldn’t it be the same plan? And we are told this is the plan because the board will find a way to discredit Doris, since she is not a Lebottier, and they will want someone they trust as the head, hence Emile. Emile, who has literally never worked a day in his life, let alone for the hotels. Emile, who spends his days high, drunk, and having sex indiscriminately. Emile, whom his father actively dislikes and ignores. But somehow, this is the guy we are told the board is going to be more comfortable with than the fiercely competent right-hand woman of the owner. This whole thing with the will and the murder clause and the corporate politics felt so convoluted and just made no sense to me, other than to create a reason Emile had to return to Paris.
Ok, on to Sky. He is a hotel security guard, a job which he makes clear is mostly standing around and helping keep the police out of the rich people’s business. Apparently, he was hired two years ago for the security job but has secretly been being groomed all this time to jump in and serve as Emile’s bodyguard in the event his dad is murdered. So secretly that even Sky has no idea any of this training was happening. I am not clear how hiring him to work at the hotel translates into this super secret bodyguard training program that makes him uniquely qualified to protect Emile. So rather than hire actual trained bodyguards, they have determined that Sky is the one and only person who can protect Emile (and must do it alone). And that the two of them will pretend to be engaged and live in a hotel suite while they wait for someone to either catch the bad guys or for the killer to attack Emile. Sky, however, in addition to not being trained as a bodyguard, is so inept that within 20 minutes, Emile manages to destroy both his phones, steal his taser, and take his keys to the door off his body while Sky is awake. At which point, Sky basically decides to just let Emile do whatever he wants and help him investigate, rather than actually keep him secluded and away from danger.
Once the story gets going, there are still lots of things that just don’t fully work, including a lot of continuity/consistency issues. Sky is told directly that the police have been called in to assist, then later in the story he wonders whether the police have been called, as if he wasn’t told earlier that they were. Sometimes everyone knows who Emile is, so he can walk into a store with no pants or money and walk out with clothes because he is Emile Lebottier. But other times we are told no one knows who he is because his dad kept him out of the public eye. The assassins are insanely skilled at some points and totally inept at others. We are told they planned a month out where Sky might possibly go for help investigating the murder (that he had no plans to investigate until Emile made him) and they figured out a masterful plan to plant something to sabotage him way in advance. But at another point, one of the assassins is staring right at Sky’s face and doesn’t recognize him. They manage to kill one of Emile’s contacts because they somehow anticipate Emile might speak to him, but they somehow never think to look for the men hiding right there at Sky’s apartment in town.
I could go on, but you get the idea. Like I said, you are either going to be able to just ride through all this stuff and not be bothered, in which case I think this book will appeal. Or you are going to be like me and get hung up on these myriad of details and have trouble letting go. That said, I could appreciate the fun side of the story, and if you like a kind of mad caper, I think you may find this one entertaining.