Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Wedding Trap (Adrienne Bell)

The Wedding Trap
(The Second Service series, Book 1)
Adrienne Bell
Adrienne Bell, publisher
Fiction, Romance
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: Since the day she was born, Beth Bradley's been second fiddle in her own life. Her older sister got the better grades, the better school, and the perfect husband, while Beth got B's, a state college, and a string of losers exploiting her insecurities... as her mother never lets her forget. It's no wonder she took to inventing the perfect date, a ruse that's fooled everyone save her best friend Isobel. But now Isobel's getting married, and with a jealous ex on the scene, Beth's gotten herself into trouble (again.) This time, the imaginary "Charlie" won't be able to save her... or will he?
CIA agent Alex Tanner's after a rotten apple in the department. Nobody knows who he is or what he looks like, but they know that he's meeting one of his associates at a wedding. There's only so much snooping Alex can do without an invitation, and thus far he's coming up empty. Then a wedding guest catches him breaking into a suspect's car. Only instead of going to the hotel staff or police, she blackmails him: her silence in exchange for a brief appearance as someone called Charlie.
It was only supposed to be a five-minute deception, just enough to save face with Beth's family. But it quickly becomes more than that - much more. As lies accumulate and sparks fly, the most important and dangerous case in Alex's career threatens to destroy everything.

REVIEW: I downloaded this on my Nook during a freebie window, and read it in roughly two hours. Like most romances, it keeps its promises simple: a gorgeous woman, a handsome man, some convenient insecurities that have kept them both single, and a quick, steamy tumble from Total Strangers to True Love. On those fronts, The Wedding Trap delivers. Beth, however, is a little too clumsy and insecure, with problems that feel more like they come from a checklist than a genuine life lived beyond the confines of the story. Body issues: check. Overbearing, disapproving mother: check. Drinking her way through life's stresses (though never once considered an alcoholic): check. Alex also feels more like a stock character than a genuine person, a stormy-eyed lethal weapon in a suit whose protective instincts find a perfect match in Beth, who perpetually needs protecting. As the story progresses, Beth starts developing a backbone, but it doesn't quite flow naturally, given how easily intimidated and generally awkward she was at the start. As for Alex... well, he's pretty much perfect from the get-go, so the only thing he needs to do is open a crack in the wall around his heart. Some of the peripheral characters also felt shunted to the side, their subplots unresolved; I'd expected more of a climax to the jealous-ex issue, not to mention more from Beth's friend Isobel, whose wedding plans are significantly inconvenienced by international espionage. But the whole thing reads fast, and there's a decent level of steam to obscure some weakness in the overall plot. It's a competent little romance, if not quite my cup of cocoa.

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