I adore a reunited-lovers trope and Michelle Douglas has given us a gem of a treatment in Redemption Of the Maverick Millionaire. She has penned a betrayal story that is NOT a sexual betrayal and yet, is viscerally compelling. With my beloved category romances at a minimum of goodness and telescoping my category reading to a handful of authors, a great category is always welcome. Redemption Of the Maverick Millionaire is a great category romance, well-written, tightly-paced, and driven by character and sentiment.
Damon Macy encounters Eve Clark at a moment when he cuts a deal to buy property in her beloved town of Mirror Glass Bay. What she doesn’t know is that he’s motivated by one sole desire: to make up for how he hurt her four years ago and gain some measure of peace by redeeming his then godawful actions. Hence, the title. What he doesn’t know is that Eve wanted that property to be developed, not to keep it pristine. Mirror Glass Bay can’t afford that: to keep their town’s essential services, like an elementary school and clinic, residents like small-business owner Eve need to drum up investment. For a few minutes, Eve believes Damon has foiled and upended her life again … and Damon is mortified. He swiftly moves into Eve’s beachfront hotel, the only deal in town, and goes about ensuring that Eve gets exactly what she wants: investment, development, and the revivification of her beloved home, where she’s lived since his betrayal, with her gran, having left Sydney and the corporate world behind.
The strongest aspect to Douglas’s romance is the deeply-held feelings Damon and Eve have for each other. It’s easy to see how much they belong together, but they are separated by feelings of guilt, remorse, and unworthiness on Damon’s part and anger and “not good enough” on Eve’s. What I loved about Eve and Damon is that they’re humble, thoughtful, caring adults. They have much to overcome and their encounters are as fiery as their personality cores are mild. They are magnetically attracted to each other and they’re also great at being friends, when hurt feelings and an unresolved past don’t turn them into snarly angry bitch-goddess and diffident, overwhelmed with love and guilt marshmallow. It makes for great dialogue and an investment on the reader’s part to see them through to their HEA.
One of my favourite parts of this maverick’s redemption is Damon’s attempt to learn to surfboard. Though fit and athletic, he cannot match Eve’s skill. But he’s not motivated by competition. Firstly, he gets to see her every morning, yet he never intrudes on her alone-time cresting waves. Secondly, he gets to gift her with his ineptitude. After face-planting in water and sand over and over again, their conversation runs along these lines:
“You want to tell me what you’re really up to? [says Eve] He didn’t understand the sudden anger that ballooned in his chest. “You want to see me hurt and humiliated and I want to make you happy.” He gestured at his board. “Two birds, one stone.”
It’s a scene that borders on the cruel, at least on Eve’s part, and masochistic on Damon’s. And yet it’s witty and blends into what becomes a peaceful morning ritual for them, a preamble to some honest, difficult conversations they need to have before they can achieve their HEA. Douglas never stints on what they feel for each other; as internal monologues go, they’re pretty agonizing. But that’s what makes for good romance, when it’s coupled with lively, believable dialogue, a beautiful setting, a cause to work for together despite the churning waters of their past, and attraction.
A final word on Douglas’s adroit, original love scenes. Genre-wise, they’re tame; category-wise, they’re bolder than we expect from this line. BUT they are not that convention I hate most of all, “closed-bedroom-door”. I’m perfectly happy with kisses-only, but if romance is a full, voyeuristic insight into a journey to commitment and love, then we have to witness all of it, to get the full import of what goes on between hero and heroine. So, Douglas avoids the closed-door dilemma, ramps up the category love-scene settings beyond kisses and achieves a perfect, organic sense of what these two mean to each other. Physical encounters complicate their relationship and, until, they are open and honest with each other, they can access physical pleasure, but not meaningful pleasure. I can’t say I read much category romance anymore, but if I see a new Douglas, I will read that one. Redemption of the Maverick Millionaire possesses, to quote Miss Austen, “charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Michelle Douglas’s Redemption Of the Maverick Millionaire is published by Harlequin Books. It was released in May and is available at your preferred vendor. I received an advance copy from the author.