An Exquisite Challenge
For some strange reason I ordered books 1 & 2 of The Delicious De Campos trilogy, but forgot the 3rd story.
Well, that’s for another day I suppose. Right now I DO have book 2 and I’ve read it soooo that means another review! Yay.
Now that Lilly and Riccardo De Campo got their HEA, Alexandra and Gabriele get their own stab at ‘The End”. A quick refresher is an order at this point, and it’s totally spoiler-free: Alex is the twin sister of Lilly. And Gabe is Riccardo’s younger brother, or the middle child mediator of the three De Campo men.
In An Exquisite Challenge Alex and Gabe are forced together because of dents in their career paths. You see, they’re both actually really admirably dedicated to their jobs. Despite the fact that we’re reminded Alex is an Iowa farm girl-turned-extraordinaire entrepreneur and Gabe’s fortune allowed him to be born into a wealthy family, but of course privilege doesn’t buy talent, skill and hard work.
I have to admit, Jennifer Hayward comes a long way with characterization in her sophomore novel. I really loved Gabe much more than Riccardo. The alpha male thing doesn’t always work for me…which is odd because Harlequin Presents/M&B Modern Romance lives for the alpha. But I do believe it takes a lot of skill to pull off an alpha character without making him come off as a jackass.
There was more layer to the story as well. Gabe actually—surprise!—had an on-screen passion. With Riccardo there was racing, but he never got behind the wheel on a racetrack. Gabe loves his wine-making and the wine industry and you can hear it, feel it, see it—and I guess it helped that I learned stuff about wine-making. I mean, who knew you had to actually air wine? I thought people did that in movies and shows for the “suave appearance”… Haha. Can you tell I’m totally alcohol abstinent?
But it was the same betweent he twin sisters! Lilly was just…there.
Alex actually HAD a job. Like she did stuff. Important money-making stuff. What I mean is that Lilly had a job, yes. She was actually a successful physiotherapist. But we never got to see her in action. The first story’s plot and word count of the category romance didn’t allow for it.
Because Alex’s job as a public relation specialist/person is a key factor in the external conflict of this story, readers get to see more of the heroine’s life outside the romance.
And speaking of the romance, let’s talk Gabe + Alex, you know, together.
They have a history. A short, but tumultuous history kicking the book off from page 1, but you need to read the story to find out what that is.
They’re also fire-water, hot-cold, black-white, -insert other opposites to get point across that there is an opposites attract trope here-.
But like all reallydifferent people on the outside, on the inside they’re both nursing broken hearts from previous love slights, so the internal conflict is born! Dun dun.
But on a more serious note, I loved this novel because it touched on an important topic. One I’m going to go ahead and assume that the average person doesn’t expect a romance novel to dwell into: the extramarital affair/cheating.
I mentioned this already in my review for the first book in Ms. Hayward’s trilogy because Lilly and Riccardo’s story touched on it a bit, but it also kinda left it hanging.
An Exquisite Challenge doesn’t. At least not nearly as much as its predecessor does, and I’m glad for it. It was hard to read, but I had this internal dialogue and it made me more involved in the character’s decision-making process and the consequences of their actions.
Trust me when I say it isn’t a black and white decision here. There’s a lot to swallow in this book, and it’ll make you question where you stand as of now on the issue of cheating.
And I’ve said all I’m going to say about that. Now go out and buy the book! Read it and enjoy! Just one final note as well, this trilogy contains three companions not sequels.
You can read An Exquisite Challenge (book 2) without having read The Divorce Party (book 1). There isn’t a lot of know-how from book 1 that can’t be readily understood in book 2.