My head is literally pounding as I finish this book. As the other reviews indicate, this book has little basis in reality. However, a vast majority of Harlequins are not based in reality, they are pure escapism, so I was not as bothered by the lack of reality in the book. It is fictional. What bothered me most of all were the many holes within the storyline and the one-dimensionality of the characters in the book, especially our hero & heroine, Alessandro and Lilley.
"A Night of Living Dangerously" starts out well enough. Lilley has a boyfriend, and she is hoping their relationship will deepen into a deeper commitment. She also has weight, self-esteem and body image issues (the trifecta of female neuroses), mostly caused by her unsupportive, wealthy, dictatorial father, so she decides to do something about her weight issues and starts an exercise routine, and takes up jogging. Lilley realizes in her very first venture into jogging that she stinks at it, and that jogging is not for her. She decides to go home early, and, unfortunately, catches her erstwhile boyfriend in "the act", in bed with her best friend/roommate. Devastated, she rushes out of the apartment and decides to lick her wounds at work. She goes into the office (where she works as a file clerk) to finish the work she left behind at the end of the day earlier that day. Lilley has dyslexia, which makes her job as a file clerk extremely challenging, and causes her to do her work much slower than the other file clerks at the company. She begins crying while she is filing, which makes a difficult job even more difficult. She hears a man enter the office and she decides to hide in a closet until he leaves. She just wants to get over her pain in peace and quiet, completing the work she has left. She also can't face going back to her apartment again after seeing what she saw.
Our hero, Prince Alessandro Caetani, head of a multi-national conglomerate, is the man who entered into the office. He suspects he is not alone in the office and starts to investigate who is there with him. He finally finds Lilley hiding in the closet and immediately accuses her of espionage. He also realizes that he recognizes her. She's the new employee he has seen in the hallways. She had piqued his interest because she dressed in baggy clothes and no make-up, and every time she saw him she always rushed away in the other direction away from him. He notices she's been crying and finds a soft spot in his heart for her. He loves the bodacious curves of Lilley's body, and immediately falls in lust with her. He asks her why she is there in his office hiding, and she eventually spills her story to him about her boyfriend cheating on her. Said boyfriend and her roommate also work at Caetani Interntional. Alessandro is miffed at his own girlfriend that particular night. He has just shown his girlfriend - the perfect, world-reknowned beauty, Olivia Bianchi - the door when Olivia gives him an ultimatum of propose to her that night, or else. He chooses "or else" and walks away from her. Problem is, he and Olivia were scheduled to attend a very important charity ball that Alessandro's company is supporting and now he doesn't have a date to the ball. He offers to turn our mousey heroine, Lilley, into Cinderella, and offers to take her to the ball. He will provide the dress and makeover, he tells her. All she has to do is say yes. He convinces her that showing up at the ball with Alessandro will kill two birds with one stone: he will sock it to his lover, Olivia, letting her know never to give him an ultimatum ever again, something that he hates with a passion; and it will give Lilley the opportunity to send her boyfriend & her roommate into fits of jealousy at Lilley having hit the jackpot dating a Prince/multi-billionaire and being publically acknowledged as Alessandro's latest conquest to the paparazzi and the world. Lilley reluctantly accepts his offer. Alessandro also comes with baggage, however. He has deep, deep, deep, deep, deep trust issues which has hardened him and made him have a disdainful, cynical, distrustful attitude toward all women and toward love in all forms. Alessandro is honest, though, and warns Lilley not to fall in love with him. This is a one-night proposition only, he tells her. The next day they will go back to being only boss and file clerk again. He will not even acknowledge he knows her. She still agrees to go to the ball with him. So far, the book has been enjoyable, if a little far-fetched.
However, the charity ball is where this story starts to seriously jump the shark. Alessandro's lust for Lilley grows to enormous bounds after he sees her fresh from her makeover. He thinks she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and is obsessed with bedding her. Lilley is a hit at the ball. She realises she's in lust with Alessandro as well. She starts revealing more of herself to him. She tells him about her dream of starting her own jewelry design business, that she lacks money, faith, and enough courage in herself and her abilities to make her dreams happen. She acknowledges she wasn't really in love with her boyfriend, she just needed his financial support to get her jewelry business going. Alessandro appreciates her honesty. He tries to bolster her by telling her he believes she can be a success in her business, which was a nice touch, I thought, in the book. Lilley still has deep, deep, deep self-esteem issues though, and remains unconvinced.
Their mutual lust becomes too much for both Alessandro and Lilley, and they go off to his vineyard to have a two day affair. The sex is heated and rampant between them. These two mate like bunnies at the drop of a hat all over the house, in every position. In two days, they make love a total of at least 14 times. Lilley is a virgin, but obviously learns very quickly at the tutelage of the Prince. They have protected sex every time, except one time. Of course, Lilley comes up pregnant, but she has already been ruthlessly dumped by Alessandro for at least a month by the time she finds out she's going to have his baby.
Alessandro started out in the book trying to empower Lilley in a kind of back-handed way, but as the sex begins and continues between them, Alessandro grows more and more distateful to reader as he starts to view Lilley as only a sex object. He begins to boss her around, begins telling her what to do, what to think, belittles her choices. He believes the only way to be kind to her is to be cruel to her, and dump her before she can profess her love for him. He goes back to his perfect, world-reknowned beauty of a lover, Olivia (who is an ugly viper in reality), and plans to marry her. He's still obsessed with all of the sex he had with Lilley, though, and can't get her out of his mind. Lilley shows up one day as he is about to propose to Olivia, and tells him she is pregnant. Lilley allows herself to be treated like a doormat in this scene, then further allows herself to be seduced against a garden wall in a driving rainstorm by said hero. As their relationship continues, Alessandro tells Lilley he is ashamed to show her to his friends (whom he readily acknowledges are fake, phony, false "friends" of his, and not worthy of his time or friendship); that he does not consider Lilley to be the brightest bulb in the world; he tells her she is to sit at home and wait for him to come home at night, then become his love slave each night on command; she is not allowed to do any kind of work, not even work on her jewelry business; the man even chooses each and every one of Lilley's outfits each day! Lilley is not allowed to choose her own clothes because she would embarrass him if she made the choices on what to wear. Lilley has become a wimpy doormat in every aspect of her life, and you wonder to yourself why does she even love this man? Yeah, I know, he is quite astronomically well-endowed, and the endless sex is beyond incredible, but come on!! No sex is so incredible that you give up your entire self-worth just to make sure you continue to get it. Lilley calls what she has with Alessandro "love". I call it heave-worthy. I also don't understand why a man as accomplished as Alessandro supposedly is, would want a woman he obviously has no admiration or regard for other than the fact that she is a virgin (therefore he believes her honesty is above reproach and that he can trust her); and that Lilley has, by Alessandro's own admission, given him the best sex of his entire life.
Lilley & Alessandro also have sex at least three times a day, every single day. They stay in bed all day, every day, except when they go to dinner parties, balls or change locations and make love in the pool. - LOL. All the while, Alessandro is throwing up walls against Lilley, and bossing her around endlessly. Lilley allows Alessandro to dictate the entire terms of their relationship every step of the way. Lilley's cow-towability made my head hurt, literally. I went in search of aspirin around page 160. I had had enough. - LOL.
The ending of the story was really abrupt and VERY cobbled together, introducing us to four new characters at the end of the book, and the re-introduction of the dreaded ex-mistress, Olivia. Its loose ends were tied up in the end, but it still felt like a total mess to the reader, and vaguely unsatisfying, although we do have a "happily-ever-after" ending, as you should in a Harlequin Presents book.
This book had the potential to be a much better book. It wound up being a huge disappointment instead. I prefer my heroines to have self-esteem, smarts and backbone. Lilley had a lot of good qualities about her, her open heart being chief among them, but her lack of self-worth was simply appalling. Alessandro had the potential to be a great hero, but he was almost irredeemable by the time the author decided to redeem him at the end of the book.
This is the second book I have purchased by Jennie Lucas. I'm going to hesitate before buying another one by her because I have had problems rooting for the characters in her books, especially the women in her books. Ms. Lucas, please start making your female characters without HUGE self-esteem issues. Give us more heroines and heroes we can empathize with & cheer for. To those who wish to purchase "A Night of Living Dangerously", proceed with caution. You may like the book, you may not. You be the judge. For me, I could have done without the disappointment or the headache this book created in reading it and wish someone had warned me about both issues in the book before I purchased it.