Bet Against Me (High Stakes #1) – Fiona Riley

I loved this book. I need to start with that because my journey to get there was rather circumvoluted.

Trina Lee is about to reach her goal as Realtor of the Year. She has the best boss and the best team. Her mother, the head of her Vietnamese-Chinese family, might compare selling luxury real estate to selling yourself, Trina is more than proud of her accomplishments. When the title eludes her, she feels cheated, all the more so as the award goes to Kendall Yates, daughter of the infamous real estate magnate Dick Yates. Trina hates the idea that her hard work didn’t prevail over nepotism. When Trina and Kendall’s bosses come up with the idea of a challenge between the two women, Trina can’t wait to show her rival what a really and truly good agent is.

I didn’t check the blurb before opening Bet Against Me. I only read blurbs for authors I don’t know yet or those I’ve had a bumpy experience with. Fiona Riley isn’t one of them so I didn’t. A few pages in, I was almost regretting it. Not for me, for the author. I don’t want to not like a book because I made the wrong decision reading it. It’s not the author’s fault when I don’t care for a storyline that’s clearly outlined in the blurb. This novel had everything stacked against it at first: I don’t find real estate an exciting environment and I thought the main characters most unlikable, especially Trina and her terrifyingly sharp tongue. While I didn’t change my mind about the first point, I came to realise the characters really showed themselves in their worst light in those first chapters and they were a whole lot more interesting and complex than they seemed. I felt sad for Kendall and was glad she had best friend Margo Channing (yes, Riley went there) by her side, and I loved Trina with her loved ones, from her friends and colleagues to her brother and his kids. She’s also much more considerate with everyone she meets than she first lets on. I really had a hard time warming up to her and I love that Riley managed to make me like her a lot in the end, after I was so worried that no one could get over the awfully hurtful stuff she flung at Kendall when they first met. Fiona Riley made it believable and that was no mean feat.

And the chemistry, wow… Honestly, that first kiss is a beauty. I won’t even comment on how hot the sex is because, you know, Fiona Riley.

With Kendall’s father as some sort of MacGuffin, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when it did, boy did it hurt! Then, fortunately, everything got better, since it’s a romance novel, and an excellent one at that. Fiona Riley plays with her characters’ and her readers’ feelings and emotions with obvious glee and the result is delightfully sweet and sexy, with hints of tenderness mixed in with the sassy – and at times snarky – banter.

5-stars

Bet Against Me @ Bold Strokes Books

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