This is a “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” type of story and I dug it for the most part. I thought the heroine protested a little too hard and a little too long to her own detriment…and yes, the hero is in a relationship when he meets the heroine so… he’s a cheating cheater who cheats. Extenuating circumstances and all that: he didn’t even really love the girl, he was just trying to fulfill the wish of his weak and ailing mother, he never meant to get on top of our heroine naked and hump his way to oblivion….yada-yada-yada. Did you have a girlfriend back home while you were sticking your tongue and other things into the orifices of our lady protagonist? Were you in fact in a committed relationship with another woman when you were getting it on with our girl? Did you or did you not have an understanding with another woman that you will be marrying her as you were trying to seduce the heroine out of her drawers for the third or fourth time? I’m just sayin’. Babe, I’m just sayin’. That makes you a philanderer, don’t matter if you don’t love the girl or not. But other than that, my boy Raul is a really great guy. A dreaaamboat, y’all might say.
Your Heroine: Ally Sloane was married for almost twenty years when her husband Jeff leaves her for a woman ten years younger and moves to Canada with her. Ally has been divorced now for three years and her twin children, boy and girl, have gone off to university. Ally has an alright job but not a career and no man in her life. Hasn’t even occurred to her to date, especially since her self-esteem took a beating during the divorce when Jeff practically accused her of pushing him to cheat on her. To get out of her self-imposed rut, Ally accepts a long-standing invitation from her friend Suzanne Davis who owns a hotel in the Bahamas. She figures a couple of weeks of relaxing and lying around underneath the sun, doing nothing and worrying about nothing, could do restorative wonders for her. That was the plan. The night before her flight, she stays in a hotel in London by the airport because she’s paranoid about not getting there on time and missing the flight. At the hotel, she finds a super gorgeous, super sexy, super intense guy checking her out. At first, she’s like, no way, I’m imagining things. I’m middle-aged, I’m overweight, I suck as a human being, I’m a black hole of despair, why would anyone waste their time looking at me. But of course, he IS checking her out and soon comes over to ask if he could buy her a drink. Ally is suspicious, but accepts the drink and in her nervousness, practically guzzles half the thing down in one go. He tells her his name is Raul (almost certain that’s not his real name), she tells him her name is Diana. When he asks if she wants to join him for dinner, she finds herself unable to refuse him. He is charming, intelligent, easy to talk to; she is more at ease with him than she had ever been with her husband. At the end of the night, he walks her to her door like a gentleman should and she’s compelled to ask him in for a night cap. Bada-bing-bada-boom, it’s magic and Bob’s your uncle
…then morning comes with a sour taste in your mouth, a bitch of a hangover, a lover who had snuck off under the cover of darkness, and the rest of your life to bitterly regret your foolish decision to take a stranger to your bed. Well, at least, she didn’t wake up in a tub full of ice, with a crudely stitched-up hole along her side, a phone duct-taped to her hand, and a message scrawled across the mirror in red marker, ordering her to call Emergency room because she just got one of her dumbass kidneys stolen. Nope, instead, she’s all the wiser for her experience and will die an old lady who remembers fondly and only with slight chagrin, the wild and sexy night she had with a gorgeous, handsome, young man way out of her league.
Your Hero: Rafael Ramirez—”Raul” to everyone except his parents—is the eldest son of the wealthiest family in the Bahamas. He is practically engaged (that is, they expect him to propose at any moment now) to a girl named Julia, who is the daughter of a local hotelier, and helps his father run the family’s very successful charter business. He goes to the U.K. for a boat show/convention and while he’s there, his girlfriend’s mom asks him to look in on an old friend of hers who will be flying to Nassau for a holiday. He is told that Mrs. Sloane is: a lonely, despairing, middle-aged (39 is not middle-aged, dicks) divorcee who was dumped for a woman ten years younger than her and she has never traveled on her own before and could Raul maybe do something about cheering up the poor dear?
Listen, Raul is really a nice, sweet kid at heart and of course he’s willing to do this for his girlfriend’s mother’s old friend. The dear old girl would probably get a thrill out of being taken out to dinner by a hot Latin stud and he would have done a really good deed, so he checks into the same hotel and looks for her. All great, pure-hearted, decent intentions are shot to shit when Raul spots a tall, sexy, statuesque woman sitting alone at the bar, nursing a drink. He is surprised at the strength of need and lust that strikes him right in the middle at the sight of her. He’s thinking to himself, “Hey, maybe this is Mrs. Sloane and this won’t be such a chore, after all. Better keep my cool, though, because the lady is seriously boner-inducing hot. Be like the Fonz, Raul. The Fonz is what? He’s cool. Be cool.” But the lady tells him her name is Diana and Raul, in a rare indulgence of selfishness, decides that poor old Mrs. Sloane is probably already settled in her hotel room, watching CSI reruns and eating her room-delivered Salisbury Steak. Ah, it was a nice thought, anyway. I’m sure the old girl can fend for herself. He takes Diana to dinner, have great conversation, and it hits Raul that he is seriously attracted to this lady and he should police himself because he is in danger of cheating on Julia and yo, he’s too honorable for that. Taking a beautiful woman out to dinner and drinks? All perfectly innocent as long as you don’t try to end the night with your tongue down her throat and your hand jammed down the front of her dress. He’ll walk the lady to her door, say good night like a gentleman, and get on with his life.
By the time she shyly confesses that her name is really Ally Sloane, Raul knows he is sunk. After all, he had been flirting outrageously with the lady all night because he didn’t realize that this was the dear old girl he was supposed to be looking out for. He couldn’t very well confess who he really is, could he? And then she invites him in for a night cap and looks up at him from beneath the veil of her lashes with naked and vulnerable need, nervously licks her lips… Raul groans in torment, “This isn’t supposed to happen” before he gives in, covers her luscious mouth with his own, and suddenly it’s get it on, bang a gong, get it on. Whoa Black Betty, bam-ba-lam. Go Black Betty, bam-ba-lam. Yo she really gets me high, bam-ba-lam. Yeah that’s no lie, bam-ba-lam. She’s always ready, bam-ba-lam. She’s all rock steady, bam-ba-lam. That means sex.
The Thick of it: Ally gets to the Bahamas, slightly mopey because her first grand foray into sexual passion turned out to be for one-night only. She didn’t really know what she was expecting, but with the sheer awesomeness and power of their lovemaking, she thought the interlude would at least include breakfast and a polite goodbye. Surely it wasn’t all one-sided? Had she been so rapacious and love-starved that she scared the hell out of her young lover, so he escaped while she was unaware? Ugh, she is so not going to waste her vacation thinking about that cowardly Lothario. She’s in the fuckin’ Bahamas in a nice hotel and hanging out with her old friend, Suzanne, who’s eager to catch up. There’s yummy food, lots of people to talk to, the frickin’ ocean, widowers trying to get on up her grill, and other things to distract her, like why her old friend is acting so squirrelly and high-strung. Soon enough, she finds out why: The Davis family is in dire financial straits because they owe the richest family in the Bahamas a lot of money and it is understood that the debt will be forgiven if their daughter Julia married the Ramirez eldest son, Rafael, since they will be considered family. Only Julia is being a pain in the ass and acting like a spoiled brat and flirting a little too much with Carlos, Rafael’s little brother, whenever Rafael is out of town on business.
Meanwhile, Ally has slowly figured out with an increasingly sickening feeling that Raul and Rafael Ramirez are the same guy. Well, shit, she has to get out of the Bahamas fast before the cat is well and truly out of the bag. She contacts her daughter Sam in England and asks her to come up with an emergency that would necessitate Ally cutting her holiday short. To her surprise, Sam tells her to stay exactly where she is because her ex-husband Jeff was dumped by his new wife Kelly and he has moved back to England to try and reconcile with Ally. If Ally returned to England, Jeff would think she was desperate for the two of them to get back together and force the situation.
Ally is effectively trapped. Soon enough, Raul shows up at the hotel, corners her in an elevator, and practically makes love to her in public before yanking himself away from her, apologizing for his animalistic behavior and assuring her that it is out of character for him to grope sexy ladies in public. He tells her he usually has an iron-clad grip control on his impulses and emotions, but whenever she’s around him, that shit flies out the window and he’s a mad, rabid wolf howling at the moon. Well, Ally says, it’s a good thing then that they’re never ever going to see each other again because Raul is engaged to Julia the daughter of her oldest friend. Ally also reminds him that she is too old for him and that he shouldn’t be pursuing her like this because she is convinced that this is just that some sick game to him and he’ll get tired of it soon. Raul tells Ally that she is already an expert at making him feel like shit even though they’d only just met and yes, he already does feel like garbage for cheating on Julia and he’d never meant any of it to happen and he’s really not the cheating piece of shit Ally thinks he is—though, technically, he is—and could Ally just please stand still for a second and listen to him. Ally wants to believe him, but she is unable to accept that this charming, ridiculously handsome, wealthy man who is ten years younger than her is telling her about this all-consuming, powerful attraction he’d felt for her from the moment he saw her and how he’d been so powerless to resist her and that he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about her or fantasizing about her since the night they spent together. Ally strengthens her resolve and tells him he is out of his mind if he thought she was willing to betray a lifelong friendship for a brief fling with him, no matter how tight and taut his buns are.
Young man, get out of my mind. My love for you is way out of line. Better run, boy. You’re much too younger…
Undeterred, Raul ramps up his wooing and seduction game, determined to win Ally over. He manipulates the situation so it would look like a day of him taking Ally out for sailing is really a huge favor he’s doing for his girlfriend’s parents and while it is a great imposition on his time, he would be happy to do it for his girlfriend’s “aunt.” He invites Julia and her parents to their hacienda for dinner, insisting they take Mrs. Sloane with them, and when they all arrive the hacienda, Ally and the Davises are surprised when Ally is treated like the guest of honor and Raul’s parents treat her more warmly than they treat Julia and her parents. After dinner, Raul corners Ally in the balcony and basically tells her that he doesn’t want to marry Julia because he wants only to be with Ally… Well, crap. For sure, her friendship with Suzanne would be over, but she really couldn’t let Suzanne’s hotel go bankrupt, not when she could convince Raul that he doesn’t really want her because he needs to marry Julia. Raul succinctly states he will not be marrying Julia and storms off.
Everything’s a mess, it’s all mucked up… hell, she might as well go back to England before she can do any more damage. She would just to be very firm with Jeff and tell him to die in a fire. Only when she calls Sam in the UK, she informs Ally that Jeff is on his way to the Bahamas because he’s just that determined to get her back, since he is a worthless piece of shit and is less than nothing when there isn’t a woman around to take care of his saggy, aging ass.
Oh great. If I were Ally, this would be right around the time I go seeking an active volcano to jump into.
I understand Ally’s moral dilemma and reluctance to get into any sort of mess with Raul. The dude has a girlfriend and that girlfriend just happens to be the daughter of one of her closest friends. On top of that, this friend is counting on the marriage of her daughter to her rich boyfriend to save the family from destitution. The age thing doesn’t really even seem to be a big deal, except to Ally. She’s the only one really drawing attention to it. Hell, even her kids don’t mind and give their full blessing. What I didn’t like so much was Ally’s insistence that Raul couldn’t possibly be attracted to her because she’s overweight and ugly. Which, to a point, I even kind of understand because that was one of the tactics Jeff used for years to keep her down. But surely even she must realize that she’s not exactly Quasimodo because when she walks into a room, all men turn to look at her with appreciation. I could even make excuses for why she allowed Jeff to treat her like a doormat for twenty years: he was the only man she’d ever been with before Raul and she’d married the guy when she was super young. As she points out, when Raul was nine years old, she was already a wife and heavily pregnant with the twins. What I don’t understand, is how she could be so obtuse and continue to insist that she’s too fat, too old too ugly when Raul is practically begging her to love him and be with him. Lady, open your eyes! That boy is insane about you.
Another thing that bothered me was how much time Ally and Raul actually spend apart. We get a lot of scenes of Ally being mopey because she hasn’t seen Raul in a couple of days, or Julia being passive-aggressive or straight-up bitchy to Ally about her age or anything about her that bothered Julia, or maybe scenes with Suzanne stressing to Ally how important it is that the wedding happens or they’d all be doomed! We don’t get a lot of “quiet” moments with Ally and Raul, just “big moment” or “big blow-up” scenes. I think one or two “just hangin’ and talkin’” scenes could have smoothed over the progression of their relationship from insta-lust to Twoooo Wuv.
As for Raul, he’s very much straight out of Romance Novel Central Casting. He’s handsome, young, virile, rich, responsible, mature, looks good in a suit, hasn’t suffered major emotional traumas or setbacks, comes from a nice family, and is probably the owner of a ten-inch magic… wand that will cure you of whatever ails you. He’s protective, possessive but not psycho-jealous, and if you asked him, he’d most likely beat the shit out of your asshole ex for you. He is perfect for a woman suffering from self-esteem issues: he’ll stroke your ego, as well as any part of you you’d like him to stroke. He’s just, really, Mr. Dreamboat except OF COURSE FOR THE FACT THAT HE SLEPT WITH ANOTHER WOMAN WHILE HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND and his only excuse was, “I couldn’t help myself.” Weaksauce. What will happen to Ally the next time he meets someone he couldn’t resist and just “couldn’t help” himself? I’m just kidding, y’all. It’s totally true love this time so Raul will never stray again and Ally can remain secure in his love and arms. I totally believe you, Raul. >_>
Another quick-paced, purely escapist read by Anne Mather who uses this trope very well. Older woman takes an emotional/mental beating, but slowly gets up to try again, and finds herself a perfect, beautiful young man to love and cherish her for the rest of her life. Breathtaking. Who wouldn’t want that?