Can't Say No

Bette Ford
2008, Contemporary Romance
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061143502
Part of a series

Grade: D-
Sensuality: Warm

Can't Say No, third in Bette Ford's Prescott family series, is one of those books I'd never have finished had I not been assigned it for review. With a heroine who is too stubborn to live, an annoying focus on the hero - and his family's - wealth, and an over-abundance of lust-thought from both leads, I gritted my teeth in frustration throughout the read.

The classic "he distrusts all women because another did him wrong" gets a twist here; heroine Vanessa Grant distrusts all men because the father of her two youngest siblings, whom she's raised since her mother died (apparently of a broken heart) was a player. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will dissuade her from believing that one-time NBA starter Ralph Prescott is just like her mom's one-time lover. But when the two spend time together because both are part of a wedding party - one of her closest friends is marrying one of his cousins - she decides to seduce him into one night of passion. Did I mention that the 26-year-old Vanessa is a virgin who's never had an orgasm? I guess giving up college in order to raise three younger siblings wasn't enough to give her a halo.

Ralph was raised by his uncle and aunt, who share a very loving marriage. He no longer plays for the NBA; he lives in a Cribs-worthy house and helps run the private airline business he co-owns with other Prescotts. He also helps coach his college basketball team - because don't all millionaires have time for two full-time jobs? - and puts in time at the community center his uncle runs.

During the week of wedding festivities for his cousin, Ralph realizes that he's got the hots for Vanessa. But she's a "good girl," one who no doubt wants to settle down, and he doesn't believe in marriage...even though he's seen a number of successful marriages within his family. When she proposes they share one night, he is shocked, but agrees, although he's not got one night in mind and plans to change her mind, even after they do the deed and he discovers she was a virgin. But Vanessa will have no part of it...Ralph's a player who flits from woman to woman; she makes up her mind to be satisfied with their one night.

Ralph, though, isn't on the same page. He begins to pursue Vanessa, and the more he pursues her, the nastier she is in turning him down. Regardless of his actions, she knows he'll break her heart. Even though he takes a tremendous interest in her siblings, even though he helps her - proactively - through a legal issue involving her two youngest siblings, even though he's there to listen to her and cares for her, she stubbornly refuses to believe he's not the man he shows himself to be, and most often treats him badly in return.

Vanessa's too stubborn to live attitude was enough to make this book suck big time, but her virgin status - and that she's so clueless about her body that when Ralph gives her an orgasm, she tries "to make sense of what just happened" - annoyed me to no end. In addition, too much of Ralph and Vanessa's inner monologue is devoted to lust-thought. His shaft hardened and her nipples went tight on an almost constant basis - I guess that's why she was always pissed off. And the whole money thing was so overdone; Ralph and his cousins experience a Lifetimes of the Rich and the Famous existence that is so far removed from most people's reality that I thought I was reading Danielle Steel for a time.

I implore you...just say no to even the thought of reading Can't Say No. It's excruciatingly frustrating. The only thing that saves it from F-dom is that I'm feeling generous; in comparison it's not quite as bad as the F books I've read this year.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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