By Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle), 1995, Contemporary Romance
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN #0-671-67623-7
Philadelphia Fox meets Nick Lightfoot when she comes home from work one day and finds him waiting for her. She immediately senses he's trouble with a capital "T". Once she finds out who he is, she knows for sure.
Phila is a liberal with a left-wing heritage. Nick Lightfoot's family runs Castleton & Lightfoot Co., which produces war machinery. His family has sent outcast Nick after Phila to buy back the shares of stock she inherited from her close-as-a-sister friend Chrissie, who died in a car crash. Chrissie and Phila met in a foster home as teens. Chrissie was convinced her father was rich and famous; apparently she was right. She was Burke Castleton's illegitimate child and thereby a major thorn in the family's side, especially the powerful widow Burke left behind. Phila is predisposed to despise Nick and his family because they are right-wingers. Added to that, she blames them for Chrissie's death. Nick sees the situation as an opportunity to make peace with his family and possibly save the company. What's a guy to do?
Phila lives in a small town in Washington, where she is a social worker. She has just finished a difficult case and is burned out. Between job-related stress and the grief of losing her best friend, she quits her job. Phila views the shares she inherited as her last connection with Chrissie and does not trust anything the C&L crowd do or say. On the strength of his personality, their mutual attraction, and the possibility that Phila can investigate Chrissie's death, Nick convinces Phila to spend the summer at the family's compound. He hopes to persuade her to vote his way in the stockholder's meeting at the end of the summer. He has other hopes as well, and the reader will soon be reveling in them.
The "family" is on alert, not only against Phila, but against Nick as well - the scandal that caused his ouster from the clan is a whopper! While Phila and Nick are trying to cope with various family members with differing motives, Phila manages to help Nick with his family - she brings up questions that are not comfortable, but need to be asked nonetheless. Not only is he able to begin to regain some closeness, but the reader will see that the family business really does need him. Will they see it in time?
As far as Nick and Phila are concerned, he senses she has been damaged as far as intimacy is concerned, and cedes her control of their love-making, which allows her to blossom as a woman - there are some great love scenes here!
The author deals with some serious matters such as child abuse and foster care. Still, it is not a dark and morbid book, although there are some brooding moments. I really felt sorry for Chrissie, and the scars Phila "earned" in foster care were wrenching. And yet, there is plenty of that JAK trademark wit and humor, as well as the strong set of secondary characters. Readers need to be aware, however, that some of the relationships are "alternative"; if you have a problem with that, this book might not be for you.
The truth about Phila's past and the scandal involving Nick unfold in a suspenseful manner, and I loved watching their relationship grow. One of the things that I like about many of JAK's books is that the couple bond early on, and the hero often knows "this is the woman for me". Nick wants to marry Phila, and it she who has doubts, thinking the C&L crowd will never accept her. She has spent much of her life on the outside looking in; she is not going to go through that again.
One final premise that really worked for me - in several of Krentz's books, the hero feels isolated, and that when the chips are down, they'll be all alone. She flips that in The Golden Chance, and it is wonderful to watch Phila finally feel a sense of belonging.
This is truly one of my favorite books, and I've read it many, many times. I hope you'll give it a try!
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