Kristin Hardy – “Her High-Stakes Playboy”

14 Apr


US title: Certified Male (Harlequin, 2005)

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills & Boon, 2009
(2-in-1 edition together with Sealed with a Kiss)

SERIES: has a sequel, Sealed with a Kiss

WHY THIS NOVEL: Kristin Hardy

The back blurb:
Certified Male
“Shy Gwen Braxton would do anything to retrieve her grandfather’s stolen $4.5m stamps, even blag her way into a Vegas poker tournament! Yet she didn’t gamble on getting help from sexy fellow competitor Del–or spending the most sensual night of her life with him!”

Gwen is in trouble. Her grandfather left her in charge of his stamp business while he and his wife went on a three-month-long cruise. On her watch, her grandfather’s retirement – stamps worth several millions – gets stolen. If word would get out about that, not only will his retirement be gone but his business as well. Dealing and investing for clients in high-priced stamps is dependent on trust, and an investment adviser who can’t keep his own stamps save? So not good.

It’s the reason that Gwen and her sister Joss don’t go to the police. Gwen and Joss want to get the stamps back on their own which is how Gwen winds up in Las Vegas, following Jerry, a former employee and now the suspect.

Gwen strove to be ordinary and fitting in from her teenage years on, but now she has to do the flashy and attention-seeking thing so that she won’t be recognized by Jerry. It helps that Jerry worked in the shop only for a few weeks and that Gwen only saw him a few times, but nevertheless, she and Joss figure it’s safer that Gwen gets a new hair color, new clothes, and a new personality.

Enter Nina, a blond bombshell, who soon attracts Jerry’s attention. And the attention of Del, a sports writer who’s looking for something more challenging in his professional career: he wants to leave the sports section and do the news instead.

Del was always intrigued by puzzles, and Nina certainly seems to be hiding something. There are flashes of a different person in the way Nina acts and Del goes on the alert. Maybe here is the story that could be his ticket for a career in the news? (You know where this will lead, I’m sure.)

I enjoyed the setting of this novel very much: Las Vegas and the poker tournament (shades of Casino Royal there). The stamps angle was refreshing, and Hardy makes it come alive and interesting. Who would have thought that about stamps? The plotting was tight, causing only two “yeah, sure” comments of disbelief, and the dialog flowed smoothly and is at times quite funny. For example, I liked this one. After getting a pep talk by Del, Gwen asks:

Fighting panic, Gwen took a deep breath. “Swear?”
“Damn,” he said obediently, and she grinned.

And Gwen and Del have chemistry.

Her High-Stakes Playboy might feature the plain-to-stunning transformation of the heroine and a final romantic conflict you can see coming from a mile away, but it is an engrossing story with two main characters who both discover things about themselves in the course of the story because they met each other. The mystery, the characters, the setting – all works together to make this a story that plays with deception and identity, and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

Verdict: After a slow beginning, Her High-Stakes Playboy turned into one of my favorite novels by Hardy. 4/5, verging on 4,5/5.


4 Responses to “Kristin Hardy – “Her High-Stakes Playboy””

  1. KristieJ Friday, April 17, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    I have this one but haven’t read it yet as I haven’t read the previous books in the series. How does this one work as a stand alone? ‘Cause if it works good, then I really want to give it a try as I love her books.

  2. Taja Friday, April 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm #

    Hi Kristie! Kristin Hardy’s Her High-Stakes Playboy works well as a stand alone. But actually, I’m thinking that perhaps you meant to comment on Prince of Time by Glenna McReynolds? (I think there aren’t any books previous to HHSP by Hardy.)

    If so, please let me know! I just didn’t want to presume too much and answer right away. ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. KristieJ Saturday, April 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    D’oh – yep, I meant Prince of Time.

  4. Taja Sunday, April 19, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Kristie – *g*

    Reading Prince of Time was nearly like reading it without the two previous books for me. I remembered the names of the two couples, that there are dragons and wyrms, that there’s a huge system of caverns, and some “elfish” people. I didn’t remember Dharkkum, the contraption in the tower, the connections to other galaxies, or plot things like what had happened to Mychael in Dream Stone. I wouldn’t say I had problems understanding it. It was more like a feeling that it would have been a richer experience with the previous books more present. Also, you don’t have to pay all that much attention when the story touches on what happened before (but you get the facts you need in Prince of Time).

    Knowledge about the caverns and what happened in the two previous books is probably most handy during the last few chapters when Morgan and Avallyn are back in the past. Some of the things I didn’t remember returned to me when I read about them in Prince of Time in a “ah, yes, there was something like that” way. I’m not sure to what extent that made it easier to understand what is happening. I would say not much because it triggered just a feeling of familiarity, not a recollection of details.

    More distracting, IMO, were the words for places, titles, and devices, and their spelling. You have to have an idea of them, otherwise it might be confusing in the long run. It’s really a new world in Prince of Time because it’s in the future and you’re thrown in to swim. Knowledge of the previous books doesn’t help there; some kind of familiarity with fantasy and science fiction world building might.

    I looked at reviews on amazon and on other sites. The opinion seems to be divided re: stand alone. IMO, it depends on how much it bothers you to orient yourself in a new world. The world building is tight in Prince of Time. There’s no character around that says “let me tell you what is what/how this works” because they all know it already. And it’s fast-paced.

    So, as long as my answer is, I’m afraid it isn’t all that helpful. But at least you see why I didn’t want to answer right away in case I presumed too much! *g*

    Prince of Time is certainly worth reading and I’m curious how you will decide. If you decide to read it, I hope you’ll like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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