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Veretti's Dark Vengeance Mass Market Paperback – August 11, 2009
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Salvatore and Helena are at odds because she has inherited her dead husband Antonio's (Salvatore's father's cousin) share of the Veretti family's glass factories. Antonio was much older (it's made clear early on that he and Helena never slept together, for those who might be squicked). Salvatore starts off as an angry, vengeful man who believes that Helena is a gold-digger who doesn't deserve her inheritance, but he soon comes to realize otherwise. She challenges him and neatly turns the tables on him once or twice, and he learns that he cannot bully her into leaving Venice and eventually that he really doesn't want to. He becomes oddly protective of her, and despite himself wants her to succeed. He's still a HP hero so he resists falling in love for a time, but he's never a jerk and mellows out quite a bit before he alphas up again at the end and kidnaps the heroine to keep her from leaving.
Helena is strong without being bitchy or foot-stompingly "feisty". I liked that she's tall and voluptuous, and intelligent too - she shows that she is a fast learner but doesn't unrealistically take over the whole factory and become an overnight expert. Her flair for the dramatic makes her seem more real and not too perfect. The only thing I didn't like about her was that she could eat all she wanted and not gain weight (hey, I got issues ok?). It seemed like she and Salvatore were always having dinner together, and I spent way too much time imagining all that fantastic Venetian cooking (see issues mentioned above).
Which brings me to my next point. For 2 people who start off disliking each other and are business rivals, Salvatore and Helena spend a lot of time in each other's company. There is a lot of chemistry and tension between them, and while they banter ostensibly about business, the sexual undercurrents are blazingly obvious. This is a steamier HP than most, and Salvatore and Helena do a lot of lovemaking as well as fine dining. It's very tasteful and sensuous, and fits in naturally with the story. I liked their one-upmanship, which never veers into cruelty. The devil's head was funny! There's a misunderstanding near the end of course, but even it makes more sense than these misunderstandings usually do.
With the focus so much on the hero and heroine, there aren't a lot of secondary characters. Salvatore's snobby old grandma makes an attempt to drive the wedge between them deeper at the end, explaining to Helena that Salvatore distrusts all women and sees them all as tramps. Antonio despite being dead is the strongest secondary character, coming across vividly as a charming, pleasure-loving old reprobate with a kind heart. I'm not going to say more about the ending except that it is very sweet :-)
It's a battle of will and in the end it costs them both. Plain and simply it's a lovely romance, and is set in one of the most romantic cities in the world, Venice. It took me back to places I've personally visited and found memories of celebrating my own wedding anniversary.
The very talented Lucy Gordon captures the vulnerability they both have and it will bring tears to your eyes while reading their personal journey.
Arrogant Italian nobleman Salvatore Veretti is furious to hear that a young, beautiful model has inherited the company that was rightfully his. Clearly she's after the family gold! Salvatore will heartlessly reclaim what he's owed--and he'll show this impudent female just how out of her depth she is.
But after meeting naively determined Helena, Salvatore changes tactics.... No longer satisfied with throwing her out of the business, he'll take his vengeance between the sheets!