Blush by Cherry Adair
Cherry Adair’s Blush hooked me before I even realized it.
Amelia Elizabeth Wellington-Wentworth, alias Mia Hayward, is the brilliant, driven (and somewhat cosseted) CEO of Blush Cosmetics. Blush has been Mia’s (I’m going to refer to her as Mia, as that’s the name she uses for most of the book) entire life. Her father founded the company, and she was raised to take the reins. However, while her lavish, corporate-driven upbringing has made her a bold, steely and well-equipped CEO, it’s left her with some surprising gaps in experience. Driving, cooking for herself, sexual hookups; she’s lost in situations that most of us consider commonplace.
Cruz Barcelona, on the other hand (again, sticking with the alias that’s used for the bulk of the novel) is all “street-smarts,” if you will. He’s lived everywhere, done everything; after all, he’s a hitman. One tends to gather a fair amount of experience when travelling the world to commit untraceable murders, right? Helpfully enough, Cruz also happens to be just the epitome of sex. Like, forgive me, but oh my god, LADIES. He is our dream man. He is franken-lover come to life. Confident without being commandeering, dominant in the bedroom and respectful outside of it, full of genuine emotion and driven by a rigid moral compass. I want to eat him on a cracker, topped with bruschetta. Sexy bruschetta.
Cruz’s rigid moral compass doesn’t stop with his job; he only accepts hits for the people he deems to be true monsters. According to his sources, “Mia” fills the role and then some. She’s knowingly built factories in China that employ underage workers in horrific conditions, factories that kill hundreds in a fire just as they’re being closed in on as the source of an online child pornography ring. (If Adair has one flaw, it’s an inability to rein herself in when she touches on the maudlin. Something can’t just be sad; it has to be the worst thing that has ever happened in the history of bad things. We’ll touch on this again later.) She’s been tracked to China and back for months, photographed going into and out of her deathtrap factories. There’s no doubt about her guilt, and Cruz has taken the hit willingly, if not enthusiastically. Except…
When Cruz turns up to do the job, an unlikely misunderstanding leads to the two getting rather friendly, rather quickly. And while Cruz is a consummate professional, and brushes their encounter off as being meaningless, he quickly realizes that something doesn’t feel quite right. Something he can’t pin down but can’t brush off, either. So he sticks around to get to the bottom of things - promising himself all the while that he won’t let anything get in the way of finishing the job he was hired to do.
All told, the plot is bananas, in a totally acceptable way. Perhaps because it involves billion-dollar companies and secret business coups, perhaps because reading romance means suspending a portion of your disbelief anyway, the whole “hire a hitman as part of a nefarious plot to hijack the company” thing doesn’t feel as far-fetched as it could. I’d be willing to believe that a couple people have been knocked off over the years as part of giant corporate back-door deals. Of course, Adair’s talent for dialogue and pacing make a world of difference. It’s difficult to sit back and start picking the plot details apart when you’re racing through the pages to find out who orchestrated the hit.
As I mentioned previously, the only time Adair veers off the tracks is in her penchant for tripping past “dramatic” into “downright soapy.” There’s a subplot about halfway through the novel that, while it allows Cruz and Mia a chance to show one another their softer sides, is a trifle overdone in the weepy department. If you have trouble with abusive men and abused women and children, maybe steer clear of this one. Adair can’t seem to resist taking anything emotional, milking the ever loving hell out of it, and then sprinting with it to the saddest possible conclusion, and it’s distracting at times, even in the middle of all the fantastic sex. Although, I suppose, without all the drama-rama we wouldn’t actually get to see Cruz kill anybody in his trademark style, which would be sort of a cocktease from a novel featuring a talented hitman. So I guess I’ll have to allow it.
Sex. Are you ready to talk about the sex? Because crikey almighty, ladies, the SEX. There was SO. MUCH. SEX. All kicked puppies and overwrought melodrama is forgiven, on the strength of all the fantastic the love-making and the underlying, incredible chemistry that drives it. The sex is amazing, drawn-out, and well-written, and made me want to stop reading and go start pressing my funbutton repeatedly about ten pages in. What’s more, Adair has a talent for making the sexy bits frequent without ever feeling shoehorned into the plot. I can’t think of a novel I’ve read recently where the lead characters were so thoroughly, impressively in lust; but instead of seeming like sex addicts who escaped a support meeting, they’re just two incredibly sexy, previously reasonable people carried away by mutual attraction. Bravo, Cherry. BRAVO.
All told, Blush boasts a compelling, mystery-driven plot, excellent wank material, and compellingly written characters to tie it all together. Despite Adair’s inability to resist the maudlin, it’s a tight, well-written little read. If you like your romances with plenty of smut and a side of mystery, you’ll fall for Cruz and Mia just as hard as they fall for each other.