Lead Me On, by Victoria Dahl

>> Sunday, August 19, 2012

TITLE: Lead Me On
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl

PAGES: 348

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Third in the Tumble Creek series

Raw, animal magnetism...

...is a big red flag to prim and proper office manager Jane Morgan. After a rough childhood with a mother who liked her men in prison-jumpsuit orange, Jane changed her name, her look and her taste for bad boys. So why is she lusting for William Chase with his tattoo-covered biceps and steel-toed boots? The man blows things up for a living!

She gives herself one explosive, fantasy-filled night with Chase. The next day it's back to plain Jane and safe men.

But when her beloved brother becomes a murder suspect, it's Chase who comes to her rescue. And Jane discovers that a man who's been around the block knows a thing or two about uncovering the truth...
Anyone meeting boring, buttoned-down office manager Jane Morgan would never how she grew up and what she was like as a young teen. That's exactly what Jane wants. She works very hard to make sure no one even suspects that she was raised by a mother who chased afer convicted criminals all over the country, and that as a messed up teen she let too many boys do things she now regrets. Her life was out of control, but after a particularly bad episode, she turned it around through pure grit.

Now Jane's life is the polar opposite of what it was: a serious, sedate job, a boring wardrobe, and only dating white-collar men. And then William Chase comes into her life. Chase is blue-collar to the max. Tattoos, motorcycles, huge muscles, the works. He's also a really nice, responsible man, but even though he excites her like no men she has met before, Jane refuses to see beyond the fact that he looks like the kind of man she would have gone for in the past. She decides to give herself a present and have one night with him, but she will absolutely not consider any further involvement with the man.

But then, her brother is accused of murder, and suddenly, Chase is her last hope of saving him.

God, I loved this. Jane is my favourite kind of heroine: complex and imperfect, downright unlikeable at times, but real. She can be frustrating, since so many of her decisions here stem from fear and prejudices, but Dahl knows this perfectly, and justifies exactly why Jane would make those wrong decisions (hell, Jane herself is not completely blind to the fact that she's making the wrong decisions with Chase). As a reader, I couldn't help but sympathise completely and understand why she was making those mistakes.

She changes, though, and it was lovely to see. And I have to say, I really appreciated that what Jane had to learn was not that tough, stereotypically manly men are the only kind of men women are really attracted to and she needs to accept it, or some such rot. No, she needed to learn to accept herself, and look beyond her prejudices to be able to accept Chase as he was. That's a message that's rooted in character, and one I could stand behind.

Chase is lovely as well, and he has some family issues to deal with as well, but really, Lead Me On is all about the heroine's journey. Much as I loved Chase, Jane is the star, and his role is mostly to be there for her and understand where she's coming from. And since I'm very heroine-centric in my reading, that was fine by me!

I mentioned family issues in the previous paragraph. Well, the family stuff was as fascinating as the romance, which is something I often find is the case with Dahl. I especially loved the way she dealt with Jane's relationship with her family, especially her brother. She loves him, but she's got her eyes open with him. She recognises when he needs tough love and hard as it might be for her, she does what she thinks would be best for him in the long run, even if [[A BIT OF A SPOILER AHEAD]] it's going to jail for a while. I was very impressed with her at the end when she lays out to him exactly what the consequences of his supposedly victimless crime of just stealing a few purses could be, and what they actually led to in this story. Really great stuff.

The only issue I had with the book, which keeps it from the A grade the heroine and the romance deserve, was the whole to-do with Jane's ex, and his unrealistically vindictive plotting. That felt a bit out of place, and didn't work for me. Other than that (very small) element, this was amazing.

Dahl's contemporaries are addictive. It's a shame I started with her historicals, which didn't particularly wow me. I appreciate the idea of her characters in historicals, but I always felt her voice was a bit off. Her voice is so much better suited to books such as this one, and the absolutely wonderful Donovan Brothers Brewery trilogy. She's got a new one coming up, with the first book out later this month, and I can't wait.

MY GRADE: A very strong B+.


nath 19 August 2012 at 12:43  

I've had this one in my TBR pile for a while. I read the first one, but for some reasons, not the two subsequent books. Although I did read other of her books. Guess it's time to go back and dig them out of the TBR pile :) Thanks for the review, Rosario!

Rosario 20 August 2012 at 06:48  

It took me a while to pick up that last one as well, but I think it's probably my favourite out of the 3. Do read it Nath, I think you'll enjoy it!

Christine,  25 January 2013 at 20:07  

I had a lot of problems with the heroine in this one and the way she spoke to/treated the hero. It was so insulting and dismissive. I found it hard to believe he would keep coming back after she basically told him, despite his business success and general all around nice ways "you are not educated and refined enough for me." All the while she was acting (IMHO) very boorish. I know we are shown this is because of her history but it seemed callous and unlikable on her part. I have however, enjoyed other Dahl books including "Real Men Will" which make your top ten list. I found the heroine of that one both empowered and likable despite some terrible things happening to her in her past.

Rosario 26 January 2013 at 08:19  

Christine: Oh, I agree she's a difficult one to like. What makes all the difference to me is that Dahl makes it clear she's being a jerk, and it's not excused. I also felt I understood where her -I agree- boorish behaviour was coming from.

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