Title: The Contestant
Author: Stephanie Doyle
Copyright: 2008 (Harlequin); 286 pgs.
Series: Silhouette Bombshell #52
Who: Talia Mooney and Reuben Serrano
Where: South Pacific
Four and a half years after competing in her last Olympics, diver Talia Mooney finds herself participating in a different kind of competition. In an effort to help her treasure-hunting father pay off his debts to some shady people who plan to do bodily harm if they are not repaid, Talia signs up to compete on Ultimate Endurance, a new reality TV series. A group of eight contestants (four men and four women), two cameramen, and the host are dropped off on a tropical island. Through a series of competitions, the contestants will be eliminated, one by one, until there is only one remaining. The prize is a million dollars.
But things do not go smoothly. The competition has barely started when Evan — their host — informs them that, around the same time they left Hawaii, some one murdered an up-and-coming actress and made off with several millions-worth of jewelery. The police believe the murderer fled on one of ships that sailed that same night — including their yacht. Evan reassures the group that the captain searched the ship after receiving the warning and no castaway was found. As far as Evan is concerned, there is no need to worry — the game can continue. This doesn’t reassure anyone. Several members of the show were late additions, including Evan. Regardless, any one of the cast and crew could have done it, knowing they’d be sailing away from civilization for an extended period of time.
To say more about the plot might give it away, so I’ll leave it at that.
As for Talia and Reuben, both are at a crossroads in their lives; both are looking to be something other than what they were before, but for different reasons.
After her last Olympics, Talia went to school to be an accountant. After a lifetime of living on a boat, camping on tropical islands, and spending all her time in a bathing suit, Talia is looking for a normal, serious life. One where she can wear business suits and nice shoes; where she can have an apartment on solid ground and normal furnishings. Talia wants a life that she believes her mother — who died long ago — would have wanted her to have. Though Talia knows her mother loved her father very much, she can’t help believing her mother would have preferred living like a normal person. Yet, since graduating, Talia hasn’t been able to get a job. Nobody who has interviewed her for entry level positions can believe someone like her — her silver medal is listed on her resume — would be content to spend all day behind a desk, in front of a computer, crunching numbers. So far, no one will hire her, based on her background.
Half Irish, half Puerto Rican, Reuben comes from a family of cops. The only reason his maternal grandfather didn’t chase Reuben’s father off, when he starting dating his mother, was the fact that he was a cop (and Catholic). Reuben’s uncles are cops and his three brothers are cops. Being a cop was all he knew how to be. After getting shot though, Reuben had time on his hand to seriously reevaluate his life, and to decide if he truly wanted to return to the force, or if there was a dream he wanted to pursue instead Turns out, there was, but he needed ready money. He learned about the reality show from a fellow Iron Man competitor, and jumped at the chance to sign up.
Reuben is very blunt and a bit of jerk. He calls Talia “sugar” and “sweetheart”, and lets his intention be known. It was lust at first sight for him, but it has developed into something deeper. He’s reached a point where he’s thinking about a long-term commitment and finding away to have Talia in his life. He’s observant enough to know that Talia clamped down her own instant attraction to him and to know, even if she can’t figure it out, that she wouldn’t be happy confined to a cubicle. For her part, Talia initially fights the attraction because Reuben isn’t the safe, serious (boring) type she pictures herself married to; he doesn’t fit into her safe, serious (boring) future plans.
I really liked this book. I even liked Reuben, though he is a bit hard to take in the beginning. He has no problem with Talia taking the lead in situations where she has more expertise. It soften the alpha male tendencies somewhat. The rest of the characters are stereotypes, but that’s to be expected because even on reality shows, that’s what the contestants seen to be anyway. I had a hard time putting the book down. I didn’t guess who the murderer was right off and that kept me turning the pages.
Started: 10 July 2009
Finished: 11 July 2009
30 Aug – KMont – I’m not a big fan of these kinds of reality shows, but somehow it sounds like it could make for a good book setup. Glad you enjoyed your category read this month! 🙂 I’ve yet to try one of the mystery/suspense ones.
30 Aug – Me – I’m no fan of them either. *shudder* Thanks for stopping by! 🙂