Reviewed by Tina and Caroline (below)
High Octane Powered Tale of Love and Deception
Charades, by Ann Logan, is a thrilling tale of love and deception, where no one is who or what they seem. Caught in the centre is an innocent young woman, Mercedes Fuentes. Mercy not only has to face ghosts from her past she did not know existed, but she also has to cope with a man to whom she has given her heart but who betrays her trust.
In Charades, Mercy, whose parents are deceased and who has been sequestered in academia for years, is offered an opportunity she cannot refuse. Her task is to pose as girlfriend to Wulf Rheinhart who needs a fake fiancée for a week to close a business deal. In return, Mercy will receive a large sum of money to pay off much of her student debt. Although Mercy is shy around men, she is persuaded by Hazel, who was a friend of her mother’s that Wulf will pose no threat as he is an honourable man and she decides to go ahead with the deal.
As soon as Wulf and Mercy meet there is a mutual attraction. Mercy senses that Wulf is a good man and something of a kindred spirit as he appears a little awkward and devoted to his work. She quickly places her trust in him as his non-threatening demeanour disarms her. Once Wulf’s business deal is secured the couple fall in love and Wulf persuades Mercy to accompany him to Germany, to meet his parents. However, once in Germany, Mercy learns that Wulf is not the man she thinks he is. In fact she discovers that his very mission was to lure her there for another purpose entirely. She soon finds that her very life is on the line and she does not know whom to trust. Her heart tells her one thing but her mind another. Sinister forces are at play in this suspenseful tale that is full of humour, danger, adventure and plenty of romance.
I liked how Mercy’s character grew in strength throughout the novel. When we first meet her she is nervous around men, favouring dowdy clothes that hide her femininity and being prone to panic attacks. We soon learn that this is due to an experience she had when she began her studies. However, once she falls in love with Wulf she gains a lot of confidence and is able to draw on an inner strength to enable her to cope with the many difficult revelations and events which follow. I think that she surprises herself, Wulf and others with what she is capable of. However, she still retains her overall sense of vulnerability, innocence and goodness, which makes her such a likeable heroine for whom the reader wants to see a HEA.
Wulf, the hero, stole the show for me however, as he is such a lovable character. He is uncomfortable with his mission from the onset, more so when he discovers what an innocent he has to deceive. However, he feels compelled to go through with the task, for reasons that I will not divulge as it would spoil the plot. He soon falls for Mercy and rises to the occasion when he realises that she is in very real danger and uses all of his resources to keep her safe.
I loved the growing relationship between the couple, which was beautifully orchestrated. I felt that their courtship was very realistic and the lovemaking scenes sweet, Wulf being a masterful lover who soon overcomes Mercy’s fears and inhibitions. You could really tell that they were destined to be together, despite the difficulties the plot threw at them. I could understand Mercy’s misgivings when she discovers Wulf’s initial deception and other times when he did not put her fully in the picture. I also felt Wulf’s angst at having to deceive the woman he loves.
There were many other characters in the plot, which transports the reader from the US, to Germany and to Mexico. Of special note is Hazel, who was instrumental in bringing Mercy and Wulf together and Anton, Wulf’s boss and mentor. These characters, in addition to the others, have an interesting back story and are not whom they first appear to be.
I liked the author’s writing style, which I feel gave a good balance of romance, suspense and plot twists which kept me entertained throughout. I recommend this novel to readers who enjoy romantic suspense or contemporary romance, where there are strong elements of intrigue, danger and adventure. I would read another book by the author.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
‘Charades’ is an absolutely enthralling ride of love and deceipt. The apt title of this novel explains the story very well, as for poor Mercedes Fuentes one charade snowballs into many more, causing an avalanche of confusion and leaving her uncertain of where to turn. Does she remain on this path with her new-found acting fiancé, Wulf Rheinhart, or does she run? This story, characters and plot, become bigger and better as the story moves on. From the beginning when the reader believes that they are reading a contemporary romance the novel unfolds to suspense romance, thriller, crime, action, adventure and espionage.
Mercedes, more familiarly known as Mercy, has hidden herself into a life of academia, building up student loans, in order to avoid the male population. However, when a family friend offers her a chance to pay off most of the loans, Mercy cannot help but take on the offer. Mercy meets with her friend, Hazel, who has a job lined up for her to act as Wulf Rheinhart’s fiancée in order for him to make a huge business deal with his oil company. Wulf feels like he needs to portray himself as a family man and so needs Mercy to act as his fiancée for a week to secure the deal. Over the course of the week, as well as being attracted when they first met, they begin to develop a love interest for each other and, once the deal is done, Wulf takes Mercy to meet with his family in Germany.
Once in Germany, the naïve and shy Mercy discovers that she has a grandfather in Germany that once was an SS Nazi soldier and had stolen a great deal of money from the Jewish population at the time of the Second World War. It is then that she realises that Wulf’s intentions to bring her to Germany were not for the reasons she thought. Wulf has lied to her and deceived her. Now she is in paramount danger with people that seek this enormous amount of money, knowing that she is the granddaughter, with a man that betrayed her and in a country away from anyone she trusts. On the one hand she could try and run, but where would she end up if she was alone? Her only other option is to stay with Wulf, as even though he has betrayed her, he seems to be the only one that wants her to be kept alive and safe!
I really like the name and the character ‘Wulf’ in Charades. His name sounds heroic, strong, domineering, decisive and exciting. Along with his physical appearance of being tall, rugged and muscular, this makes for a fabulous hero, one of which the readers will adore and he is perfect for the role in which he plays with Mercy. I’m sure any reader would be at his mercy given the chance! The tension between these two characters is brilliant. One can really sympathise with both characters as the reader is given both points of view as the story moves on. On the one hand Wulf has deceived Mercy on many levels by lying to her, mostly for her own safety. However, it is clear that he hates this situation. He longs to be honest with Mercy but can only do so when it is safe, therefore, Mercy only hears the truth in fractions at a time. This also leaves the reader screaming in parts for Wulf to open up more.
The story itself keeps the characters on their toes with espionage, car chases, kidnapping, threats and plenty more action from America, across to Europe, then Mexico and back! Charades is one hell of a ride. The further into the story you read the reader faces more puzzles and confusion. Ann Logan has written in such an exciting manner that the story becomes bigger and bigger. I think it reflects in the novel that Ann has a wide knowledge of visiting different countries and throughout the book there is always a deep sense of family. It definitely rings true to life in some areas as it made me wonder about my extended family and past generations. What did they get up to?
One of the interesting sides this novel has is the growing of Mercy’s character. At the beginning of this novel she was a naïve student, wary of all men and shy. She blossoms as does her relationship with Wulf and towards the end of the Charades Mercy is no longer as naïve as what she was. In the short time she has known Wulf, he has given her an insight into so much, helped her overcome a fear and she finds out how deep some people will go for love. She is now a worldy wiser woman, well aware of her sexiness and attraction and could possibly deal with any scenario she was faced with. As a reader, I found myself feeling proud of her. She is a great heroine.
Charades is definitely a fascinating read. What began as a contemporary romance for me, with love at it’s core and some really passionate sensual scenes, became a fast-paced thriller with a great plot, plenty of action and crime too. This story has it all!!
Charades was received by A Reader’s Review Blog gratefully from the publisher, Book Hub Inc. for the purpose of an honest and fair review.
Reviewed by Caroline Barker
Charades cover art by Bri Bruce
Published by Blue Star Books