Seducing The Secret Heiress
Jennifer St George
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Charlotte Wentworth is heir to a family fortune but she’s fled that and her former fiance after finding out that he was cheating on her. What for Charlotte, was a love match, was for Paul a business arrangement. He wanted her for her family money and for the merging of two empires and the fact that an heir would cement the legacy. He showed no remorse and didn’t waste a second telling Charlotte he wouldn’t accept her backing out of the wedding. He’d put far too much effort into it to have it all blow up in his face. And finding out that her cold, society parents were in on it was the last straw for Charlotte. She fled to Italy.
There she meets Gabe in unusual circumstances when she helps save his niece’s life. Eternally grateful, Gabe sees a chance to help out Charlotte in return when he sees that she’s clearly down on her luck. Seeing a chance to reinvent herself, Charlotte goes by Charlie Brown, distancing herself from her famous name and wealth. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Gabe is a famous producer of reality TV shows and she gives him the idea of his next show – First Class Chef, a reality cooking show. Charlie has always been passionate about cooking and food, even though her mother and father thought it an activity well beneath her. Back at Gabe’s house in London, after tasting some of Charlie’s food, Gabe convinces her to try out for the show.
England falls in love with “Charlie Brown” and it isn’t long before her personality and food shine through, making this Gabe’s most successful television show yet. The attraction is simmering between them as well but they still face quite the challenge – Gabe has been used countless times by women who want him to make them famous. He despises wealth, despises “spoiled heiress” types who lie and cheat to get what they want. Charlie is hiding the biggest thing of all from him – her true identity. Once Gabe finds out what she has been keeping from him, he’s never going to want to see her again. And his show is going to tank – nations don’t like being duped by people they’ve come to care for. How is Charlie going to get out of the mess she has created for herself?
I don’t like to cook – my husband is the cook in this family and he makes 99% of our meals. He enjoys it and I enjoy finding new things for him to cook! Before I moved in with him, he’d never made a roast before. He made a lot of pasta, rice, soup dishes, etc, dishes quite common to his heritage. I know how to cook a lot of things, I just don’t like to do it and I really hate all the mess cooking makes. However – I absolutely love cooking shows. And so does my husband – he works nights so often we record them and then watch them in blocks on nights where he is not working. So I was immediately excited to read a book where the main character was going to take part in a reality cooking show. It’s a setting that very much appealed to me – reading is already one of my favourite things so combining it with food was definitely a win!
Charlie is in a pretty bad place when she flees to Italy – she’s just discovered that her fiance was unfaithful and never really cared for her and that her father saw her as a business pawn. When she meets Gabe by saving his niece’s life, it’s obvious to Gabe afterwards that she simply has no where to go. After the amazing service she did for him, it’s no hardship for him to open his home to her and give her somewhere to stay in Italy. He has no idea that Charlie is wealthy – her access to her money has been cut off and Charlie has reinvented herself as someone else, wanting to be taken at face value for once in her life, rather than having people be impressed by her family name and wealth. And she has no idea who Gabe is and what he actually does – they’re just two people who meet and get to know each other without the trappings of family and day jobs.
I really enjoyed the time taken for Gabe and Charlie to get to know each other and develop a friendship as well as an attraction. They spend a lot of time together, firstly with Gabe’s niece and nephew and secondly back in London, as Gabe develops the show and gets it into production. Charlie finds herself a job nearby before Gabe convinces her to audition for the show and she settles in to her new life, seemingly more comfortable in it than she was in her old one. It isn’t until she faces some blackmail that forces her to take a step and be courageous that Charlie really comes into her new self. I admired the way she wasn’t afraid to confess her secret very publicly – she took the hard way of doing things, rather than the easy way. She’s a very likeable character and I loved the descriptions of what Charlie cooks on the show. As an Australian on an English show, her “edge” is her love of Australian produce and her devotion to dishes she thinks personify Australia. Everything sounded amazing and I wanted to taste all her dishes! I just wish there’d been a bit more time devoted to the challenges of the show!
Seducing The Secret Heiress is a very sweet romance that will appeal to readers who like time taken to establish feelings and two characters getting to know each other well before exploring a relationship but still with a depth of feeling and passion. The food is a beautiful bonus!
Thanks to Penguin AU, I was given the chance to ask Jennifer St George a few questions about her writing.
1). Hi Jennifer, welcome to my blog and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. How did you come to begin writing novels and what was the road to publication like for you? What attracted you to submitting to a digital imprint?
Hi Bree, Thank you so much for inviting me to 1girl2manybooks.
When my husband decided that a move to Byron Bay was essential to his happiness (!), I found myself at a loose end. With small children at home and no large companies locally begging me for my expertise, I urgently needed an intellectual challenge. I knew I could write a marketing report, but could I write a romance novel? The challenge was on!
I’m quite determined, so once I decided to write, I attended every conference, writing course, writing festival and author chat that I could find. I wrote five full-length category romances before being accepted by Destiny Romance.
I was actually very lucky with Destiny. I volunteer for Romance Writers of Australia and was managing the sponsorship for the 2012 conference. While chatting to Penguin’s wonderful Sarah Fairhall, she casually asked if I’d like to send her something (would I?!?). Little did I know I would become a launch author for Penguin’s digital-first romance imprint!
2). Are you the sort of writer who plots out a new novel meticulously from beginning to end before you even type the first sentence or do you just sit down and let the words flow?
I wrote four novels before I worked out I really should plan. Now I plot every scene before I write one word. I find I work so much more efficiently and my stories are tighter and just…better (at least I hope so)!
3). Do you write to schedule or just whenever the mood takes you? Do you have a favourite place you like to write, such as a study, a café or even in bed? Any favourite snacks to fuel you through the process?
I treat writing like a job. When I start a new book, I get up early and try to write one thousand words before the kids wake up. After school drop off, I do some exercise and then write until I can’t write anymore.
I mostly work in a couple of my favourite cafés in Byron Bay. When at home, I take my laptop on to the deck and write to the sounds of the sea and the bush. I fuel myself up on lots and lots of freshly brewed coffee – I’m a total addict!
4). I love watching cooking shows with my husband, so that part of the novel appealed to me. Do you love to cook and watch the shows or are you just like me and love to watch other people creating dishes?
I’m thrilled you like the cooking show concept. I do like cooking shows. My favourite show is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage – love all that organic food. But, I was inspired to write about a reality TV Show as I took part in the Australian version of Dragon’s Den. The harsh spotlights alone are enough to raise your heart rate. Add judges, camera close-ups and a Director and the experience is really very intense, but exhilarating at the same time. I thought this pressure-cooker environment would make good fodder for a sexy romance.
I like cooking, but I’m not very good at it. This might have something to do with the fact that I never measure anything. I’ve been to cooking classes with some great chefs including Ben O’Donoghue and Steven Snow but their fabulous talent just hasn’t rubbed off on me. Sad but true. So, it was really fun to create a heroine who has a talent I don’t.
5). Would you ever do what Charlie did, and go home with a man she had just met?
I thought very long and hard about this part of the story because under normal circumstances I would never go home with a man I’d just met, so why would Charlie?
However, this aspect of the story is based on something that actually happened to me when I backpacked around Europe (long time ago!). My friends and I arrived in Rome late at night. We couldn’t find a taxi or a hotel with any free rooms near the train station. We found ourselves wandering the streets in an unsavoury part of town and becoming more and more nervous. A well-dressed couple approached us and asked if they could help. In the end, they invited us to stay at their apartment and crazily, we accepted. It seemed safer than staying out on the dark Italian streets where groups of youths had begun to follow us. Fortunately, the couple were simply charming, friendly Italians, and not axe murderers. We stayed for two days.
So, I knew I had to create really compelling reasons why Charlie would feel safe to go with Gabe. At least I was with a couple of friends that time in Italy.
6). What led you to decide to set your novel overseas?
Simply because I love to travel. I really enjoy trying to convey through my stories, the beauty, atmosphere and even the smells of my favourite places.
7). Care to share any favourite authors or books?
I always find this question so difficult as I love so many authors and so many books. I will say that Kelly Hunter’s books were a revelation to me – she writes such compelling stories. But there are so many more….
8). And lastly, what’s next for you?
It seems Destiny Romance will accept my third submission, which is very exciting. I’m also half-way through writing a story about two characters from completely different worlds. The hero is an IT guru working in central London and she runs a wildlife sanctuary in Brunei. Having them find anything in common is proving difficult. It creates wonderful conflict, which I’m loving. I’ve already cried a couple times while writing their story, so I hope I’m conveying this emotion on the page.
Seducing The Secret Heiress is the 9th novel read and reviewed for AWW2013