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On vacation with her aunt and uncle, Su Lin Jenny Taylor, the daughter of a Chinese-American marriage, wants only to erase the kinks from her body with a good steam. She's doing just that when she's rudely taken from her wandering thoughts by a slightly Irish, very male voice informing her she's in the men's steam room, not the ladies. Since she's in her birthday suit, Su Lin opens her eyes frantically hoping for steam to shield her from the stranger's prying eyes. What she finds instead is that there isn't enough steam in the world to protect her from his clear, appreciative gaze.
In the way she has about her, she knows immediately that this man will play a big role in her life. In fact, she determines that role then and there--he will be her first lover. If fate doesn't dictate it, she'll find a way to that end herself. But first, she has to remover herself from the steam room. Only after she's escaped him and her embarrassment does she realize she didn't ask his name, something that might have been awkward given the circumstances.
Terrance O'Connell is a connoisseur of women but he's never been affected by a woman as much or as quickly as he is by the Asian American--the American part is immediately apparent by the few words she speaks--he discovers in the men's steam room of the hotel where he stays between cruises on his yacht Glory. Since he's acquainted with the hotel manager, he knows he can find her identity and then he simply has to arrange a meeting. His confidence is such that he doesn't worry whether he'll manage to get her into his bed, but when and for how long. To Terry's delight, he not only finds out who she is, but at the same time her uncle seeks to charter Terry's yacht for a three-week Mediterranean cruise. So the good news is, Su Lin will share the cabin next to his--with a convenient connecting door--and he can work his charms on her far from the controlling attitudes of her relatives. The bad news is, just before getting underway, he finds his estranged father and twin brother are also joining the trip.
From the beginning, Terry finds nothing is as it seems or should be. Su Lin, far from needing to be cajoled into his bed is determined to be his lover, though once he finds she's a virgin, Terry himself is the one who hesitates. The longer he knows Su Lin, as she prefers to be called over her American name of Jenny, the more he fears once started with her he won't be able to stop. Then there's his father. The last time they saw each other, his dad, an earl and member of parliament, had beaten him senseless and thrown him out of the house. Terry, the odd man out in the family in that he hated school and enjoyed all manly activities out of doors, had just beaten the stuffings out of his brother, the first-born, who took after their scholarly, lawyerly father. Terry hasn't spoken to either of them since. But now his father is strangely reticent. His brother has come to make peace. He's recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and decided life, as short as it now appears to be, shouldn't be lived in the shadows, so he's decided to come out of the closet. Both pieces of news will be a shock to their father. Then there are Su Lin's aunt and uncle. She tells him that she's only just met them a few weeks ago, when she became an orphan after the death of her mother. Something isn't quite right about the two, but Terry is so consumed with Su Lin he barely spares time to think about what the problem is.
Everything comes to a head when the yacht reaches Nice and Su Lin's life is threatened. Terry's emotional life is in danger, too, as he discovers the petite woman owns his heart. It seems the trip is one surprise after another. Can one more revelation, a deep, dark secret from Terry's past, end his hope for happiness? He can only try to save his woman and head off a threatening disaster before that happens.
Interesting locations and a host of nicely written characters make MEDITERRANEAN MAMBO: NOTORIOUS IN NICE good reading. I liked how the author makes Su Lin's innocence and pureness of outlook a part of the story. She affects everyone she meets with her calm, Oriental approach to life, and charms them at the same time. It's fun to watch Terry come under her spell and eventually capitulate to love, and even more satisfying to watch him resolve the issues that have plagued him since that fateful time he was turned out of his home. Supporting characters are well done, especially Harry, Terry's first mate. The Texan explains to Su Lin that he never removes his cowboy hat except to shower--not even to "do the dirty." I hope MS. Carlo has a book in the making centered around Harry.
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