The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon
Series A Games People Play Novel
Genre Adult; Contemporary Romance
Publisher Avon Impulse
Publication Date December 26, 2017
They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.
Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.
Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line.
“I’ve gotten used to looking over my shoulder.” She popped the cracker in her mouth but she really couldn’t taste it.
“Is this the part where I’m not allowed to pretend ignorance?”
She was impressed he’d actually listened this afternoon. That was more than most people did. But it didn’t mean that she wanted to revisit any part of that topic.
With a hard swallow, she got the cracker down then dumped the rest on the bench between them. “How exactly does one become an art appraiser?”
That sexy smile of his came roaring back. “We’re changing the subject?”
She nodded. “Without even an ounce of subtlety.”
The rich sound of his laugh floated through the dark night. “Then the answer is easy—misspent youth.”
“What are you talking about? Art appraising sounds like something wealthy people would be into. Like, I’m looking at you and thinking private-school boy.” She studied his face and hummed as she tried to pin him down, figure out his untold story. “Maybe even a boarding school.”
He snorted. “Your people-reading skills are way off tonight.”
That answer . . . it had her wanting to know more. She beat back the urge to pepper him with questions. If she took a turn, he would want one. No way.
She pointed at the gooey s’more oozing between his fingers. “Blame the marshmallow.”
“They’re growing on you.”
“Not really.” She’d never been a fan. “The sticky thing . . . it’s annoying.”
He held up a hand and wore a look of fake outrage. “Honestly, you keep talking like that and I’ll have to leave the island.”
“I wish I had that option.” She hadn’t meant to say that, but the words were out there now.
His head snapped back as he looked at her. “Do you really have to be here?”
“I owe it to Tabitha.” And it was a debt Gabby took seriously. Her sweet, loving sister deserved so much more than the end she got. The idea of her dying alone and afraid twisted Gabby’s insides into knots. She had faint memories of a man and footsteps that horrible afternoon, but Tabitha was gone by the time Gabby reached her. “Someone needs to care about what really happened to her.”
“Too many, actually.” Someone looking for cash. Some jerk hoping to find a woman alone. Every option centered on the hazy figure she saw leaving the house. The one she’d almost convinced herself she’d dreamed up.
“Are you really not going to sleep inside tonight?” he asked.
“I might sleep on the porch.” That was the plan. There or the boathouse, where there’d be some protection from the wind.
She’d thought about knocking on Kramer’s door but his son was on the island, trying to catch up on maintenance that had been limited when the police shut down the island to everyone to conduct an investigation. Poor Kramer got displaced for a few months. Once he came back the police limited the work he could do. So did the wrangling over the estate be- cause Tabitha’s trust fund had been frozen. But now that Kramer was back, he was behind on all but the most routine work. She knew because he’d grumbled about that while they shared breakfast at his house this morning.
“It’s freezing out here.” Harris rubbed his hands together in front of the fire as if to prove his point.
“I’ll be fine.” When he started to say something, she talked over him. “I’m serious, Harris. I can’t be in the house. Not yet. Tomorrow, maybe. In the light.”
“Have you been in there since . . .”
He didn’t need to finish the sentence because she knew where he was going. “Since I found her body? No.”
He let out a long, loud breath as he wrapped up the chocolate bar again. “Take the guesthouse.”
The idea sounded so much better than any other option. She’d stayed there on and off with Tabitha since their parents died. Her sister loved the solitude of island but Gabby always worried the lack of companionship would prove to be too much. She stopped in. She swung through. She came up with excuses to be there for days at a time with her sister before jumping off again.
“Where would you sleep?” A not entirely unwelcome idea formed in her brain. “Or was that a really sloppy pass?”
“Sloppy?” He shook his head. “Woman, come on. It takes skill to look debonair while having your fingers stuck together with marshmallow.”
He held up his fingers to show her.
“You’re right,” she said, ignoring the fact he pulled off the look just fine.
He picked up the chocolate bar then dropped it again. “Melting chocolate. I mean, I’m balancing a lot over here.”
He really was adorable. Sexy and hot in a want-to- climb-him way, but kind of sweet, too.
Too bad she thought it was all a very calculated act. “You’re very impressive,” she said in the most con-
descending voice she could muster.
“Thanks for noticing.” He wiped his hands on a paper towel and put the rest of the s’mores ingredients away. “But the offer still stands. The guesthouse has a couch and a floor. I can sleep on one of those.”
“No.” The offer should have been easy to resist but she had to force the denial out. She stood up, thinking leaving might be the only way she could win this round. “I’ll be fine.”
He glanced up at her. “I get the impression you’re always fine, Gabby.”
“Then you’re not looking very closely.”
This seductive and intense tale continues the intriguing series that has been one of my favorites this year, each installment highly anticipated.
If you allow me to fangirl for a moment with HelenKay Dimon's stellar writing - the smoothly flowing stories that have strong, capable, and smart characters are well written, the puzzling plots thoroughly thought out, and chemistry between the alluring characters, both protagonists and the secondary characters, is a tangible force impossible not to notice. The witty, crafty dialog carries the stories forward, giving insights to the characters, and always manages to seduce my mind and make me smile. She is one of the authors I was reading before I was publishing my reviews and I'm delighted and excited about each new book published.
And The Pretender didn't disappoint either.
The investigation of the murder is tense and tricky because of the main stage is a private island and the turbulence of the family drama and tragedy playing on the side involves the main characters as well.
As the plot thickens, it is obvious that the culprit is a known character, most likely currently on the island, and prepared for drastic measures to keep their secrets.
The relationship between Harrison Tate and Gabrielle Wright is precious and so natural, it felt like they have known each other always. Both of them have had a challenging foundation for their lives, with childhood experiences no one would envy or wish upon anyone, making it hard for them to trust or let people in. Yet when Harrison and Gabby come together, it feels like the bond between them is innate. The need to open up and share the secrets they never ever talk about is urgent. And with all the lies, secrets, and half-truths there is raw honesty, fragile and gentle tenderness, sincerity between them that is enriched by the searing hot passion igniting since the first touch.
When the characters are secretive and withdrawn and they hold everyone at the arm's length the possibility that the reader will feel that distance to the characters is a possibility as well. There were a couple of instances in the first half of the story, that Gabby and Harrison kept their inner turmoil from me as well, I felt I couldn't connect with them. But as the story progress, I was invested to find the murderer, to find the culprit behind the attacks, and definitely allured by the charming characters.
A thrilling and engaging continues into the enjoyable, riveting series, yet easy to read as a stand-alone book since it does not require you to know the previous cases.
~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side