Secret Fantasy

By: Carly Phillips

Series: Fantasies Inc.

Book Number: 2

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


The daughter of a well-respected U. S. Senator, Juliette Stanton is hours away from saying "I do" when she discovers that her fiance is connected to the mob. Since she left him at the altar with no explanation to the media, the press has dubbed her Chicago's Runaway Bride. All she wants is to lay low somewhere until the news frenzy blows over, so her sister sends her to an island paradise that caters to its clients deepest fantasies. There Juliette hopes to gain anonymity and maybe find a guy who loves her for herself and not her father's connections. Although she's skeptical that her fantasy will come true, she finds herself falling for a tall, dark, handsome stranger her first day on the island, but little does she know that he isn't being entirely honest with her either.

Doug Houston is a star reporter who broke the story about Juliette's fiance having mob connections, but quickly had to retract it due to a lack of hard evidence. Determined to make his ailing father proud of him and to restore his good name, he tracks Juliette to the island, hoping that if he can gain her confidence, she'll let some juicy piece of information slip. He just didn't expect to actually fall for the runaway bride. Soon he's feeling guilty about not telling her the entire truth of why he's there. However, just as Doug is about to reveal everything and hope that she'll forgive him the deception, Juliette finds out in the worst possible way, which could destroy their burgeoning relationship.


Secret Fantasy is the second book in the multi-author continuity series, Fantasies, Inc. All of the stories take place in a Fantasy Island style paradise, where visitors can live out their romantic fantasies after being carefully paired with their perfect mate by the island's owner, Merilee. Juliette is the daughter of a U. S. Senator who just left her fiance at the altar after discovering that he's involved with organized crime, and now the media has dubbed her the Runaway Bride. To get her away from the glare of the spotlight, her twin sister books a vacation for her at Fantasies, Inc., where she meets Doug. He seems like the perfect guy who's all about putting her needs above his own, but she doesn't know that he came to the island, looking for her. Doug is the journalist who broke the story about her fiance to the newspapers, but then embarrassingly had to retract it due to lack of solid evidence. Now he's followed Juliette to the island, hoping to gain her trust and get the information out of her that will prove his story was correct all along. However, once he meets her, he has an increasingly difficult time following through on his purpose. Instead, he finds himself falling for her and wanting a real relationship, while considering not writing a new story at all. But before he can come clean in hopes that she'll forgive him, Juliette finds out the truth in the worst possible way, which could end everything.

Juliette adores her father, one of the truly good guy politicians who has really made a difference during his career. He's announced his retirement and hand-picked his successor, Juliette's fiance, Stuart. However, right before their wedding, the story breaks about Stuart's possible involvement in organized crime, but the article was later retracted. On their wedding day, though, Juliette sees him talking to a mob boss. She immediately calls the whole thing off, but knows if the press gets wind of the real reason she left Stuart at the altar, her father's entire legacy would instantly be tainted. Instead she allows them to think she's merely fickle and has to weather through being given the moniker, Chicago's Runaway Bride. To escape the media glare, her twin books the trip for her, although Juliette doesn't realize until she arrives exactly what kind of vacation it is. Not being the adventurer her sister is, Juliette isn't too sure about a fantasy vacation at first, but after spotting a hot guy in the hotel lobby, she decides to embrace it. Of course, she gets paired with said hot guy and is having the time of her life. Doug is everything Stuart wasn't, giving generously of himself and fulfilling every fantasy she didn't know she had. She comes to trust and fall for him in a few short days, but when the truth about why he really came to the island comes out, it could break her heart all over again. Juliette is a very likable heroine who is sweet and more on the reserved side, which I could very much relate to. Worried about her dad's reputation, she's trying to figure out the best course of action, while falling head-over-heels for Doug. I like that she embraces her time with him, wanting everything he's willing to give and being generous in return.

Doug had a rough childhood and was adopted at an older age by a couple who were the perfect parents for him. He followed in his adoptive father's footsteps to become a journalist and broke the story about Stuart but had to retract it later. Worried about what the stress of his career woes might do to his dad who just had a heart attack, Doug is determined to find the evidence he needs to back up his original story. He spent two years in a relationship with a socialite who gave him access to important people, and now that it's over, he admits that he was basically using her for story fodder, something he feels guilty about. He manages to track Juliette to the island and requests that Merilee pair him with her, hoping that she'll have the information he needs. To get in, he tells Merilee that his fantasy is to prove to himself that he can put a woman first, something that isn't entirely untrue, even if he is falling back on old habits. Once he meets Juliette, though, he finds someone who is his dream woman. She's sweet, sexy, and vulnerable, and the more he gets to know her, the more he wants to give to her, rather than take. He knows it won't be easy, but he's determined to tell her the truth, hoping that if he's honest she'll forgive him, except someone else beats him to it, leaving their budding romance in jeopardy. Doug might not have had altruistic reasons for following Juliette to the island, but he found someone in her who made it easy for him to be vulnerable and who made him want to be a better person. He became that person for her, and IMHO always did put her needs before his own, even if he wasn't being entirely honest at first. He grew a lot as a character throughout the story, and even after things went south between them, I still felt he continued to put Juliette first, avoiding implicating her or her father in his story.

As a pretty big fan of the old television show, Fantasy Island, I've thus far been enjoying this book mini-series, which is somewhat similar. I love the idea of going to a tropical paradise to live out a romantic fantasy, so this has been a big selling point for me. Overall, Secret Fantasy was an enjoyable entry into the series. I liked both Juliette and Doug. I thought they were good characters who complemented each other well. Their romance is admittedly an insta-love one, which isn't usually a favorite trope for me, but the author created a strong emotional bond between them right from the moment they met and gradually grew that connection over the days they spent together on the island. The love scenes are sensual and very expressive of the burgeoning feeling between out main characters. That being the case, the book was on track to receive keeper status from me until the ending, which I thought could have been a bit stronger. That Juliette discovered the truth before Doug could tell her was pretty predictable, but I think the most disappointing thing is that Stuart didn't really get much of a comeuppance with what little does happen to him occurring off canvas. I admit that I'm not sure how else the author could have written it and still protected Juliette and her father from the fallout of Stuart's criminal dealings, but I felt like he more or less got to bow out gracefully, which I thought was better than he deserved. Otherwise, I had a good time reading this book. It was my first by the rather prolific Carly Phillips, but it won't be my last. I found that I very much liked her storytelling style and look forward to exploring her back list as well as continuing the Fantasies, Inc. mini-series.


Carly Phillips