Bella Jackson is a famous model with a body made for sin and a bad-girl public image to match. Underneath it all though, she is an innocent virgin who is waiting for Mr. Right and whose last boyfriend sold her out to the tabloids as an ice queen. When she spots sexy rancher Jake Barton in the audience at one of her fashion shows, Bella is dumbstruck. They meet at an after-party, where Jake elicits unfamiliar sensations from her body, and seems to be equally as taken with her as she is with him. The sexual tension builds as Jake attends several more of Bella's shows, and when he invites her to dinner and a vacation at his Texas ranch, Bella thinks she may have finally found the man who will tempt her to go all the way.
This 52-page story was readable enough, but unfortunately was far too short to be satisfying for me. The hero and heroine were not nearly as developed as I would have liked to see. Their connection both to each other and to me, as the reader, was minimal at best, so I couldn't really say whether I liked or disliked either one. I can say that the hero, Jake, seemed a little too cocky for my taste, although if I'd had more to go off of, I might have felt differently. I thought the heroine, Bella, had potential, and I was initially intrigued by her virginal status that was at odds with her bad-girl public image. The main problem I had though was that Bella said she had been waiting for a serious commitment from a man who liked her for more than just her body, then she gave it up to Jake who initially offered no commitment nor seemed to have any attraction to her other than a physical one. By the end, it becomes clear that the relationship was being played as love-at-first-sight, which isn't my favorite plot device anyway, but I never really felt a deep connection between Jake and Bella that went beyond lust. Also the Christmas theme was a relatively minor part of the story.
Overall, Silver Bella was an OK read, but not up to par with my first Lucy Monroe novel that I recently read. Silver Bella is one of two short stories that are prequels to the Mercenary Trilogy, and I believe that Jake and Bella appear in Ready, the first full-length novel of that series. Although they did not have any actual part in Silver Bella, there is mention of Bella's brother, Joshua and Jake's sister, Lise, who are the hero and heroine of Ready. Also, there was a brief mention of Daisy, Bella's sister, who becomes the heroine of Carter's story in the 3 Brides for 3 Bad Boys anthology. Even though this novella didn't knock my socks off, I still look forward to continuing the Mercenary series soon. Silver Bella is found in the Merry Christmas, Baby anthology.
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