As a commanding officer in Iraq, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Harte rarely found himself in the thick of a battle, but due to an unfortunate case of bad timing, that's exactly where he ended up. Hit on the head by flying shrapnel, the blow damaged the area of his brain that controls vision. Now completely blind, he faces his disability with the same strength and courage that propelled him up through the ranks of the Army. He's learned to do for himself everything he possibly can and is wealthy enough to afford help for those things he can't do. After a bitter failed marriage, Daniel isn't looking for another relationship. Instead, he chooses to hire women to be his companions for the night. That was all well and good for satisfying his sexual needs, but now he wants someone who seems more like wife material to pretend to be his girlfriend and accompany him on a weekend trip to meet up with the two men whose lives he saved in the battle that wounded him. The men are having a hard time adjusting to being back home and healing wounds of their own, both inside and out, so Daniel wants to show them it can be done.
Working for an escort service is something Annie Claire Townsend never would have chosen to do until medical bills from her daughter's illness start stacking up. A friend puts her on to the idea, and when Daniel offers her ten thousand dollars for one weekend as his companion, how can she possibly turn him down? After a terrible marriage to an abusive husband, Annie is wary of spending a weekend with a complete stranger, but he almost immediately puts her at ease. Even though she makes it clear to him that there will be no sex, she soon finds herself eating her words. Daniel is charming, seductive, and drop-dead gorgeous, not to mention, she admires the way he carries himself in spite of his disability as well as for what he's trying to do for his friends and other injured soldiers. By the end of the weekend, she's starting to have feelings for him, but it was just a one-time job, wasn't it?
Almost from the moment he meets her, Daniel can sense that Annie is different. He's surprised by how natural their pretend relationship feels, so much so that when the weekend is over, he knows he wants to see her again and not just for sex. But he can feel she's holding something back. He wants to get her to open up about her past, but when she finds out what he hasn't told her about his own marriage, it may sabotage their future.
I'm a sucker for romances that have a Pretty Woman vibe to them, as well as for physically damaged characters, and The Escort fits the bill on both counts. The hero is blind, although quite independent and self-sufficient, as well as lucky enough to be sufficiently wealthy to afford great assistants. The heroine has just started working for an escort service, and while she's instituted a no-sex policy and isn't officially a prostitute, she breaks her rule in pretty short order, leaving some room for interpretation on that account. While the story did have a few downsides to it, overall, it was a nice, easy, feel-good read that I generally enjoyed.
Thanks to inheriting a fortune from his mother's side of the family, Daniel is a wealthy man, but because his father was a career military man who expected his oldest son to follow in his footsteps, Daniel went into the army, where he worked his way up to a commanding officer. He was badly wounded in Iraq, along with two of his comrades he was trying to save, while the others in his unit were killed. As a result he lost his eyesight due to a blow to the head. He's a very strong-willed man, who's learned to make the best of a bad situation, and now he's trying to use his money and influence to help others like himself who aren't as fortunate. More than anything he wants to help the two men he rescued, whom he's recently found out are having a hard time readjusting to life stateside. One is an alcoholic, while the other one has attempted suicide on multiple occasions. Daniel wants to show them how he's carved out a new life for himself, in hopes that they'll be inspired by him, as well as to pay for their stays in treatment centers. But in order to accomplish that he wants to seem as normal as possible, so he hires Annie to be his pretend girlfriend for the weekend he's going to spend with the guys and their wives.
After a failed marriage and a bitter separation, Daniel doesn't think he'll get married again, and his blindness makes it hard for him to get out and meet women anyway. He's hired a number of women from the escort service, some for companionship, some for sex, but with Annie, it's all different. With the help of his assistant, Daniel hired her not just for her beauty, but also her classiness and intelligence. She turns out to be even more than he expected, handling a number of challenging situations with grace and dignity, and despite her no sex rule, she turns out to be a willing bed partner as well. Daniel has that take-charge military demeanor, but it isn't over the top. He's a kind-hearted man who wants to help others. I liked how Annie thought of him as a collector of misfits, as he tends to surround himself with lost souls, making it his mission to give them a new purpose in life. Despite his wife trying to turn their daughter against him, he's always taken the high road, and he's good with kids. He's a consummate seducer, who's so sexy, charming and persuasive, he could talk his way into a nun's bed. He's one of those rare over-40 romance heroes, although that isn't something we find out until the end of the story. Overall, I really liked Daniel. I just wish I'd been inside his head a little more to understand better how and why he fell so hard for Annie so fast after thinking he would never have a serious relationship like that again.
Annie was married to a man who severely abused her, nearly killing her. She also had to deal with a gravely ill child, and with all the medical bills racking up, she needed some fast cash. A friend put her on to the escort service, and when Daniel offered her ten thousand dollars for one weekend, she simply couldn't pass it up. She's surprised by how much she likes him in such a short time, but then he's an easy man to like. In fact, his seductiveness proves irresistible, and since she hasn't been with a man since her divorce, she figures why not have a no-strings fling. When the weekend is over and he wants to keep seeing her, she isn't sure where things might go, but she bravely gives it a shot. Annie is a good mother and daughter, an overall nice girl who would be nearly impossible not to like. However, I really wish the author had explored her background of abuse a little more. Ms. Sinclair toys with the idea that it somehow made Annie a more submissive person or that it might have affected her in other ways, but then it doesn't really go anywhere. It's not much more than it happened, it's over now, the end. I honestly think Annie would have been a fuller, richer character if this side of her had been explored more in depth.
I also thought that Annie's abuse could have been great fodder for heightened conflict as well, which this story needed more of IMHO. Things are just a little too easy for our lovebirds. Daniel's legally still-married status only gets in the way for a few days until he can officially file for a divorce. Then Annie's ex appears, fresh out of prison, wanting to see his daughter. I thought perhaps he might try something, but nada. Apparently he's a changed man. Daniel's ex has words with him a couple of times, but it's little more than a token fuss. His daughter is the stereotypical sullen teenager, but falls into line with Daniel's military discipline pretty easily. So there really isn't a whole lot to stand in our couple's way or make their relationship stakes high. This is the main reason I marked off the star, but there was also some awkward wording and difficulties with knowing who was speaking in dialogue at times.
Otherwise, The Escort was a pretty enjoyable story. Even without the conflict it held my attention pretty well. I wasn't bored while reading it. Also I appreciated the author's use of Daniel's other senses, especially his penchant for touch. I love it when touch is an integral part of love scenes, and because of Daniel's disability, this story has that in spades. I feel like it helps to create a more sensual bond between the lovers, so this earned it a few extra points. The Escort may not have reached the heights of perfection for me, but it was a nice, gentle story that made for a pleasant reading experience.
Note: I've noticed this book is usually classified as erotic romance, but I personally thought it leaned more toward ultra-steamy, as the sex doesn't overwhelm the story, nor is there anything over-the-top kinky. One love scene involved the use of a special blindfold so that Annie could see what it was like for Daniel being blind. There are also a couple of very brief moments of anal play with fingers, but that's about it as far as sexual activities that are out of the ordinary.
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