Carol returns reluctantly to her emotionally dysfunctional family, only to find herself in a battle of wills with Ethan, the handsome, aggressive co-owner of her family firm and the only man strong enough to master her and make her fall in love. Blonde, tanned and beautiful, Carol is a typical Californian rich girl of the '80s. But Carol moves from San Francisco to Italy for 2 years, desperate to escape the tug-of-war she and her sister Rachel and brother Dave are constantly finding themselves after their parents' unpleasant divorce. She also wanted to escape the disapproval of her siblings, parents and grandparents at her chosen profession in life as a personal chef.
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Carol's life as a budding, learning chef on the Continent is cut short when her sister phones her to tell her that her grandfather, whom Carol has barely spoken to in the past couple years, is losing a battle with cancer. Carol doesn't love her grandfather and doesn't particularly want to see any of her critical and emotionally distant family members, but in a fit of sentimentality and longing for love, she agrees to come home to pay her last respects. She packs up and flies to San Francisco, only to be nearly thwarted at her grandfather's hospital bed by his young 30-year old godson, the ambitious, arrogant and autocratic Ethan, whom Carol never liked growing up and barely spoke to after he went away to college a decade ago. Ethan is all grown up now, and Carol is surprised that the boy has become a man. An autocratic, high-handed, authoritative man (our favorite kind in fiction, after all). Ethan is protective of Carol's old man and warns Carol not to agitate him, which Carol takes offense at. This is HER grandfather, after all. She says good bye to her grandfather and grieves quietly as he dies, sad mainly that she did not know him better while he was living, all the while keenly aware of the laser-like gaze of Ethan. She resolves that she will not speak to Ethan when she inherits her share of the family property development firm.
But after her grandfather passes away, it emerges that Ethan has a controlling interest in the privately held company, in which Carol and her family members have only inherited small shares. This means that in effect, Ethan has control of the Hawkes family's firm. While Carol's family members cannot withstand Ethan's dominant personality and submit eventually to his control, Carol cannot bring herself to let him act like he's the boss, for no other reason than that his high-handedness irks her. (Carol has no real interest in real estate and construction.) Carol and Ethan begin a battle of wills to control the company, though the control of the company issue masks the real one, which is - surprise! - their attraction to each other. (Didn't see that one coming, did you?) They bicker over contracts with clients and the choice of sub-contractors and the like, and slowly develop a grudging respect for each other's intellect and instincts. But Ethan still harbors the belief that Carol drove her grandfather so crazy that it led to his early death and blames her for the old man's pain, no matter how much Carol insists that it was her grandfather who was distant with her. Mr. Hawkes was the kind of charming, charismatic, seemingly kind man to outsiders, but a cold man to his own family. Ethan refuses to believe this and persists in believing that his mentor and paternal father figure can do no wrong.
At a Christmas party at Ethan's house, Carol's feelings begin to get confused as the attraction and closeness builds between her and Ethan, and his sister tells her how much Ethan missed having a father figure in his life after his own father died when he was eight years old, and Carol's grandfather took Ethan under his wing. Carol is envious that her grandfather showed so much warmth to Ethan, the grandson and male heir he always wished he could have (Carol's brother being a feckless party animal), and never showed that warmth to her. But as much as she is growing to love Ethan, the wall of mistrust still exists between them. It only comes to an end after Rachel admits to Ethan, while drunk, that their grandfather constantly criticized and manipulated Carol and pushed her away, and did the same to Rachel, because they weren't male or interested in the family business. Shocked and remorseful now, Ethan seeks out Carol with a new vulnerable humility, and tells her he would have never believed that a man he admired so much could turn out to be so vicious and cold. He apologizes to Carol and soothes her brittle pride and hurt feelings, and they end up confessing their love for each other quite possessively and falling into bed together.
Best part of story, including ending:
I didn't like this story, I thought it was kind of weak in terms of the characters and their conflicts.
Best scene in story:
When Carol comes home and is greeted more enthusiastically by the family's Great Dane than her parents or siblings. It was kind of sad, but also a well written scene thematically
Opinion about the main character:
I did like that Carol recognized that her family wasn't accepting her for who she was and were damaging her self-esteem and ran away, but the way she lets Ethan boss her around, it doesn't seem like her self-esteem grew that much.