by Gail R. Delaney
Benjamin Prescott is a highly successful banker, despite being totally deaf from birth. Jewell Kincaid applies for a job at his company, and he hires her on the spot, not only because she's highly qualified, but because she's also fluent in ASL. But from that moment on, it's a struggle for them to suppress their attraction at work. Every romance needs some way to keep the hero and heroine apart, and I found this one more convincing than most. Workplace romance is a serious problem, especially since Benjamin is Jewell's boss. Once another guy in the office starts harassing her, things get even more complicated for Jewell, trying to draw the line for appropriate behavior at work.
But then the office storyline disappears, and the second half of the book is all about Benjamin's abusive father, and him trying to rescue his sister, and get over a lifetime of abuse and neglect. Oh and his family is also fabulously wealthy, such a romance cliche. I found the second half much less realistic and convincing than the first half, as if the author didn't trust that the original conflict was compelling enough.
On the other hand, the writing is really solid, much better than average for a romance. And the portrayal of deafness is good. Benjamin is angry, bitter, and emotionally closed off (another romance cliche) but it's not because of his disability, but because he was abused by his father. He's very well adjusted, uses speech/lipreading and ASL. Jewell is fluent in ASL because she has deaf family members (she didn't just pick it up in an afternoon--I hate books like that!). The descriptions of ASL, how they communicate, and scenes from Benjamin's point of view are all satisfyingly realistic.
The one thing that bothered me slightly is the book makes a big deal over how perfect Benjamin's speech is. Ok, it's good that he's well-adjusted and competent and all, but it kind of felt like a "superman" moment to me--it's not enough that he's well-adjusted, he has to be PERFECT, even to the point of beggaring belief. It feels like a kind of overcompensation for a disabled hero that seems to happen often in romance novels. But at least he never tries to hide his disability or pretend he can hear (so tedious), and the book is good about portraying the limits of lipreading. The author mentions in the afterword that her mother was hard of hearing, so she knows her stuff.
She also mentions that she couldn't convince a major publisher to take a romance with a deaf hero. Still?! Seriously, publishers, get on the ball! There are a ton of romances coming out now in e-book self-published format, so clearly people want to read it!