ENEMIES AND PLAYMATES weaves together the perfect balance of suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat and family drama and romance that grabs you by the heart strings.
Darcia Helle introduces some very difficult subject matter--abuse, adultery, addiction--but the story flows with such simplicity and raw honestly that I didn't find anything too jarring. Although the thread of suspense kept me turning pages, it was the characters that didn't allow me to set the book down.
Alex Covington's perfect public persona is a mask for a misogynist. He is physically and verbally abusive to his wife, his staff, his girlfriends, but the author skillfully implies that he either thinks more of, or possibly fears his daughter, Lauren. Until a series of events shows just how far out of bounds this conscienceless man is willing to go.
Lauren is a beautifully nuanced character. At first she appears timid, but as the story progresses and her father's behavior escalates, Helle shows us the inner strength it takes for Lauren to protect those she loves while she struggles to keep the peace. While we do get to know Lauren and witness her growth as a character, the author has the talent to retain the ideal amount of distance or disconnection that sets Lauren apart and shows how much she hides. Anyone who has had the misfortune of a brush with abuse will recognize how very real and easy to relate to this makes Lauren.
Jesse Ryder is a hero with a heart of gold. We know right away that he is perfect for Lauren--except that his past entanglements with her father threaten to make the happiness she so deserves elusive. Jesse's determination to make Lauren happy AND set things right is admirable and I really enjoyed watching their love blossom despite the dark events surrounding them.
An entertaining, highly recommended read!