My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.
Although I’m familiar enough with Carly Phillips to have several of her earlier books on my To Be Read list, DARE TO DESIRE is the first book I’ve read from her. In this second book of her new self-published Dare To Love series about the children of a man who had a second family while still married to his first wife, the hero is the oldest son of the woman his father took first as mistress, then as wife once their relationship was publicly exposed.
At the beginning of DARE TO DESIRE, Alex Dare is still dealing with the fallout of being one of the previously “secret” Dare siblings while continuing to excel in his successful career as a NFL quarterback. He’s even snagged a lovely lady to share his public and private time, although her friendship with his half siblings could be a liability if he ever tired of her company. Overall, things are going along pretty well for Alex, until that fateful Thanksgiving Day game when he ended up at the bottom of a dogpile on the field. It was bad enough being in the hospital and finding out that his risk of permanent injury would force an early retirement. But then he had to go and kick Madison out of his room and life when all she had done was stop by to see if he was okay. Now it’s six months later and after pushing nearly everyone else out of his life, Alex gets a call from Ian, his oldest half sibling, with an opportunity that could not only get him back in the NFL, but also back in with Madison, the woman he should have never let get away.
Madison Evans knew all too well that most people couldn’t be trusted to stick around, especially the people who claimed to love you. As a social worker, she’s made it her life’s work to help kids with the same problems she’d had in her own childhood, and won’t have her head turned by money or influence. Yet she couldn’t resist when Alex turns on his considerable charm, and had only herself to blame when it was all suddenly over after his career-ending injury. Now that the husband of her good friend Riley has offered her the chance to set up a new mandatory post-career education program for his NFL team, Madison is excited about being able to change lives outside the narrow confines of social work. But when her new boss Ian Dare sets her up to work with Alex, Madison has to decide if she can handle working directly with the man who broke her heart, and if he’s really changed enough to earn her trust a second time.
One of the things I especially enjoyed about DARE TO DESIRE was how I was able to work my way through all the intricate relationships between the two Dare families and their associated friends, even though this was the second book and my first read in the series. The fact that Alex was childhood friends with Riley, Ian’s wife, has helped smooth the way between the two men somewhat, but it will still take time for them to get past all the hard feelings stirred up when their father divorced Ian’s mother to marry Alex’s mother.
As a new reader to the series, I hadn’t seen Alex in action as his earlier self-centered manwhore self, other than in the brief prologue when he dumped Madison while still in his hospital bed. But it was apparent from her memories that at least from her perspective, he’d only been a nominally good boyfriend before their breakup. Sure, the sex had been frequent and amazing, but he hadn’t been particularly considerate whenever he was approached by strange women any time he and Madison had been out in public together. So just because the two of them still find each other irresistible shouldn’t and doesn’t mean all is forgiven on her part.
In DARE TO DESIRE, Alex is fortunate to have multiple chances to show Madison he’s changed by how he treats her while working on their new shared project and how he helps her out with the court case being brought against her by her foster brother. And as Madison slowly warms to the idea of reuniting the man she still loves back in her life for good, the ties between Alex and his family of half siblings are also strengthened, extending the joy of the story’s happy ending beyond Madison and Alex to their shared loved ones as well. The richness of its family background is what elevated DARE TO DESIRE beyond a basic romance for me and it’s why I’ll be reading the first book and all the other ones to come.