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The Red Diary    by Toni Blake order for
Red Diary
by Toni Blake
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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*   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

People believe that rich socialite Lauren Ash has everything going for her but they couldn't be more wrong. Lauren longs for the love and excitement that's hard to find among her often-shallow circle of rich friends. So disillusioned is she that she's begun writing down her most intimate fantasies in a red diary that she keeps hidden away in her office. It's in her writing that the prim and proper Lauren is able to truly free herself.

Nick Armstrong holds a big grudge against the Ash family. The elder Ash swindled Nick's dad out of his share of their construction company. Unable to deal with that betrayal and the subsequent loss of his wife, Henry turned to alcohol. For the better part of his adult life, Nick has been looking after his dad, his sister and his mentally challenged brother, slaving to keep his painting company afloat and often forced to take subcontracting jobs from Ash Construction. His latest job takes him to Lauren's new mini-mansion where he accidentally discovers her hidden diary. Surprised by the beautiful yet aloof socialite's secret side, Nick decides to exploit her fantasies to seduce her. Lauren is surprised to see this softer aspect of her prickly handyman but cannot deny that in the bedroom he is everything, and more, than the man she created in her fantasies. But when she discovers Nick's double betrayal - she had no idea about their fathers' history nor that Nick had stolen her most private thoughts - she knows their relationship is a sham.

Current trends to include more erotica in contemporary romances have publishers scrambling to fill the niche this fast-rising sub-genre has created. The Red Diary has plenty of steamy sex scenes, both real and imaginary. Unfortunately most of them are uninspired. Add an equally hackneyed plot and cardboard characterizations and many readers will lose interest before finishing the book - Lauren and Nick never come across as warm or interesting, particularly the surly Nick, whose grudge against the Ash family seems the focus of his life.

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