The VIP Doubles Down
By Nancy Herkness
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Gavin Miller is the third member of the triumvirate of billionaires and Bellwether Club members who agreed to a “wager of hearts.” Luke Trainor, CEO of Trainor Electronics, is the first to find true love (The CEO Buys In); Luke Archer, super-star NFL quarterback, is next (The All-Star Antes Up). But Gavin Miller, the resident cynic of the group and author of the immensely successful Julian Best spy series, is no closer to finding true love than he was five months earlier when the wager was made. Gavin is also still suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. He has missed his original deadline and his extended deadline. Although Gavin has grown wealthy enough off the success of the Julian Best books and the movie franchise to have no financial worries, he knows other people are invested in his character’s continued success and maintaining control of his character is a matter of pride, professional and personal. Stress from the situation plus his father’s death and a broken engagement have left Gavin angry, depressed, and increasingly prone to seek solace in alcohol as well as suffering physical pain. Jane Dreyer, Gavin’s agent, decides that she can at least do something about the physical pain, so she hires physical therapist, Allie Nichols, to treat Gavin.
Allie desperately needs the work. Once upon a time, she believed in fairy tale endings. She married her high school sweetheart, and the two of them left West Virginia for New York City with big dreams. But their dream of Broadway success for her husband turned sour, and so did their marriage when disappointment made him emotionally abusive. A divorce has left Allie with limited financial resources, and being fired from her job, thanks to appearances by her drunken ex at the rehab facility where she was employed, means that she is struggling to pay rent on her tiny apartment.
Gavin is not pleased that his agent has sent a physical therapist. At first, he refuses treatment, but when even the minimal therapy that he allowed proves efficacious, he rehires Allie. But the sparks that fly when Gavin and Allie are together involve far more than the machines that are part of her trade. When talking with Allie, a major Julian Best fan, about his books prompts Gavin to write the first words he has written in months, he declares her his muse. Allie is making Gavin feel alive again, and their attraction to each other is growing stronger. But Allie is too ethical to remain Gavin’s physical therapist if they become lovers. Can they make the professional and personal work together if she becomes his assistant and in-house Julian Best expert?
I generally avoid billionaire books, but I was intrigued by the combination of a business executive, a superstar athlete, and a successful writer. I enjoyed the first book, loved the second one, and eagerly anticipated the third. For much of the book, it met all my expectations. Gavin’s character as a bit of a jerk with some redeeming qualities was established in the earlier books, so his curmudgeonly qualities are expected. He becomes considerably more sympathetic as more of his past is revealed. Allie’s sunny nature is offset by her very real concerns about her livelihood, and I liked her from the beginning. I’m not a reader who thinks a genuinely good character must be a dull one.
The VIP Doubles Down can be read as a standalone, although any discerning reader will be aware that the other stories exist. However, I read it as part of a series, and I applaud the ways Herkness smoothly wove Nathan and Chloe and Luke and Miranda into this story. The dinner scene was one of my favorites, and having Tim and Claire Arbuckle (Take Me Home) among the dinner guests was a nice surprise. I hope Herkness gives us more of Dr. Ben Cavill. I find him a most appealing character.
Unfortunately, about half-way through, the story loses some of its power. The emphasis on evidence of Gavin’s wealth seems overdone. And while I expect a Herkness book to have a high level of sensuality, I would have preferred fewer sexy scenes and more story in this one. Readers who prefer more sizzle in their romance than I do may disagree. My disappointment was not enough to ruin the book for me. The grovel scene and the epilogue are definite pluses.
Overall, the novel offers engaging characters, an interesting take on writer as protagonist, and a satisfying conclusion to a solid series.