Etan Phillips, owner of Phillips Advertising, survived a disastrous engagement and the worst kind of betrayal. Although it has been five years since he extricated himself from his relationship with Phoebe and managed to save his company, he remains distrustful of women and determined to steer clear of relationships.
Chase Logan, owner of Bits and Bytes, literally bumps into Ethan one day as she is getting coffee and is horrified to later learn that Ethan is the CEO of the company with which she hopes to land a major contract for IT work. There was no denying the attraction they felt for each other during their first awkward meeting. But can they work together? Can Ethan bring himself to trust Chase so that he can make a real commitment to her?
Chase has another major problem, as well. Someone is stalking and harassing her. She suspects it is her competitor, Tony, who has been attempting to destroy her reputation and her business, but the police have not yet been able to marshal enough solid evidence to prove that Tony is behind the malicious cyber-attacks, and threatening e-mails and personal visits to Chase’s office. Chase has already found it necessary to move out of her own home and into her cousin Stella’s apartment. How much further will Tony — assuming he is responsible — go in his quest to drive Chase out of business?
Ethan’s Chase is a short, sassy tale of office romance and corporate espionage that keeps the reader guessing how things will turn out on both fronts right up to the very last page.
Both Chase and Ethan are physically beautiful people, and they instantly fall for each other. But neither is sure about the other’s feelings and both have reason to be wary. Ethan was hurt deeply by his former fiancee, Phoebe, who lashed out in an extremely vicious and destruction manner after Ethan broke off their engagement. In the aftermath, it took every once of strength he could muster to do the right thing and ensure that his company would not dissolve under the weight of Phoebe’s malfeasance. In addition to protecting himself, Ethan had to think about his lifetime friends and partners, Austin and Jesse, as well as their 200 employees. Chase seems like the perfect woman for Ethan, but since she came on board as a contractor, inexplicable problems with accounts and computer systems leave Ethan wondering if she might be too good to be true.
For Chase’s part, she is baffled by the mixed signals she gets from Ethan, whom she insists upon calling “Mr. Phillips” in order to keep their relationship on a professional level. Having won the contract, she also wants to win Ethan’s heart, but she is not sure that he is truly interested in her, even though there are plenty of signs that Ethan’s attraction to her is real and developing at a rapid pace.
Layered over the “will they or won’t they” romantic tension is the question of just who is beyond the increasingly bold and dangerous attacks upon Chase’s reputation and her company. As strange occurrences at Phillips Advertising cause all concerned to wonder if Chase’s presence there will bring down Ethan’s company, as well as hers, the police scramble to find the culprit as Ethan feels increasingly conflicted. He wants to protect Chase, but finds that his past keeps him from fully trusting her, to the point that he wonders if she might even be staging the attacks herself in order to ingratiate herself into his life and company. A relationship without trust cannot survive, and Ethan’s doubts could well derail his chances with Chase.
Author Browyn Storm has crafted a very clever and contemporary story in which the action never slows. While the focus ever remains on Ethan and Chase, a cast of intriguing supporting characters, including the slimy, gold chain-wearing Tony and Ethan’s officious and overbearing office manager, Diana, who has designs of her own on Ethan inject interest and propel the plot. The dialogue is crisp, and the tension broken up by frequently humorous scenes involving Ethan and Chase’s romantic near-misses.
Storm’s premise is full of promise, but it doesn’t live up to its potential in one regard. While the characters of Ethan and Chase are instantaneously attracted to each other, a little subtlety and more nuanced writing would have made their story more enjoyable and believable. Because they begin graphically fantasizing about each other literally the moment they meet, it was hard for me to invest in their relationship as anything deeper than a physical connection for quite some time.
Moreover, although Ethan is plainly drawn to Chase from precisely the moment he first sees her, his inappropriate workplace behavior detracted from his believability. Before they embark on a personal relationship and Ethan is Chase’s client only, he touches and strokes her hands, face, and neck on several occasions. At that point in the story, Chase was still calling him “Mr. Phillips” and insisting that their relationship was strictly professional, so those moments were cringe-inducing and made Ethan seem more smarmy than chivalrous. As a professional woman, I found it difficult to cheer for Ethan and Chase’s relationship during those exchanges.
Those two criticisms aside, Ethan’s Chase is a frothy and enjoyable story about two people who overcome serious obstacles to discover that before they can truly love and be loved, they must first learn to trust themselves — and each other.