ALL IN Simona Ahrnstedt
A Perfect 10
High Stakes Series
ISBN-13:  978-1-4967-0405-4
July 2016
Contemporary Romance

Stockholm, Sweden Present Day

David Hammar and his partner Michel Chamoun are in a helicopter over the Swedish countryside at Gyllgarn Castle, a large estate owned by the De la Grip family.  David's company, Hammar Capital, is going to take over the De la Grip family company, Investum, and the De la Grip family has unfortunately put the estate owned by their family for generations in the company's name.  David means to overthrow Investum and grind the De la Grip family into the ground, and the entire estate will be his.  He is having lunch the next day with Natalia De la Grip to see if she wants to give up any information about Investum or pledge an alliance with him to save her shares of the company.

The De la Grip family is almost Swedish royalty, upper class, traditional, wealthy, and the family controls about a tenth of the Swedish GNP and owns the biggest bank in the country.  If David can get Natalia to vote for his company taking over Investum, the thin margin he's hoping for will mean certain victory.  Natalia is one of the smartest talents in the corporate finance field, currently working a deal with the Bank of London, and when David Hammar, the baddest bad boy and biggest venture capitalist in the county calls her for lunch, she wonders why he is contacting her.  They have lunch together where she rightly recognizes David's appeal.  Then Natalia says sometimes one has to make sacrifices for their family, and David knows no way will she vote her shares with him.  Natalia knows Hammar Capital has gone up against Investum twice before and lost, and that there is another board meeting in several weeks with David's company being involved somehow.  Natalia's best friend, Asa, advises her to definitely sleep with him, but after lunch she still has no idea why he invited her.  Natalia always wanted to work for Investum and be a member of the Board, but her father, Gustaf, will have nothing to do with women in his company, except for Asa, who is an attorney and fulfils their quota for women with the government.

As David goes ahead with his wheeling and dealing to get the vote to overthrow Investum, his relationship with Natalia changes to sex as he vainly tries to insist it's only temporary and means nothing.  Then Natalia is spending some time at her family's summer retreat before the Board meeting comes up and she is told to back off, and the reason why.  Now Natalia knows why she has always felt left out of the family.  David's reasons for taking over Investum go back to his days at boarding school and Peter De la Grip's whipping of his back that he still currently carries the scars from.  Along with the other socially superior bullies, everyone involved has been taken care of by David, and it's finally Peter's time to face the music.

This is the first Swedish romance to be translated and published in America, and Simona Ahrnstedt is a known author at home, starting with historical novels, and the past couple years pioneering Swedish romance.  ALL IN was translated from Swedish, and I have to say it was an excellent job, I noticed no jarring sentence structures or syntax that seemed unusual, and made the reading easy with a contemporary flare.  There are multiple points of view represented; David Hammar, his friend Michel, Natalia, and her best friend Asa Bjelke.  Simona has provided several mysteries within the story to keep everyone enthralled.  There is cruelty and the purposeful ruining of people's lives, and mysterious withholding of important facts, and something that apparently is normal in Sweden; a definite culture where men are the chosen ones, and women can have no hope of being entrusted with important jobs.

Secondary characters also have their own personal stories; there's Michel and Asa who have a history together that needs to be dealt with.  Gustaf De la Grip's relationship with Natalia will also come under great stress. Peter is Natalia's eldest brother and CEO of Investum, maybe not the strongest leader, but his past with David and his sister Carolina is both cruel and criminal.  Younger brother Alex is constantly on the move around the world and a womanizer; but does he also have something haunting him?  And can Sweden survive the takeover of Investum by an upstart like David?  Carl-Erik Tessin played an important part in David's and his sister's life that haunts him to this very day.

ALL IN is an exceptionally fascinating story of the Swedish way of life among the upper class.  David is filled with his thirst to make the De la Grip family pay for the hurt, embarrassment, and damage to his sister Carolina's life that has lasted over twenty years.  David and Natalia and the others in the novel have desperate issues to address, and yet they sometimes fear to act on them as they wish they could.  I love the strength and mental toughness of David as he has carefully planned his coups for many years, building contacts and taking care that every item is addressed to bring down Investum in the most public manner he can find.  But will his revenge give him the satisfaction that he desires, and will the disintegration of Natalia's family be placed at David's hands?  Strong, compelling and powerful are but a few words to describe this journey into Swedish society, and how something that happened to a teenager can twenty years later still cause deep-seated hatred in an individual in a manner that has guided his entire business life.  Supposedly there will be another in the High Stakes series, but no information was available.  I hope it's about Alex, a playboy, but with eyes that say he has been to hell and survived.

Carolyn Crisher