Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll tell you I’m incapable of reading one book at a time. I have to be reading at least two, and not too long ago, I was reading four. Which even for me is a bit much. In my defense, two of those stories complimented each other and demanded that I read them at the same time.
What am I talking about? Books two and three in Lauren Dane’s Delicious series, Tart and Lush.
In Tart, Juliet’s been in love with Cal for what feels like forever, but he’s been quite happy dating everyone but her. So when Gideon strolls into town and they click, hardcore, she gives up her dream of Cal in favor of a new one with Gideon. Then Cal has to throw a wrench in the works by kissing her and admitting he’s wanted her all along. Great, fine, dandy, I’ve got a boyfriend, bud. Said boyfriend proposes a solution: Have Cal join their relationship. It takes some doing, and the road is anything but smooth, but the three of them work hard to find a groove that they can fit in.
Lush overlaps Tart toward the end. Mary’s got a growing catering business and a successful supper club. Damien’s a rock star drummer. Because of their busy lives, Mary assumes their hookups are just that: hookups. Sure, Damien’s taken to calling or texting while he’s on the road, and when he gets back he goes out of his way to spend as much time with Mary as he can. But she’s not interested in being a celebrity’s girlfriend, with the paparazzi stalking her every move and dealing with gossip columnists begging for comments.
The thing I love the most about Dane’s novels is just how relatable her characters are. The women are strong, intelligent, sassy, and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. They’re not afraid to let their men know it. And they don’t shy away from the difficult discussions, either. When Gideon first proposes his threesome relationship to Juliet and Cal, Juliet is, understandably, afraid. This is a side of Gideon she didn’t know about, and now she’s wondering if she’d going to be enough for the two of them, or if they’ll eventually shut her out. Then you add in both men tend to be bossy and, in Cal’s case, a little overbearing, and it would take a woman with bones of steel to stand up to them and put them in their place. Jules, I can safely say, handles herself admirably. And speaking of fears, Mary’s are just as real as Jules’. She’s seen the stress a rock star’s wife is under in her friend Gillian, and Damien doesn’t exactly have the best reputation. I don’t fault her for wanting to stay as far away from that life as she can.
The men are almost as awesome as the women, charming, sexy, smart, and willing to put forth the effort to make a relationship work. It was fun watching Damien pursue Mary, and he definitely pursues her. He constantly pushes her for more, grumbling in frustration when she won’t just fall into his arms and agree to everything he wants. Likewise, seeing how Cal and Gideon adjust to Jules’ more bitchy moments was quite entertaining.
And that’s what’s at the heart of these books. Entertainment. They were perfect pick me ups after a long day at work, dealing with problem after problem. Basically, I got what I expected: fun, snarky stories I could disappear in for a while.
You knew there was a but, didn’t you? No book is perfect, and yes, there were a few things that bothered me. In Tart, we have an unusual relationship-a triad. And while I would expect that for Jules, Cal, and Gideon’s close friends, they’d accept their relationship, and do so fairly quickly, others would have a bigger problem with it. And to an extent, they do. But I felt too many of the people in their lives accepted too easily. While there is some pushback over their choice, I didn’t feel there was enough of it. What there was of it did lend a sharp and realistic edge to the issues that they would face, but I feel like there should have been more of it from more angles.
With Lush, because of Damien’s ardent chasing of Mary, the issues that pop up along the way are dealt with quickly and leave little room for any lingering doubts, and it because of who Damien is when he’s with Mary, it doesn’t feel completely out of character. The real problem was the final fight, and its all-too-fast resolution. Mary was a little too quick to accept Damien’s explanation, and his explanation would have left doubt in my mind. Maybe not about him, but about the relationship in general. What happened was easily something that could happen again (and in my imaginary world, probably does).
Would I recommend these books? Abso-fucking-lutely. Kickass women, a hot, tattooed drummer, a pretty boy lawyer and a cowboy…mmm, cowboys. Even with the inclusion of characters from Dane’s Brown Siblings series, I didn’t feel like I’d missed any pertinent information by not having read all of them before I read these two (for the record, I have read three of those books. And I love Brody. Pirates are also quite yummy.) A great introduction into the world of Lauren Dane, if I do say so. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch more books to add to my to be read pile.