Love is in the air, and it’s not even Valentine’s Day! (Shut up. It was an exhausting weekend.) The thing I love best about romance novels is the escapism they represent, but I’m super picky. I like my heroines strong and smart, and unafraid to walk away if she’s not getting anything in return, and willing to fight for what she wants. The end result is I tend to read the same authors over and over again, rarely turning to anyone new.
I can always count on Lauren Dane to provide a fun, entertaining story, and Cake fit that bill to a T. Wren’s working as a bike messenger to support herself while she’s in art school, and one of her regular drop offs is for the dead sexy Gregori Ivanov, a moody, superstar artist covered in tattoos, piercings, and a mohawk (A MOHAWK!) When Wren drops off a package or paperwork, she often ends up staying for tea and sweets – cookies, cake, pie, whatever Gregori happens to have around. They’ve built up something of a friendship since she’s been delivering packages to him, and while they’ve both entertained fantasies of bedding the other, neither have acted on it. Then Gregori kisses Wren, and their fantasies become reality.
As short as Cake was, I didn’t feel cheated. Wren was everything I’ve come to expect of a Dane heroine – sassy, intelligent, vulnerable when she needs to be and unafraid to call bullshit on the man she loves. She’s got confidence to spare and makes sure Gregori knows it. Gregori was spectacularly moody, confused, unwilling to admit his feelings for Wren until it was too late, and when he did, he convinced himself he was doing what was best for her. Uh huh. Still, you can forgive him because he knew right from the start Wren was different from the other women in his life, something to cherish and protect. Also, he’s hot. Very, very hot. You can forgive a lot of moodiness when it’s embodied by tattoos and an accent. If you’re looking for an introduction into the world of Lauren Dane, Cake is an excellent place to start.
I’d heard of HelenKay Dimon before, but I’d yet to read anything by her. I picked up Everything You Need to Know for two reasons: it’s set in Washington, DC (I love stories set in this city, especially if they don’t involve politics), and the plot sounded intriguing. Jordan’s been temping at various companies since she was laid off from her last job, and she’s been putting the gossip she’s culled to good use. She’s the anonymous administrator of Need to Know, a members-only website where DC women can find information and ask questions on the city’s most powerful bachelors. From weird quirks to sussing out whether the guy’s for real, Jordan’s determined that women have all the information they need at their fingertips before they go on a single date. Forest’s just as determined to find out what makes Jordan tick, so he hires her as a temp. Jordan’s desire to stay away from the man that lights every single nerve ending on fire is overruled by her need to learn as much as she can about the enigmatic Forest, so she takes the job.
I loved Jordan. She was witty, determined, and did a great job of twisting Forest in knots. Her reasons for avoiding getting involved with Forest were a little thin, though. Part of it has to do with her relationship with her mother, and that I didn’t have a problem with. If I had her mother, I’d be wary, too. But part of her decision was based on her past dating history, and I didn’t get the impression she was horribly scarred from it.
Forest himself felt a little off as well. Here’s this controlled and in control man who goes absolutely apeshit for Jordan. The controlled part worked just fine. But I had a harder time buying his visceral reaction to Jordan, and how it pushed his boundaries. Still, the tension between them was thick and heady, the sex scenes were hot, and Forest’s patience with Jordan on the subject of revealing who the administrator of Need to Know was lovely and touching. I’ll definitely be picking up more from HelenKay Dimon.
I’ve never found facial hair attractive, but I’d been following Victoria Dahl’s writing progress for So Tough to Tame on Twitter, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Charlie left Jackson Hole for college and never looked back, working her way up to head of security for a resort in Tahoe. An embezzlement scandal lands her back in Jackson Hole as the head of security for a brand new resort, and she’s hoping if she keeps her head down and does her job, people will forget about what happened in Tahoe. Walker’s got a similar problem, only he’s hoping no one knows about it. He got fired from his last job, working at a dude ranch, and he’s pretty damn sure it was because he was screwing around with the boss’s wife. He’s just gonna lay low for a while, thank you, and find himself a new job. Then Charlie moves into the apartment across the hall and, well, you can guess what happens next.
If the sex scenes in Everything You Need to Know where hot, these were scorching. Like, fan-your-face, melt-your-panties scorching. Walker and Charlie end up getting involved despite reservations they each harbor (Charlie’s sure she’s just another in a line of women, Walker knows he’s not good enough for Charlie), and the end result is some of the steamiest sex Dahl’s ever written. Charlie’s not afraid to ask for what she wants in the bedroom, and Walker’s more than willing to give it to her. And the time they spent together when they weren’t horizontal was fun and funny, and you could see Charlie falling for Walker a little more each time. Including Walker in a girl’s night? The man has cajones.
Charlie’s the kind of woman you’d want to be your new best friend. She’s ballsy, smart, and willing to believe the best in people. For the most part, she faces her problems head on, with one tiny exception: anything that would make Walker back away she pushes into a corner and pretends doesn’t exist (bad Charlie!). It’s kind of hard to fault her for it, though. She didn’t exactly exercise good judgement when it came to her old boss.
While Charlie was a pretty typical Dahl heroine, Walker was a complicated, sinfully delicious cowboy. I mean, I think I have a cowboy fetish now because of him. He’s charming, affable, built (oh my was he BUILT) and he’s definitely a man. There is no mistaking it. He’s got the chest hair and the beard to prove it. He’s also insecure and covers his lack of self-confidence by deflecting questions and turning the conversation around to center on the other person. The amount of depth he had was phenomenal. Over the course of the story he really grows, and if I was halfway in love with him myself by the end of the first quarter of the book, I was head over heels by the end. Sigh.
So if you’re looking to lose yourself for a few hours, any one of these is a fabulous choice. In fact, you might as well go ahead and get all three. I’ll just keep bugging you until you do.
Copies of Cake, Everything You Need to Know, and So Tough to Tame provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.