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Seriously, I _always_ include spoilers, and if someone is going to recommend I read or watch something and they won't supply spoilers, I will either go find a plot summary or just ignore all their recommendations. That's who I am.

Everyone gone? Okee dokee, then.

There are a bunch of somewhat contemptuous phrases designed to capture the idea that a fictional product (TV episode, movie, book, etc.) has somewhat crudely built a story around a problem or trend currently in the social consciousness: disease of the week, afterschool special, ripped from the headlines. I'm sure you can come up with some that aren't decades old.

This book checks some boxes: urban farming / food desert (especially in the context of helping kids with underprivileged backgrounds experience Real Food; this heroine captures the full range), cancer (the hero is a non-hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, IIRC), the rise of opioid addiction in suburban/white neighborhoods and communities.

It's generally well done; I'm not complaining. But when I run across a book that hits several fairly high profile trends, I do wonder what it is going to be like rereading it in a few years. Some of this stuff really doesn't age well at all. Others do just fine. *shrug*

In the previous book I read (Hidden Legacy #2 by the Ilona Andrews writing team), the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER was an unknown grandmother. In this book, the SKEERY EVIL FAMILY MEMBER is psychopath dad. And _that_ part of the story worked really well for me.

So, what happens. This is a flashback-y, series entry that can be read alone, story of second chances. The two first encountered when he busted her for selling drugs. He flips her and uses her as a CI for a while and after the trials they part. They meet up again when he basically tries to use one of the underprivileged young people she is in the process of rescuing at the farm and associated restaurant in the way he used her and she objects. It is at this point that she finally coughs up something she sort of never got around to mentioning earlier (oh, yea, btw, I was fronting for my dad when I was dealing).

I particularly liked the idea that Dear Old Dad is so awful, but in such normal ways -- he's emotionally abusive, but it's pretty subtle stuff, and in a lot of ways, Riva is lucky to have found a guy who immediately picks up on what a monster Dad is. Calhoun has even embedded some clues as to why Dad is such a horrible person.

I'm still trying to figure out whether the many pieces of the two main characters really gelled, or if they are still fragments of real people. Do I really believe that Ian spent a bunch of time getting blacked out drunk and dancing all night long and picking up random strangers and taking them home? I don't know. It's a solid way to connect Riva and Ian -- they are both presenting a front of being on the straight and narrow and their history together and separately makes that really not the whole story.

In any event, reading it was an enjoyable enough experience I now sort of want to go back and reread the earlier entries of the series.

Oh, pretty much all the entries have some kind of SEAL connection, but it's the weirdest SEAL romance series I've ever encountered, in that so little of the story has much of anything to do with the military.
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Alas, after reading those Maya Banks categories, I really felt like I needed a palate cleanser, so I caught up in the Second Chances series.

Series summary: a bunch of women who have Thursday night Wine Nights at the townhome complex they all live in set New Year's Resolutions.


In _The Back-Up Plan_, 39 year old Kristen shares a small but successful law practice with Jason. He's a bit of a playboy. She has a drawer full of sex toys. Neither ever wants to have kids and one drunken night 4 years earlier, they made a deal that if they weren't married by 40, they'd marry each other (hence the title). Kristen and Jason then made a deal at 39 to help each other find candidate alternatives. Jason finds Matthew, who matches Kristen's criteria to a T (but not her friends', which include Hot Sex) and then realizes he's super jealous. Kristen finds Monica for Jason, and Monica notices that Jason has it bad for Kristen and bows out (hope we see Monica again. Monica seems way cool). Antics ensue, mostly Jason makes a couple of impulsive moves and they get a real sense of each other outside of the law practice. They realistically are somewhat leery of risking the work relationship.

Ordinarily, I don't care for books where the woman has way, way, way less sexual experience than the man AND is portrayed as having this incredibly high libido. Because that does not actually make a ton of sense to me. However, by consistently portraying Kristen has having a highly rewarding relationship with herself, and being open about it with her friends, Mari Carr makes Kristen at least somewhat believable.

Fun, especially if Lawyers In Love who don't want kids and who do love the banter does it for you.

_Never Been Kissed_ has a substantially younger heroine, at 28. Shelly's dad died when she was young and her mom sort of spent their subsequent life together cooking and eating. The result is two women on blood pressure and other meds and mum has type 2 diabetes. Shelly has decided to do something about it, but mum is resisting (hey, you get comfortable, and when someone unilaterally changes a relationship it is scary). Shelly's shyness has faded somewhat with Wine Night and a friendly colleague at work, fellow IT nerd Christian, but she's still a virgin with huge self-loathing.

Christian is determined to have a relationship with her, but he's not making much progress until he runs into Shelly at Blue Moon, who has been dancing with Lance, Christian's friend from high school who is now running the exercise studio Shelly goes to. There are some funny stories told between the high school buddies and Shelly misunderstands one of the stories to mean that Lance is gay, then her self-loathing reinterprets (incorrectly) all of their behavior towards her. Once that is straightened out, the three of them become fast friends, and there is some kissing. Shelly fesses to her virginity, Christian and Lance and Shelly work out that there doesn't seem to be any toxic jealousy. Other than Lance wanting to bail out to leave Christian and Shelly to be the couple they might have eventually become if he'd never entered the picture, everyone is having a gloriously fun time ... hanging out. But the sexual tension ratchets up, and Lance pushes a bit, and the next thing you know they all head back to Christian's place. You know what dancing leads to.

The relationship stays a V. There is no "boy touching" (which is at least mildly disappointing to Shelly and at least this reader, but I'm not going to complain and neither does she). But they come out to the Wine Girls, then Lance becomes a roommate of Christian's as Shelly spends more and more time at his place (the biggest bed wins. It is ever thus.). One of the most fun things about Mari Carr is her ability to normalize kink -- you sort of almost believe that even in Harrisburg, a threesome could be accepted by friends and family. Maybe. And that means the reader never has to deal with the wrenching sadness of the V dwindling down to a two-some.

Fun, altho again, high libido, low experience woman.
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Contemporary romance, I don't know that this is or is not part of a series. It reads just fine as a standalone novel.

Tim Connor is a paramedic and has been for a while; he is training a new guy ("probie" Casey). His family has been born and lived in New York for generations, within a very small area. In his 30s, he watched his grandparents die over a period of years, and he has managed the stress and sadness of that and his job by being very fast and very good at everything he does, to avoid feeling. The characterization is believable, but it is kinda hammered home hard -- shown and told, more than a few times. Big speed = not feeling theme.

Sarah Naylor is helping her friend Trish get a food truck business ("Symbowl") running. Trish used to be a highly compensated something or other; they both live in Trish's extremely nice digs and Trish's money got the food truck going, but it is Sarah's cooking experience that is making it work. Sarah is from San Francisco and took a couple years off from working at very high tone restaurants to nurse her aunt through a couple years dying of ovarian cancer.

So both Tim and Sarah have well developed personal armor and well developed strategies for connecting very quickly with other people and getting other people to trust them. Tim meets Sarah at the food truck a couple times and banter leads to challenges and challenges lead to a series of sexual encounters that (this really should not surprise anyone who reads Anne Calhoun) quickly lead to a deeply felt emotional connection that neither character was consciously expecting or looking for but both characters were desperately in need of. Both jobs are developed in enough detail to feel like they aren't just there to give Tim and Sarah answers to the question, "What do you do for a living". Sarah's interest in exploring New York and trying to figure out whether she can transplant from SF to NYC on other than a temporary basis is really well developed.

It's an enjoyable read, altho there are aspects to the Brooklyn hipster food truck thing in conjunction with Trish's obsessive social media strategy that make me wonder what it will be like to reread this in a decade. It certainly feels super timely _now_. The joke about the strange men that Sarah finds in the kitchen generally reading The Economist is really funny, especially the one reading the Post not getting invited back.

There were a couple bits I kind of went, "Really?" to: Tim's head injury and Sarah coming over; Tim pulling a soup recipe off of Sarah's blog and cooking it for her along with the brown bread from Mrs. Cohen. The head injury was quite severe. Tim's deprecation of it and going to work the next day struck me as not entirely realistic. The good-at-caring-for-the-injured-without-coddling is _so_ _freaking_ _overdone_. And I would have liked a little more evidence that Tim had any clue how to prepare food at all. Because I've been around young men (and not so young men) who have tried to cook from a recipe for the first time in their lives and it does not go that well.

But these are minor issues. If you like contemporary romance, and in particular if you like Calhoun, this is a good one.
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Altho I will say, if you are reading a contemporary romance of this sort and worried about spoilers, I feel like you have comprehensively _missed the fucking point_ of a good contemporary romance. You _know the destination_ (they are going to get together); the point is the journey. A really good contemporary romance is actually better around the 7th or 8th reread.

Regardless. Spoilers.

A group of women in their late 30s/early 40s, some who have been married and/or had kids and some who have not, make New Year's Resolutions and it is one book per woman, but there are bits and pieces about the others scattered throughout thus rewarding reading the series but in no way mandating it. Good series construction. I Approve.

In this outing, Laura's twin kids are grown, graduated from college and launched on their respective careers. Speaking of which, Katie is said to be a kindergarten teacher at one point and yet begs off on seeing her mum on account of having papers to grade. Her mum thinks Katie is just being mean to her and that the excuse is sketchy, but I think that excuse is so far past sketchy that I suspect an editing lapse. Whatevs. She is a year or few out from being divorced from their dad, who was mean and unpleasant and depressed, altho he doesn't sound like he was outright abusive. Laura got pregnant with the twins at 19, so she didn't have the college experience and went straight from parents' house to living with the father and thus no solid grounding in her own developed adult self to return to when she is living on her own. Her resolution is to re-connect with her own self. Georgie (one of the other women) has a plan: makeover, dancing, go to a concert, maybe some weed. Laura is happy to play along, and runs across a junior high school/early high school friend, Bryan. Bryan married a little older and has a slightly younger daughter (still in college), Trina. His wife died a few years ago as a result of complications of poorly managed type 1 diabetes.

The main spanner in the works is Katie. Kevin is least in sight; when he does reappear (here would be a spoiler), he is very supportive of Laura's new life and wants her to be happy. Katie, however, is busy blaming Laura for how awful and miserable her father is, having apparently really never noticed that he was pretty awful and miserable and absent all along. Laura _had_ buffered that painful truth and with the buffer gone, denial springs in its place. Katie is kind of awful, but Laura goes way past Don't Diss the Ex to the Kids and is a complete doormat, allowing Katie's hurt and fears to almost derail her Laura's new life.

Obvs, Laura needs to tell Katie to either get over herself or go spend more time with Dear Old Dad until she grasps reality. In practice, by the time she is ready to do that, Katie (with some kicking from Kevin) has figured it out on her own. So that's all nicely wrapped up in a bow.

There are some really nice set pieces in this book. Tailgating at the Jimmy Buffet concert is probably the best, but trying to teach Laura how to dance is fairly hilarious also. The Rocky Horror Picture Show outing is so-so. I liked that they went; the details of how it worked were not that inspired, altho the missed phone calls, finding out Katie was at the ER because (hey, I did mention spoilers) dear old dad had heartburn was also kinda humorous.

In some ways, I liked Laura and Bryan a lot less than many other characters I've read in Mari Carr novels. I felt like both of them were ... pervasively unwise. They were by no means stupid, or risk taking, or mean spirited or of low morals or bad character or anything like that. I just felt like given their age, and their histories, they had had a lot of opportunity to be making better decisions than they were making and having better relationships than they had. OTOH, better late than never.

I wonder how the FB references will age? Right now, they are utterly perfect. But so many things wind up making contemporaries read like historicals, ten years later.

It is well written and enjoyable (despite that hiccup with the kindergarten teacher grading papers thing). There is explicit sex used to develop the relationship. Bryan's perspective on bondage is unique in my experience -- a little heavy handed (NOT literally, okay, maybe a little) but works well for his character and the nature of the relationship.
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I read the day-of-the-week books by Mari Carr and they were all pretty fun. I've been wanting some contemporary romance so I took a look at her and a couple other authors and picked this one out. A bunch of women in their late 30s/early 40s decide to do some bucket lists. I skipped the first one, because it was a cancer story, and I didn't feel like that right now (yes, HEA, but still). In this outing, Josie, who has a 6 year old and is 2 years post-divorce, decides she wants to have some sex. She has a list of what she wants to do and has decided that each full moon, she's going to make one happen. The plan is not much more detailed than that (there was wine involved in the bucket list creation project -- if there's an issue with this book, it's the "wine night" thing, but no one seems to be over indulging to a scary degree, so I won't worry about it if you don't think I need to). First up is sex with a stranger; she picks up the bartender/owner of a bar in her town and, unsurprisingly, he doesn't stay a stranger.

Mari Carr does a nice job writing sex scenes. None of this, but wait, he's going to break his wrist if he tries to do that, or, how long is her torso, anyway, that can occur in less well blocked sex scenes. Conversation, character and relationship development are all nicely interweaved, and the monthly date slows the process down enough to be believable. The series structure also provides a consistent opportunity for Josie to talk about what's happening with her friends, some of which occurs on stage, altho most of it happens off stage.

The kid is a little precocious, but not too bad. The ex- is a bit of a pain, but not cartoonishly so. All in all, a very believable, emotionally involving and pleasant contemporary romance. There is no horrifying abuse back story, just ordinary people with ordinary problems, which really are more than enough to introduce the kind of tension present in a developing intimate relationship. I particularly liked that the list (which was pretty ambitious in spots) was fulfilled, in parts with creative re-interpretation to bring the more out-of-scale items on the list into the range of do-able (ahem).

There doesn't appear to be any major issue with skipping the cancer entry in this series -- or, for that matter, dropping into this series anywhere. It seems to have been written carefully with a view to working as standalone novels, but with a little extra if you read more than one. This was well designed, thought through carefully and implemented carefully.
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This is a short: a novella, at the most, and while available in more than one ebook format, I don't think it's available in paper at all.

I bought it on the strength of _Liberating Lacey_, which, IIRC, I bought based on an SB review. Like _LL_, this is an erotic contemporary romance with no secondary characters or plot and no supernatural elements.

My reviews almost always have spoilers and this one isn't going to be any different, so if you dropped into my blog via the google, you should bail out now if you have a problem with someone telling you the gimmick.

Our heroine has received a call to come to the Embassy Suites hotel bar to meet "Jack". Jack has a room and after they each have (part of) one drink (he has a Heineken and she has a chardonnay), they go upstairs. There's a d&s theme running throughout, but without any b&d or lifestyle elements. It's subtle: a tiny amount in verbal phrasings and non-verbals that are not particularly overt (hand at the nape of the neck rather than hair pulling, for example).

Once upstairs (did I mention that happened fast? This is basically an extended sex scene), they make good use of the door with its mirror, then strip the bed down to the bottom sheet. Since this is electronic only erotic fiction, I figure someone is going to care: manual, oral and tab p slot v sex. There is anal penetration of her by him with a lubricated (yay! I love the realism) dildo.

If that was all there was, I think my only complaint might be, hm, where are the condoms? And the answer to _that_ is supplied and beautifully. There are little nibbles laid out for the alert reader: that they've known each other sexually for at least 15 years would be the real gimme. One of the cliche fantasies for long-term couples to act out in an effort to get the zing back is the pick-up-a-random-stranger-in-a-bar (but with each other). And that (hey, spoiler weenie, leave NOW) is what this story is.

The structure of the story is fantastic. The relationship is believable. The where-are-the-kids question is answered. You know what these people do for a living, and even get a sense of what their days and nights and weeks and years are like. It is a phenomenally well-executed version of something which gives me the heebies: a massively unbalanced relationship. The guy is a trial lawyer working 80 hours a week and she is a stained glass artist who is running the home front. And this imbalance, she believes, is why she desperately needs this periodic stranger-in-a-bar-followed-by-hot-dominance-in-a-hotel-room sex.

It's so well done, and the people involved are so believably loving to each other, that I can't hate it. But it isn't really what I am looking for, either.

I'm very much looking forward to more by Calhoun.
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These are, respectively, entries 4 and 5 in the Wild Irish series. They are published by Ellora's Cave, which is a mostly-e-publisher (they do a small number of titles in small runs on paper) of mostly erotica. This particular series has already explored some lifestyle BDSM, so it is not particularly surprising that Thursday is a menage and really not surprising that Friday has an older woman with a younger man. The gimmick for the series is a large family. Mother (Sunday) died some years ago and Father has health problems in the course of the series. The adult children are participants in romances, 1 romance per book. At this point, earlier romances have resulted in marriage and, in one case, a child.

The menage includes half of the twins (Killian) in the family and his best friends from high school: Justin and Lily. Justin and Killian spent a number of years in the army in Iraq; Lily got an PhD in Marine Biology in California. Everyone is back in Baltimore and attending a 10 year high school reunion when Lily proposes something she's been wanting to do since high school. See, Justin and K had a rep for sharing girls even back then, and Lily has been pining for the pair forever. The initial deal is for one night, then one weekend. They are interrupted by Lily's younger brother Chad and Killian's brother Sean, who had been invited over to watch the ball game on Sunday, which went completely out of everyone's head, what with all the sex that had been happening since Friday night.

No guy-on-guy action, unless you count the description of (hey, if you're too young to be reading this, stop right now.) the one-hesitates-to-call-it-climatic double penetration scene near the end when the guys are noticing they can feel each other through Lily. Ahem.

I have to hand it to Carr: she handled the "coming out" of the threesome really well, particularly considering that she hasn't had a gay or lesbian couple as even a background character in the series. When Sean is talking to Justin about whether the morose threesome can turn a 2 night fantasy into a lifetime of looooovvvveee, he gestures to a biracial couple and a gay couple in the bar, and points out that if the world can change enough to accept them, it might one day make a triad part of normal, too (altho the term triad is not used). That's a normalization strategy destined to make this real popular among the poly community.

Other aspects of the novel, not so much. Justin, in particular, seems a little concerned whether all this makes him "gay". Er, homophobic, much? Besides, it wouldn't make him gay anyway; it might make him bi. Carr plays up the whole good girl/bad girl theme more than I care for, and the nicknames the guys have for Lily ("sweetness", "baby girl") were a little grating. I have to suspect, however, that Carr knew she was doing that. At one point she describes Lily as squirming like a toddler in church, and if _that_ isn't an intentionally shocking simile to use in a sex scene, I don't know what would be.

Friday shows us Ewan making a play for Natalie, photographer of Sky (and now Teagan). She's got some serious mental health issues as a result of her sister dying some years ago and a generally unloving family (not necessarily abuse -- just real standoffish). Natalie lives for sarcasm, which Ewan admires, but he's worried about her and when Nat says she wishes she weren't always the one taking the pictures but sometimes the one in the picture. Ewan gives her a week of being in the middle of her life: taking her out one night with Riley and Aaron, romancing her, taking her fishing. She gets a bit frantic and attempts to back out when she realizes the depth of her attachment to Ewan, but pictures save the day -- taken by Ewan, of Natalie, living her life.

These books aren't going to be for everyone (even I would not let a prepubescent kid near them): you have to have some kind of e-reader (altho you can get free ones for a regular computer, and you don't have to get this through kindle -- EC offers it elsewhere and in various formats), you have to be interested in, not just okay with, very detailed sex scenes used to describe a developing relationship. But if this is the kind of thing you like, it's done really well. I'll keep reading the series, and will probably try some of Carr's other books when it is complete.
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Third in the series about the large family of siblings that runs an Irish pub in Baltimore. The first entries (_Come Monday_ and _Ruby Tuesday_) were about two of the sisters; this is the first one about one of the brothers, half of a set of twins.

Tristan has spent quite a while enjoying Wednesday evenings chatting with Lane who comes in after her nursing shift. One night, however, he gets a call from her. She's finally left her verbally and emotionally abusive husband and he beat her up and she wound up in the hospital. He visits; she convinces him to leave -- and the next morning, she's left town, and doesn't come back for a year.

Lane was raised by her grandmother until that grandmother died, then in foster care until adulthood. Needless to say, she has some commitment issues. Part of why she hung out at the bar was to see the large Collins family in action. Pop Collins has a stroke and the kids hire her to rehab him, thus supplying a convenient excuse to have her move in upstairs. It doesn't take long for Tristan to Move Their Relationship To Another Level, and shortly after that he starts poking around in her past and her psyche.

Meanwhile, the ex resurfaces, using Lane's sole memento of her absent family (a picture of her dimly remember grandmother) to force her to meet with him. There's a bit of a suspenseful climax as her ex goes Right Over the Edge -- a little revenge fantasy, a little of the heroic rescue, a little of the no, let me take that bullet for you.

It continues to be a strong series, but now I actually have to wait for Ms. Carr to write the next one, because I foolishly read this one a little too quickly. As I have mentioned in reviews of previous books in this series, the publisher is Ellora's Cave and these are available only in electronic format.
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Second in a series (after _Come Monday_), siblings and dad run an Irish pub in Baltimore (mum's dead). Big family so potentially a long series; this is the second entry of three currently out. Publisher is Ellora's Cave. There is a very, very, very slight bit of suspense plot but mostly this is about a developing romance.

Sky Mitchell (born Mitch Abrams), lead singer of uberpopular rock band The Universe, is hiding out in Baltimore because he's trying to figure out what to do with his life. He's broken up with his supermodel girlfriend and thinking about a solo career but having trouble writing songs. He steps into the pub and hears Teagan sing and after waiting through pop standards and folky acoustic, she ends on a pop-ier number which he decides he has to have. She's not interested in selling, however, and in the way of silly novel contrivances, there's a bet: pop will come up with a word and they'll take turns singing songs with that word in the lyric (two lines from each song), first one who can't think of another song within the time limit loses. If Teagan wins, Sky's proceeds from The Universe's upcoming T-weekend concert go to a nursing home Teagan plays music at; if Sky wins, Teagan helps Sky write the songs for his now-definite solo album.

Antics ensue. Mostly, papparazzi descend and the family decides to put Sky up for a few days. After a few days writing songs and engaging in sexual play that does not include Tab-P in Slot-V (or A) action (she's waiting for someone who meets a list of criteria that add up to love, and he's only looking for casual hookups -- this is a compromise), the papparazzi (which had been distracted temporarily by a red herring run across Mexico to put them off the scent) return in force. Sky and Teagan head off to a remote and tiny cabin in Virginia to finish the album and figure out that this whole compromise thing isn't working and then, sometime after that, that they really something each other, which a cynic might say was Teh Horniness got to them, but a romantic would agree was True Love.

In any event, they come back for the concert, concoct a plan to figure out who has been attempting to sabotage their working relationship and song output, narrowly avoid a Really Amazingly Dumb Plot and have climactic sex between sets at the concert. The dumb plot is dumb, but works great: it is actually believable that the characters who hatch this plot would come up with something that stupid.

Will I read more? I flipped on the radio on my kindle and tapped a few keys and voila! The third book awaits. This series has been a very successful part of my experiment in finding exclusively e-published books which satisfy my desire for trashy fiction.
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Before going any further, I should warn you, Dear Reader, that this is published by Ellora's Cave. What does this mean? Well, from a practical perspective, it means that you can't get a paper copy. I got it on kindle through Amazon, but you could buy it from EC online and they have a number of different formats. From a content perspective, that means the sex starts almost immediately, and continues throughout. And then to avoid any unwarranted suggestion that I know a whole lot about EC from personal experience, I'll just supply this quote from SBTB:


"It’s not over the top spicy like one might expect from EC - no one breaks out the barnyard animals or hoses down the shrubbery with sexual fluids."

Having addressed the how-can-I-get-my-hot-little-hands-on-this-sexy-number (and pointed you at a much better review of this book than I'm likely to produce) issue, and hopefully assuaged any concerns a timid reader might have about the publisher, I will now proceed to opinionate.

I _loved_ this book. I will be eagerly awaiting more Calhoun in my future, and may actually go to some effort to read her short pieces through EC that are upcoming while waiting for her next novel to be published.

Our heroine married young. So young, the math doesn't quite work for me, but hey. Who is complaining. She was raised by wealthy people and her mother stayed home, but Lacey likes her work doing financing deals in commercial real estate (boy her life sucks now, probably, hunh?) and didn't give it up, even after her husband made partner at a law firm. He became ex-husband, promptly dating and becoming engaged to his paralegal (tacky) who is nine years his junior. Everyone is trying to get Lacey to run the script (find some guy who makes as much or more money than she does -- and that's not a huge pool); meanwhile, Lacey is like, why? These guys leave me cold. It's just possible Lacey has a good sense of what home life is like with two people working crazy hours, too, but not likely, since she picks a cop when she goes to a bar _once_ and walks out with a hot guy 8 years younger than herself.

They start in the parking lot (condom #1), make it to her house, but only partway up the stairs, and then eventually to her bed. He debates whether to spend the night and does, then makes her breakfast in the morning. When Lacey debriefs her now married, but single through their 20s and early 30s friend Claire, Claire is impressed by the Manly Man that Lacey brought home, but concerned because they are already violating the rules of casual sex.

I didn't find sticking around for breakfast that unusual for casual sex, in my limited experience of it. However, it was me doing the cooking, which definitely makes Hunter a Fantasy Object.

The book is Weird, in that Lacey is in so very many ways unnaturally undemanding, and Hunter trips so happily down the path to connectedness. Sure, in his _head_ he's all angsty, but until the OMG I can't afford to be in your life moment, he's not that badly behaved. But I'm okay with that. Normally, I read romance novels that have some other plot: a mystery (who is stalking me), a project (must save bed and breakfast from predatory real estate developer) or major emotional development (horribly abused as child). This book doesn't. Close to the end, we get a decent explanation of (a) where's Hunter's mother and (b) why does Hunter Not Trust Anyone but Dear Old Dad -- and along with it, some explanation of Hunter's contradictory attraction to Lacey's cool, poised demeanor that comes from a lifetime of wealth, and the allergy he has to almost everyone and everything else representative of her class.

There is vast consistency in character development. It makes a ton of sense that Lacey, who initially married a guy raised by an electrician and a teacher, who wanted to join her class and who dumped her once he was through the class transition, would then be attracted to Hunter, whose dad does renovations. Lacey doesn't much care for her class, either. Hunter has a lot of respect for women who are cops, altho we find that out through internal rumination rather than by Lacey seeing him around them. The only time he really sinks into the trap of gender expectations is where Lacey's money is involved (me man, must pay), and _everyone_ in the book (except Hunter's dad and Lacey's mother, oddly enough, who seem more focused on their offsprings' happiness than other considerations) gets sucked into that crap.

Lacey had a lot of boring missionary sex while married, and her ex- is the only guy she had sex with until she picked Hunter up in a bar. She's looking to catch up on a lot of the alternatives, and Hunter is happy to supply. There's a strong D/S theme running through the relationship, and for two people who are adamant about Not Talking and Having Comfortable Silences and Letting Each Other Be Who They Are, they are surprisingly safe and sane about their kinkiest scene. Rather than presenting Lacey as subby because she is female, Calhoun presents Lacey as exploring letting someone else have control by being subby with Hunter. Dear Goddess, I _love_ this. It is a _perfect_ match for the controlly, must nail down every term of every deal before I agree to it shark that she is In Real Life. Calhoun even depicts Hunter doing a bang-up (er) job supplying aftercare (altho boy howdy does he handle the ensuing several days/weeks poorly) after their biggest scene. (I like that this is the first result that google supplies for a search on aftercare: http://www.iron-rose.com/IR/docs/aftercare.htm).

I had a quibble about the New York weekend, in which Lacey takes a guy back to her hotel room, but then doesn't do any more than kiss him -- and builds it up into something huge. I was like, wtf? Come on! He was very emphatically _gone_ and there hadn't been any particular commitment anyway. I was sort of pleased with her that she gave him a shot. OTOH, the book had to end at some point, and I suppose this fit well in that it gave Lacey something to confess to when Hunter dropped the L-bomb. But I'm definitely with Hunter's assessment of the unimportance of that. And given the way Lacey is depicted throughout, her making a big deal out of a couple of kisses fits right in anyway.

It's been amazingly nice to read two romances in a row, by two authors new to me, in which strong women continue to take care of themselves, and get the hot guy, too. Calhoun's is better than St. Claire's -- but St. Claire has a more substantial body of work, so I'll be reading a lot more of her, even tho I like her work less.

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