Every now and then after reading a book, I shake my head in dismay. Damn, I think to myself, now I have to buy all of this woman’s books. And it may sound like I’m not happy about it — my husband and bank account certainly aren’t — but those moments are the best, full of all the hope and anticipation a reader like me can feel. I experienced that moment when I finished the last page of Victoria Dahl’s Too Hot to Handle, and now I’ve got a lot of reading ahead of me.
The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
This good girl’s going bad . Merry Kade has always been the good girl. The best friend. The one who patiently waits for the guy to notice her. Well, no more. Merry has just scored her dream job, and it’s time for her life to change. As the new curator of a museum in Wyoming, she’ll supervise a lot of restoration work. Luckily she’s found the perfect contractor for the job.
Shane Harcourt can’t believe that someone wants to turn a beat-up ghost town into a museum attraction. After all, the last thing he needs is the site of his dream ranch turning into a tourist trap. He’ll work on the project, if only to hasten its failure , until the beautiful, quirky woman in charge starts to change his mind.
For the first time ever, Merry has a gorgeous stud hot on her heels. But can she trust this strong, silent man, even if he is a force of nature in bed? When Shane’s ulterior motives come out, he’ll need to prove to Merry that a love like theirs may be too hot to handle, but it’s impossible to resist.
I fell for Merry first. She’s funny, wry and a little bit goofy, and the novel’s voice perfectly complemented her charms.
This time, when she stepped back, it only tipped a tiny bit. Like the erection of a man just registering that you’d made a Star Wars joke in the middle of foreplay.
Not that that had ever happened to her.
Further, while Merry obviously carries around her own little bag of insecurities and flaws and while the book is, to a certain extent, about her discovering/accepting herself and her sexuality, her main discovery is that she doesn’t have to become anything to embrace her sexuality; it is as much a part of her as the Star Wars jokes and love of Joss Whedon. That is my favorite thing about the book — that good-girl Merry with her humor and superhero t-shirts is allowed to be sexy on her own terms and that Shane is given the leeway to find her sexy just as she is, no makeover necessary.
Merry absolutely shines (at least to me), but Shane is also a well-developed character who grapples with his past and his future, his identity and self-concept, and some of the stupid choices he’s made. I loved Shane, even when I wanted to smack him upside the head, and not just because he appreciated Merry. (Tangent: I love the off-beat heroine story trope, but sometimes the only thing that makes me love the hero is that he, too, sees what’s so spectacular and awesome about the heroine… I still enjoy those stories because they’re among my favorite kind of story, but it’s an infinitely better reading experience when I can fall in love with both characters in their own right./tangent)
The bottom line is that this book is friggin’ hilarious and had me hooting with laughter at every turn. (True story – when I’m reading, I never expect to laugh out loud, and when I’m surprised into laughter, it always comes out as this odd, high-pitched hoot. It’s extra embarrassing.) The secondary characters — of whom my favorite is, unsurprisingly, Rayleen, because I love me some spunky older lady characters — are fantastic and vividly drawn. I honestly loved every single thing about this book, even though I can’t precisely explain why I have such enthusiasm for it. Or maybe I can. The book won me over with this exchange on page 40.
“Oh, my God.” Merry laughed. “You’re the worst liar ever. No, I did not use my super-sexy wiles to lure Shane onto my fold-out sofa bed for a night of uncomfortable passion.”
“I wasn’t worried about you doing the luring!”
“Okay. No, Shane did not butter me up with Star Wars trivia and then ‘accidentally’ fall on me with his penis out.”
So, yeah. I thought Too Hot to Handle was just plain awesome. Too Hot to Handle was released on March 26, 2013 as an e-book and mass-market by Harlequin HQN. If you’re interested in the book, please click on the cover image above the visit the book’s page on Goodreads (or just Google it, like God intended). For more information about Victoria Dahl, please visit her website.
*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Harlequin HQN via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*