Jen’s review of Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls Night Out #3) by Victoria Dahl
All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town’s irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out… and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know.
Gabe MacKenzie’s heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future’s tied up in his family’s Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there’s just no going back… and it might be too hot for either of them to take.
Ah, what a wonderful book! It’s funny and sexy and smart and everything I love about reading Dahl’s books.
The third book in the “Girls Night Out” trilogy (no need to read the other books to enjoy this one) is about Veronica Chandler, author of the “Dear Veronica” advice column in the local paper. She moved back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming after a disastrous attempt to make a life in NYC. She meets brand new librarian (be still my beating heart!) Gabe MacKenzie through a friend, and they soon start a casual relationship. Veronica is trying to figure out how to live more authentically and stop being so afraid, and Gabe enjoys being with her and wants to have fun before he has to move back to NYC to take over the family business. But, he hasn’t told Veronica that he’s leaving, and the closer they get the more problematic his omission becomes. He can’t stay, and she’s realized she doesn’t want to leave, so how could it ever work out?
Can I tell you how long I have been waiting to read a romance about a male librarian? YEARS, that’s how long. I am a librarian, and I love reading romances about libraries and librarians, but I have come across almost no male librarians and none where the job was realistic or an important part of their character, and believe me I’ve looked. So when I heard Dahl was writing a male librarian I was beyond excited. I love to read romances about librarians, even if they are always women, but most authors don’t get the library details right. Dahl does. It’s pretty clear she either personally knows librarians or consulted with some during the writing of the book, because most of the book rang true, far truer than any other books I’ve read with librarian heroines. (And I thought the library details were more well done and important than they were in the last book, about the librarian Sophie.) Makes my heart happy! For instance, Gabe’s friends ask him not just for reading suggestions but tech help, even outside the library. That kind of thing happens to me and other librarians all the time, and lots of us are just as comfortable helping with tech questions as book recommendations! Moreover, librarian really is the perfect career for a guy like Gabe who genuinely wants to help everyone. His job is a part of who he is, which makes his choices about the future even more heartbreaking. Loved it.
But enough about my nerdy appreciation for Dahl’s research. Let’s talk about the characters. Gabe is….yum. He is a sweet beta, though he can still be bossy in the bedroom. Oh, and I can’t forget his dirty talking, flirty banter. Seriously, this guy is my new book boyfriend. He’s smart and kind and sexy and funny and bearded and just wants to do the right thing, sometimes to his detriment. And did I mention he genuinely loves to go down on women and has worked to master his technique? He’s damn near perfect, but I appreciate that Dahl gives him flaws, too. He doesn’t like to cause conflict, doesn’t like people to be upset with him, so he tries to avoid anything that will make the people he loves unhappy. He does it for the right reasons, but unfortunately that conflict aversion means he isn’t upfront with Veronica about his life plans. I personally couldn’t get too upset with it because a) they hadn’t known each other long, b) they were only casually seeing each other so it’s not like he owed her his whole story, even if he did let it go on too long and c) he was making his choices out of love for his family, nothing selfish or cruel. I would have liked a little more groveling from him at the end, but he still did alright.
Veronica was so great, too. She grows a lot during the course of the book, learning to trust herself and stand up for herself and show the world she’s not perfect. She’s in her late twenties but is still a virgin. (I don’t think this is much of a spoiler because you learn it at the start of the book, and I’ve heard Dahl herself talk about it online.) I’m not always a fan of virgin heroines, so I was skeptical, but I should have known better. Veronica’s virginity is largely an outcome of her fear and her tendency to keep herself hidden. She just never lets herself get close enough to people, so of course sex was tricky. She’s not doing it for any moral/religious reasons, hangups, body image issues, etc (not that those aren’t valid reasons to abstain, just not what’s going on with Veronica). She just didn’t get the opportunity, and the longer it went on the more awkward it was for her, the more she tried to hide herself, and the more unlikely sex became. As you get to know Veronica, you see how her virginity totally makes sense and is a symptom of what’s wrong in her life. She’s not sheltered, though, and isn’t afraid of sex. Of course, the thoughtful and talented Gabe is delighted to help her get over that hump! (harhar) Oooh boy, is this book sexy. The tension between Gabe and Veronica is H-O-T, and when they finally get together, I was almost as relieved as they were!
The book didn’t quite make it to perfect for me, though. There were times when Veronica seemed a little too immature to be 27, especially when she was talking about sex. I also thought Veronica was a bit too hard on Gabe near the end. I had no problem with her anger over his omissions, but I had a little trouble understanding why she was so upset that he wanted to move back home to help his family. I didn’t understand the hard nosed ultimatum she gives him (she doesn’t call it an ultimatum, but that’s what it really was). Her reasoning seemed kind of flimsy–they just hadn’t been together long enough for that kind of decree, IMO, and it seemed like forced drama for the sake of drama. Why not give your new relationship time to grow and Gabe time to come to terms with his choices? And as I mentioned above, I wanted to see a bit more from Gabe to make up for his right-reasons-wrong-execution behavior as well. Minor issues, but enough to knock just a tiny bit off my grade. Still, this was my favorite book of the summer, and I’m happy it lived up to my expectations.
Grade: 4.75 out of 5
This book is available from HQN. You can purchase it here or here in e-format. This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.