Tag: Victoria Dahl

Guest Review: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

Posted September 1, 2015 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
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.

Guest Review: Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl

Posted April 14, 2015 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Flirting with Disaster by Victoria DahlJen’s review of Flirting with Disaster (Jackson: Girls Night Out #2) by Victoria Dahl

There’s no hiding from sizzling chemistry…

Artist Isabelle West has good reasons for preferring a solitary life. Tucked away in a cabin in the woods, she has everything she needs . . . except a red-hot love life. That is, until a hard-bodied U.S. marshal threatens to unearth secrets she’s spent years protecting. But giving in to the sparks flying between them can only lead to one thing…disaster.

Tom Duncan lives by the letter of the law. But no one has tempted him—or confused him—more than free-spirited Isabelle, who arouses his suspicion and his desire. As their connection grows, and their nights get hotter, they find their wild attraction might shake everything he stands for—and expose everything she has to hide.

Isabelle West is an artist living in the country outside Jackson, Wyoming, where Dahl’s series is set. Isabelle has a big secret, though, and when US Marshal Tom Duncan comes poking around she’s immediately on edge. Tom is in town helping protect a local judge who’s been receiving threats before a major trial. Isabelle’s skittishness rouses Tom’s suspicions, but on the surface she checks out, and he really likes her, so he strikes up a flirtation with her. The more time he spends with her, the more he likes her, but the more concerned he becomes that she really is hiding something. Eventually he discovers the truth while investigating, but he’s afraid to tell Isabelle for fear she won’t trust him. Worse, his snooping sets in motion a series of events that end up threatening Isabelle’s peace.

I really enjoyed Isabelle and Tom. Tom is a decent, hard working, normal guy. He had a family tragedy in the past that’s given him a bit of a savior complex. He wants to fix everyone’s problems, even if it costs him personally, and it’s what gets him into trouble with Isabelle. He can’t just leave it alone, has to keep digging because he senses she might need help. It’s an admirable quality, even if I didn’t love how it played out. Isabelle is fantastic, too. She’s so comfortable with herself, with her body, with her life (aside from her secret). She’s in her mid-thirties and has realized she doesn’t need to apologize for herself. She’s ballsy and says what she means, which includes being forthright about sex and about what she wants from Tom. It knocks Tom off his feet (literally, as you’ll see below), and it sure charmed me. She’s also got a surprising amount of vulnerability underneath that only comes out as her secret does. As usual, Dahl’s characters have sexy chemistry, and their dialogue is sharp and funny.

“Well, I don’t travel, but I’m not lonely. I have my work, my friends and my home. And internet porn. Life is good.”

Tom tripped over a snowdrift and nearly fell flat on his face. Isabelle laughed as he dusted snow off his knee.

So much for her reserve. “If you said that to shock me, it worked,” he said.

“I said it because it’s true.” She grinned over her shoulder as she kept moving. “Try to keep up.”

This book has hints of suspense, which you would think would make me, a romantic suspense junkie, happy. However, I wasn’t really in love with the suspense elements. There are no action scenes or any real danger. I know this is a good thing–this is at heart a contemporary not a suspense, and it wouldn’t have made any sense to add too much–and yet, I felt unsatisfied. I guess I’d prefer authors either go all in or just avoid suspense all together.

I also really, really didn’t like the lies in the book. Isabelle is lying about who she is and why she’s in Jackson. She has good reasons for it, and yet I still didn’t like that she lies to Tom and all her friends, or that she withholds a key piece of information till the end. It’s probably hypocritical because it’s the kind of lie I could overlook in other books, but here it felt out of place and uncomfortable. Tom’s lies were even more problematic. Again, he has great reasons for it, and I truly did believe he was trying to do the right thing, but it left me feeling unhappy. He gets involved even when he knows he shouldn’t, and he keeps sleeping with her even after he learns her secret. He could have told her, and the fact that he’s in law enforcement even gave him a legit reason for prying, but he still holds out. And then at the end, he has to do something really, really humiliating to Isabelle. It was for her own good, and it was likely the only decent option, but I hate that it happened. It left a bad taste in my mouth about the book and it made me question whether Isabelle and Tom could really start fresh after all the mistrust.

Great characters, an interesting setting, and a steamy relationship did hold my interest, but not so much that I could get the unhappy parts off my mind after I finished the book.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

This book is available from HQN Books. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

Posted August 21, 2014 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Looking for TroubleJen’s review of Looking for Trouble (Jackson: Girls’ Night Out #1) by Victoria Dahl

A good reason to be bad… 

Librarian Sophie Heyer has walked the straight and narrow her entire life to make up for her mother’s mistakes. But in tiny Jackson Hole, Wyoming, juicy gossip doesn’t just fade away. Falling hard for the sexiest biker who’s ever ridden into town would undo everything she’s worked for. And to add insult to injury, the alluring stranger is none other than Alex Bishop—the son of the man Sophie’s mother abandoned her family for. He may be temptation on wheels, but Sophie’s not looking for trouble! 

Maybe Sophie’s buttoned-up facade fools some, but Alex knows a naughty smile when he sees one. Despite their parents’ checkered pasts, he’s willing to take some risks to find out the truth about the town librarian. He figures a little fling might be just the ticket to get his mind off his own family drama. But what he finds underneath Sophie’s prim demeanor might change his world in ways he never expected.

This is book #1 in the new Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series, which is a little misleading because essentially it’s a continuation/spin-off of Dahl’s Jackson Hole series. Reading the previous books isn’t absolutely required, but I do think you’d get more out of this book if you at least read #2 in the series (Too Hot to Handle), because facts that come to light in that book carry over to Looking for Trouble.

Sophie Heyer is a librarian and proverbial good girl, at least on the surface. She is kind and helpful and tries not to make trouble for anyone. She seems to be well liked, except by Rose Bishop, who is the widow of the man Sophie’s mother had an affair with 25 years ago. When Rose’s son Alex comes back to town, he and Sophie are majorly attracted, but their family baggage makes things complicated. Alex can’t stand to be near his mother and has absolutely no intention of sticking around town. Sophie is terrified of scandal and of letting anyone down, so she hides her true self and is determined to stay where she’s needed. Both have to come to terms with their childhoods and figure out what they want from their futures.

This is a hot, sexy book. I’ve long thought Dahl writes some of the best sex scenes in romance today, and this book really supports that idea. The sex scenes reveal Sophie and Alex’s characters, just as much as any other scenes in the book. These two have incendiary chemistry. Sophie is the quintessential naughty librarian. She wears super sexy underwear beneath her prim and proper librarian wardrobe, and she really craves someone who’ll rip off all that proper clothing and see the dirty girl underneath. The naughty librarian trope is a little cliched, but Dahl still gives that cliche some depth and freshness. Sophie keeps her sexy self hidden out of fear that people will think she’s just like her affair-having mother. Moreover, it’s clear Sophie herself is secretly afraid that she could become like her mom, so she tries to keep tight control on her life outside sex. I liked that Dahl took this superficial stereotype and dug deeper to explain why someone might be that way.

Alex is also an interesting character. He’s a big, tattooed biker dude. He’s also a groundwater engineer, which I have definitely not seen before in a romance. I love that Dahl again plays with stereotypes by having the big, bad hero have a kind of nerdy job. Despite his appearance, Alex is a sensitive, caring guy. Sophie likes to be dominated a bit in the bedroom, and Alex picks up on that right away. He is happy to oblige, but only in the bedroom. He’s not a domineering asshole in his other interactions with Sophie, which is what we so often see with the tattooed muscled biker guys.

I liked the characters, I liked the plot, and yet I wasn’t quite as emotionally invested in the story as I wanted to be. I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. I did feel like the ending was a bit abrupt, too. I appreciated that there were no forever-promises made because it felt too soon. While I believed those would come later, I wanted a little more of Alex and Sophie working to clear the baggage between them.

Still, Looking for Trouble is a steamy, complex story, and it’s my favorite of the Jackson books so far.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Harlequin. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Guest Review: So Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahl.

Posted October 4, 2013 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

So Tough to Tame- Victoria DahlJennifer’s review of So Tough to Tame (Jackson #3) by Victoria Dahl.

Tough to tame, but not too tough to love… Charlie Allington is supposed to be on the fast track to the top-a small-town girl who was making it big in her career. Instead, she’s reeling from a scandal that’s pretty much burned all her bridges. Now, out of options, she needs a place to lick her wounds and figure out her future. True, working at a ski resort in rugged Jackson Hole, Wyoming, isn’t her dream job. But if there’s one perk to coming back, it’s a certain sexy hometown boy who knows how to make a girl feel welcome.

Cowboy Walker Pearce never expected a grown-up Charlie to be temptation in tight jeans. She’s smart and successful-way out of league for a man like him. But he’s not about to let that, or his secrets, get in the way of their blazing-hot attraction. Yet when passion turns to something more, will the truth-about both of them-send her out of his life for good…or into his arms forever?

I am a huge Victoria Dahl fan, so I jumped at the chance to review So Tough to Tame. Unfortunately, I think I’m tired of the setting, characters, and themes of this series.

The third book in the Jackson series features Charlie Allington, who grew up in the area but moved away to become a security expert. Her last job ended badly in scandal and disgrace, but she’s now been hired as the head of security at a new resort in the area. The resort owners are an old friend from high school and her husband, and the fresh start Charlie was expecting turns sour when her “friend” takes every opportunity to rub Charlie’s failure in her face and generally make her life miserable. The cowboy of this story (because this series is ALL about the cowboys) is Walker Pearce. Walker is currently unemployed after losing his job at a dude ranch due to his own scandal. Charlie and Walker knew each other in high school, and when Charlie moves into the infamous Stud Ranch apartments the series revolves around, she and Walker strike up a kind of friends-with-benefits relationship.

Charlie was a fairly likeable character. She was the proverbial good girl in high school–smart, sweet, quiet, and crushing on the popular Walker. Once she moves away, though, she develops more confidence and becomes a “party girl” (her words), which apparently means she sometimes drinks at bars, sleeps with some men, and wears high heels. Admittedly I’ve never lived in a small town for any length of time, but I had trouble believing that some of Charlie’s normal 21st century female behavior would cause THAT much comment. (Skinny jeans? How scandalous!) The clearer scandal, though, is the embezzlement that drives her out of her last job, and that was a pretty compelling story. I’ve actually met people who were inadvertently caught up in corporate embezzlement, and that kind of thing causes so much heartbreak for even the innocent bystanders. I felt bad for Charlie and was rooting for her to get her life back.

Walker was a decent character, too. He is dyslexic, which has driven him to see himself as stupid and to not aim too high in his professional or personal life. I would actually have liked to see this explored a little more and see more of him coming to terms with who he really is and what he wants from life. I felt like his turnaround near the end was just too abrupt. Still, I appreciated that he’s a working class hero who struggles with real issues.

The problem is, despite a few twists, I feel like this book was just a retread of the same story the other two novels in the series told. Woman in trouble, trying to escape her past and create a new life in Jackson Hole. Playboy cowboy, charming on top but with a hard, troubled edge underneath. Mix in some secrets, some sex-as-power themes, and a lack of genuine, honest conversation between the lovers, and boom, there’s your story. What felt at least interesting in the first book began to feel a little cliched by this last book, and I found my attention waning.

Dahl is still very skillful at creating natural sounding dialog and sex scenes that further the relationship between the hero/heroine, and she adds a set of likeable secondary characters. Aunt Rayleen has been a fun diversion throughout the series, and it was lovely to see her get a HEA, too. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find enough new ground in this book to hold my interest fully.

Grade: 3.75 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.

Guest Review: Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl

Posted October 30, 2012 by Ames in Reviews | 4 Comments

Ames’ review of Close Enough to Touch by Victoria Dahl.

For makeup artist Grace Barrett, Hollywood isn’t the land of golden opportunity. It’s the land of difficult divas, cheating boyfriends and unemployment. So when her great-aunt offers her a free place to stay in Jackson Hole, Grace thinks she’ll spend a little time in the sticks to figure out her life, and then move somewhere exciting to live out her dreams. But it turns out that there are a few more thrills in this small town than Grace was expecting….Cole Rawlins is a rugged Wyoming cowboy born and bred. Yet he can’t help but be drawn to the fascinating big-city girl who moves in across from him. He wants to get close enough to Grace to see past her tough facade, but if he does, she might see the real Cole. The one with a Hollywood history gone bad. As they discover a sizzling attraction, it becomes harder for him to keep his demons at bay—and those fires from long ago may burn them both.

They’ll need more than scorching-hot passion to make this opposites-attract affair work. But if they can learn to trust one another enough to reveal their secrets, they just might have a chance at forever.

I enjoy Victoria Dahl’s writing but I have to admit, Close Enough to Touch did not float my boat.

Grace Barrett is a make-up artist who is in a bit of a bind.  She’s come to Jackson, Wyoming to stay in her great-aunt’s apartment rent-free while she makes some money to head off to Vancouver for a new start.  She kind of left her reputation in tatters in LA and she desperately needs a new start.  She also may be running away from the law, if her ex-boyfriend presses charges against her.

Cole is a cowboy with a bum hip.  He was in an accident that broke the hip bone so he can’t ride right now.  And it’s killing him!  He wants to work so he can save money to buy the ranch he’s working on.  He’s chomping at the bit to get back on a horse but his hip isn’t healing fast enough.  And then Grace blows into town and he’s interested.  He’s also wary, because when he was younger he got involved with an actress and it definitely left a sour taste in his mouth.  He wants nothing to do with Hollywood ever again.  When a movie starts filming on his ranch, a nightmare from his past shows up.

I found Close Enough to Touch predictable.  And the characters annoyed the snot out of me.  I did not like Grace.  She had a bad attitude and I did not like how she ran away from her actions.  I found that very immature and I knew her past would catch up to her somehow, and it did, very predictably.

And Cole.  He just rubbed me the wrong way.  He was stubborn about his leg healing, and yeah, it’s true to how a guy like him would be in a real life – wanting to get back on his feet before his body is ready and that’s why it was annoying.  It fit the cliché.  He also had his past Hollywood issues that led to a misunderstanding between him and Grace (also Grace jumped to conclusions, grrr).  And then I felt like he had some daddy issues that popped up conveniently to wrapping up the plot.

I hate to say all this because I am a fan of Victoria Dahl.  But I did not like these characters or the way their story unfolded.  2.75 out of 5.

This book is available from Harlequin. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

You can read more from ~ames~ at Thrifty Reader.