by Katie Lane, contemporary (2012)
Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-2236-1
I've read the story in Katie Lane's Hunk For The Holidays many times before, and I'm sure it's the same for romance readers who have read enough contemporary romantic comedies. Still, the author's way with words and humor coax me into suspending my disbelief and kicking my inner grouch to the curb so that I will enjoy most of this story. "Most" being the operative word here, of course.
Cassandra McPherson's passion is the family construction business M&M Construction. In fact, her father Big Al trusts her over his two sons to run the daily operations of the business. While Cassie's mother would rather that her daughter dabbles in a more stereotypically feminine endeavor, their relationship is warm. In many ways, Cassie bucks the many stereotypes associated with the businesswoman heroine. In fact, while she may be considered bossy by many, for the most part she seems like a normal person who is good at what she does instead of a caricature. Sure, she hasn't had sex in 18 months, but there's always the shower head.
M&M Construction has, in the last few months, been losing some of the bigger projects in town to Sutton Construction. Big Al decides to meet the owner of that firm, James Sutton, for a discussion that Cassie isn't aware of, so when James shows up one fine day, Cassie assumes that he's the escort she'd hired for her evening date for the company Christmas party. As you imagine, they fall into bed, and now James wonders what she'd do if he tells her that she'd slept with the boss of her family's biggest competitor in the construction business. He has to, though, if he wants to keep her, and he does want to keep her, because it's love at first sight for him.
Some suspension of disbelief is needed, in that somehow none of the McPherson family members is aware of what James look like. Cassie has a lot of information about Sutton, but for some reason, she never stumbles upon a photo of him in her research, which I find highly unlikely especially when these two companies are constantly clashing with each other in a narrow playing field.
The initial chemistry between James and Cassie is up there on the "Baby. it's hot!" scale. Let me just say that it's been a long time since I paid close attention and read every single word in a love scene. As a romance reader who'd been around the block too often when it comes to love scenes in romance novels, I don't get too intrigued that easily with all that slotting and tabbing stuff going on. Here, however, I can only give my two thumbs up to the getting down stuff. The humor, the sexual tension, and the joys of total inebriation all lead to a most enjoyable X-rated literary experience.
And I do adore James. The story is basically about him scrambling to try to tell Cassie the truth in a manner that will not blow up too much in his face, and he's such a darling all the way. Free from angst despite having some unhappy moments in his childhood, funny, sexy, and really, if he looks like the bloke on the cover, what's not to love? If I were in Cassie's shoes, he can lie to me all he wants as long as I get to touch that face and go through his bank account.
Unfortunately, as the story progresses, Cassie starts to turn into a very childish and silly creature, often getting melodramatic and blaming James for her own weaknesses. While she doesn't become too annoying, it is disappointing to see how Cassie degenerates from an enjoyable and refreshingly different heroine with a sense of humor into this shrewish and irrational creature.
Still, Cassie's brand of crazy is nicely wrapped up in buoyant repartee and humor. The author really brings on the funny here, and her timing is impeccable when it comes to both verbal and physical comedy in this story. When Cassie nearly burns down James's place, for example, my brain recognizes this moment as one where Cassie's character has been irreparably damaged and she is officially stupid forever. But the author presents that moment in such a way that has me laughing out loud. Okay, I'm laughing at Cassie, and this is normally not a good thing, but it feels so good here, if I am making any sense to you.
There is also a fun, if too short, secondary romance between Cassie's brother and Cassie's assistant. The secondary characters - Cassie's family members - are actually recognizable clichés, but they are funny and they do bring out the best in our main characters, so I can't resist adoring them. It helps that the author gives these characters a place and a role in this story instead of merely inserting them into this book like intrusive commercials for future books.
Hunk For The Holidays isn't a new story, and to be honest, it's a predictable tale of communication gone awry and heroine gone crazy. The author, however, goes all out with winning me over with her charm, humor, and breezy narrative style. Really, what can I say? It's Christmas, and I can be quite the softie if the author knew which buttons to push.
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