I bought this book after Jill Myles tweeted about it, and it reminded me that novellas, when you are supremely busy and would love to finish a story in one evening but don’t have the time, can be awesome part of the romance reading habit. They’re sort of like the dark chocolate in the dietary pyramid of romance: not a constant but excellent to add, and kinda good for you, too.
Jill runs a travel agency, and she’s noticed a sharp decline in luxury travel packages, the kind she specialized in. When research and analysis reveals the new trend in adventure vacations, which aren’t her cup of tea in the least, she puts on her big girl panties, gears up with a very specific list from her survival expert guide, and heads off to a three-day hike around some mountain lakes to experience the tour for herself, and take pictures so she can build a travel package around the trip and sell it to her potential customers.
Ryan is her guide, and from the moment they meet (ha ha ha I just typo’d “meat” SNRK) they’re supremely attracted to one another. He pegs her from the start as a luxury-vacation kind of girl, but he doesn’t realize how determined and confident she is in her business, her self-worth, and her ability to grab opportunities – with both hands, of course. Jill is scared but she isn’t going to let much stop her from changing her course, going off the paved and smooth road onto the trail, following a guy she doesn’t know at all, but who has a fantastic back view to gaze at while hiking.
What I liked most about this book was the dialogue:
He heard her stumble and mutter something that sounded suspiciously profane behind him. He know he shouldn’t, but he paused and turned back anyway.
“Doing all right?”
“Fine.” Jill blew out a breath and glared at him. “You set the pace, I’ll keep up.”
Ryan wondered if she knew what image her choice of words conjured. Probably not….
If the poorly maintained trail didn’t put her off, something else had to. So he gave her a deliberately sexual look and pitched his voice low. “You think you can keep up with me all day and all night?”
She didn’t react the way he expected. He didn’t expect her eyes to turn smoky and dark, or a soft flush to heat her cheeks, or her lips to purse into a tempting pout. “You mean you really are a full-service guide?”
Her voice was silky, seductive, and sure. Totally unfazed.
Jill looked soft and helpless, but she’d tossed his attempt to discourage her right back at him, looking at him like she wanted him more than she wanted a down pillow tonight, while implying his escort services went beyond reading a map and keeping her away from poisonous plants.
“Full service and committed to making your getaway memorable,” Ryan said, plotting her downfall.
I also liked the spare writing style that, while on the border of telling/not showing, was elegant and succinct. I read this line twice because, well, it’s the whole story, the pivotal point of the heroine, in one sentence.
Jill grinned against his skin, feeling utterly unlike herself. The girl who buried herself in her comfort zone until it threatened to bury her business had climbed a mountain and gone down on a stranger.
Jill and Ryan have no false pretensees: they’re alone, they’re attracted to each other, they’re sharing a tent, and even though Ryan knows it’s not professional and even though Jill isn’t usually the type to jump a strnager’s bones, they have a frank conversation and they go for it. There’s no, ‘OMG IZ A SLUT’ remorse or feelings of self-recrimination for being horny- Ryan worries that he’s a little too forward in the thrust of his sexual interests, but Jill sets him straight immediately, and they go for more.
And boy, howdy do they go for it. To take a cue from RedHeadedGirl, Ryan turns out to have some inclinations toward domination and kink, and my immediate thought in all caps was, “OF COURSE HE DOES.” The sex is the lesser-hot part of their attraction, honestly. The dialogue and tension are delicious. The descriptions sometimes veer into the clinical, leaving me with a raised eyebrow while looking for the word “speculum.” I was so jerked around by the sexual terminology that I almost gave this book a C+. But the way in which Ryan and Jill talk to each other was so very enjoyable. It sounded real – and yes, I am a total sucker for real dialogue, and their banter, coupled with Jill’s refreshing sexual confidence, gave it the push into B- territory.
The plot is in a big ol’ hurry – there’s a trail! They climb! There’s danger! They run! Fast Forward! Wait, only 4 more pages?! Dammit! With the strength of the writing and the quick the characterizations, I wanted more. I may go back and find more Teglia novellas, as I am totally craving the length and the strength of solid conversations and real people in short form. This is one that I absolutely wanted to be longer and more developed, especially since there would have been more for Jill and Ryan to talk about.
I find my romance diet is in need of novella supplements. Good thing there are plenty, including many more from Teglia.