I said out loud twice while reading this book, “This is the least erotic erotic romance. No one's having any sex.” Hubby thought I was nuts, but while the story was friendly and sometimes very sweet, there was not much erotic content, in my opinion. If you're looking for explicitness, this is not the Canadian equivalent of small-town, large-family cowboy erotic romance (Lorelei James, for example).
I liked this book, but I was expecting erotic romance, so I came away disappointed.
For example: the cover and the description sent me a message that There Be Lots of Sex In This Book yo.
The description and plot summary read:
Matt Coleman always figured at this point in his life, he’d be settled down with a family. Since his ex split for the big city, though, no way will he give anyone else the chance to drop-kick his heart. Physical pleasure? Hell, yeah, he’ll take—and give—with gusto, but nothing more.
Hope Meridan is working long hours to hold on to her new quilt shop, going it alone since her sister/business partner ran off. Sex? Right, like she’s got the time. Not that she doesn’t have the occasional dirty fantasy about Matt. Fat chance he’d dream of knocking boots with her—the younger sister of the woman who dumped him. Nope, she’ll just have to settle for the F-word.
Friends would be far easier if there wasn’t something combustible going on between them. And when casual interest starts to grow into something more, their tenuous bond strengthens in the heat of desire. But it may not survive the hurricane-force arrival of the last person either of them ever wanted to see again…
And the cover said erotic romance to me as well. Perhaps I was wrong about that, but it was tagged as a “Red Hots!!!” read at Samhain, and as “Erotic Romance” at ARe. In my opinion, it wasn't that erotic.
That's not to say I didn't like it, just that I didn't think it was what it had been advertised to be. It was quiet and low on angsty conflict and at times very sweet, but not nearly as raw and sexually edgy as I'd expected. The sexual interactions between the hero and heroine were often tender, and their friendship, along with the amount of time the main characters spent interacting with other characters in the small town, made this more of a small town romance with a quarter inch of sexy icing on top. Not a huge dollop at all.
In the beginning of the book, Matt Coleman is throwing a bachelor party for a cousin or brother or someone, and has booked exotic dancers. In their small town, their ranching family is somewhat well-known and there's enough direct relatives to fill a bar with hot men with plenty of potential sequel bait.
Matt is carrying around a fair amount of humiliation and emotional pain after his longtime girlfriend dumped him because she wanted to leave their small town more than she wanted to stay with him. Matt had been planning to marry her, and was and is pretty destroyed by her decision. He's reminded of his breakup because he's still in town, and everyone in town knows what happened.
So he's interested in sex but not emotional entanglement. He doesn't want relationships because that breakup hurt so badly.
But then he sees one of the dancers on stage and it looks just like his ex-girlfriend. RUH ROH. Turns out it's her little sister, Hope, who was let down even more harshly by her sister's departure from town, because Asscrack Older Sister not only left Hope with an apartment they'd intended to share, but a business to run. They'd set up a sewing and quilting shop together at some point, but when Asscrack Older Sister left town, Hope was forced to twist her budget fiercely to keep a roof over her head and her business in operation.
Initially, once I figured out the depth of Asscrack Older Sister's shenanigans, I thought Matt would learn of Hope's situation and realize he was carrying the Asshurt Torch for someone who wasn't worth it. That didn't happen so much, but he does realize that he's very much attracted to Hope, and questions that attraction because, well, maybe he's substituting Hope for Asscrack Older Sister – and Hope doesn't deserve that at all.
The point where they decide to be friends, with no sex, and they talk a few times about Not Having Sex, was where I got confused. There wasn't much conflict between Hope and Matt, really, aside from what they decided was there – but wasn't. They took time to form a friendship, and I appreciated that effort, and the sweetness and kindness that Matt showed Hope once he figured out how not to carry the Asshurt Torch around so much was endearing, especially as it often left Hope flummoxed for the appropriate reaction. But there wasn't any really difficult conflict between them, unless Matt was a bonehead, which happened sometimes.
One aspect of the story that I found interesting but not always entertaining was that there were predictable conflicts that are handled in unexpected and smart ways. -For example, Asscrack Older Sister REAPPEARS (that's not really a spoiler – if he's dumped by her sister and carries the Asshurt Torch, and if the description reads, ” the hurricane-force arrival of the last person either of them ever wanted to see again,” who do you think it is, the tooth fairy?) and is a complete ASSCRACK some more – and Hope deals with her. Hope is a grown up, and her friends are grown ups, and the people who love her have her back and help her out whenever they can, and the responses to these predictable pieces of conflict are smart and adult – but also not very dramatic. In the end, Asscrack Older Sister disappears from the action of the story like a very quiet air biscuit. There was All This Potential Drama that went pffft.
I liked the characters, and I liked the town and the setting, but as I read it, I found myself getting bored, waiting for The Sexytimes to happen. I could pick up the book, visit for a few pages with the characters, and put it down. I was never compelled to read it, but I liked the characters enough to want to find out what happened with them. But the powerful sexual attraction that I've found in other erotic romances, which builds and compels me to keep reading, wasn't there.
I found most of the obstacles between and around Hope and Matt to be anticlimactic, and that applies to the ending, too. This book satisfied my general enjoyment of small town romance, but I was expecting erotic and emotional tension. The sex scenes weren't based on a buildup of tensions that made them explosive; it was two friends who wanted each other hopping into bed, and even if Matt had some skills as “a cowboy who knows how to rope, ride and rein in a hell of a lot more than eight seconds of sheer bliss” they didn't appear in the story for long.
Even though my disappointment affected my impressions of the book and the grade, I am curious about the series, and will go look for the others, but that's mostly out of curiosity about the small town community of this book, not because of the erotic content.