My only real complaint is that it’s a novella, not a novel, and it left me wanting more—more character development, more plot, more sizzling unresolved sexual tension. Reading Unbuttoned is like being given one of those trendy cake pops; I gobbled it down and then thought “where the fuck is the rest of my cake?!”
Carly Denton is the one who needs unbuttoning in this novella. She’s the straight-laced, young councilwoman for Silver Creek. Carly never has a hair out of place, doesn’t indulge in French fries, and she certainly doesn’t lust after Lucas Miller—or at least that’s what she tells herself.
Lucas is a rancher and former rodeo cowboy. He’s also Carly’s older brother Mac’s best friend. When she was a girl, Carly had a serious crush on Lucas. He was the handsome bad boy that her brother hung out with. The summer before Carly left for college she caught Lucas in flagrante delicto with a brunette against a barn wall. Her teenage heart was crushed when she realized that Lucas was much more grown up than she was, and that he was a playboy to boot. Every time she came home from college for a visit, Lucas had another beauty on his arm. Since then Carly has kept Lucas at arm’s length, removing the possibility of him disrupting her perfectly ordered life.
Carly has good reason for keeping Lucas at bay. Carly and Mac’s parents operate as the town’s soap opera. Their father cheats, their mother confronts him tearfully and publicly, and the cycle repeats itself. Carly has spent her whole life feeling judged (other kids weren't even allowed to play with her), and part of her ultra-proper exterior is a defense against that judgment. Because of her father, she also doesn’t trust playboys. Lucas really isn't a playboy, at least not anymore, but he's super sexy, and in Romacelandia, the two go together, so you can't blame a girl for her assumptions.
When the book opens Lucas and Carly have to work together on a charity event called Ride for Hope. The close proximity brings with it sparks and wonderful, wonderful sexual tension.
Lucas can’t figure out why Carly doesn’t like him. She verbally attacks him pretty much every opportunity she gets. He knows he’s not a bad guy, and even though she’s Mac’s sister and therefore verboten, he’s intrigued by and attracted to her.
The thing I loved so much about this novella was the verbal sparring between Carly and Lucas. I love a feisty heroine and a charismatic hero, especially when they clash. The scenes where they duked it out verbally, all the while undressing each other mentally, were so delicious. Here they are bitching about being forced to work together:
“’I don’t particularly want to do business with a man who considers dress clothes to be a pair of Wranglers that don’t have a hole in them.”
“And a bigger belt buckle.”
“Thank you for reinforcing my point.”
“I don’t really like having to deal with a woman who probably irons her socks, but this about the charity. Do you think the other members of the Silver Creek Council will be happy to know you chased the liaison for the event out the door with your special brand of meanness?” (Yates 9)
Since this is a novella, it doesn’t take long for Carly and Lucas to give into their urges. She wants a little freedom, a little taste of being bad, and Lucas just wants a taste of Carly. The “Why didn’t you tell me you were a virgin?!” scene in this book was the best I’ve read yet:
He put both hands over his face and drew them down. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“That’s a very open-ended question. Why didn’t I tell you that Pluto isn’t considered a planet anymore? Why didn’t I tell you that I can believe it’s not butter?”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a virgin?”
“Oh…that. I forgot.”
“In my defense, your hymen doesn’t really do much, so it’s easy to kind of let it slip your mind.” (Yates 47)
That’s the other thing I enjoyed about this novella, the word “hymen” was used. And cock. And clitoris. I’m so sick of buds, and pearls, and sheaths, and members, that anytime I read about adults using adult words for sexual organs, I do a little happy dance.
So Carly and Lucas hook up…and then they hook up again. And pretty soon they can’t keep their hands off each other. Carly is afraid that her relationship with Lucas will turn into something poisonous and dysfunctional the way her parents’ marriage did. Lucas’s family history isn't much better. His mom walked on him and his dad (who then drank away his sorrows) and he’s afraid of making Carly unhappy. Mac meanwhile isn’t down with any of these shenanigans, and he shows up with something called a burdizzo which is used to castrate calves. Yee-haw!
Carly and Lucas’s family angst helped me believe the tension that kept them apart, but because of the length of the novella, the resolution did feel a little compressed and rushed at times. They both had to overcome issues they'd been struggling with their entire adult lives fairly quickly. There was enough here for a full-length novel, I think. I did like that they both came from dysfunctional families, that Silver Creek had philanderers and alcoholics. I don’t normally dig small-town romances, mostly because they are set in places like Hazelnut Cove where everything is a little bit twee, and the heroine’s neighbor, Mrs. Gingham, is always around with snickerdoodle cookies. Silver Creek felt like an actual place, not a Thomas Kinkade painting.
That said Unbuttoned wraps up quickly and a little cutely, but I can’t always have my sexy cowboy romp-fest and my cake too. I would have liked more book, but what I got was lots of fun.