Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey
Book One of the Romancing the Clarksons series
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .
The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where, New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn't seen in years. When rescue shows up---six-feet-plus of hot, charming sex on a motorcycle---Rita's pretty certain she's gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .
Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he's about to be sorely tempted. There's something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn't just for tonight---he's forever.
What I Liked:
I count Tessa Bailey among my favorite contemporary romance authors. I've read so many of her books (say, eleven including this one), and I don't think I've rated any of the books less than three stars. She writes so quickly! And all of her books are steamy and swoony. While this new book is probably not a new favorite Bailey book, it was definitely satisfying and enjoyable, and I can't wait to continue the series.
Rita Clarkson's restaurant just burned down, and Rita has just about had it. It was her mother's restaurant, and her mother recently died, leaving behind a dying wish of her four children doing a Polar Bear Plunge in New York on New Year's Day. The Clarkson clan were never close, but somehow, Rita convinces them to go on a road trip from San Diego to New York over the course of the month (starting December 1st). Rita could use the break from the stress of, well, everything. But car trouble stalls the gang in Hurley, New Mexico, where one wickedly charming man helps them with their car, and sweeps Rita off her feet. But Rita is on a road trip, and falling for someone wasn't part of the plan. Jasper doesn't want her to leave - he needs a fresh start just as much as she does.
This book is longer than most of Bailey's books, yet it takes place over several days. Jasper and Rita meet fairly quickly into the book. I like that the first two chapters are somewhat short, yet we learn so much about the Clarkson family. Belmont is quiet and stern. Rita is stressed about her future in cooking, and she is somewhat of the matriarch of the group. Aaron is a cold arrogant jerk, but there is something lovable about him. Finally, Peggy is a professional shopper who has had a lot of engagements and left a lot of broken hearts.
Rita is so complex, and we see this quickly. Her mother, a cooking genius, placed a lot of expectations on Rita. Rita wasn't born with her mother's talent, but Rita is an extremely good cook. Yet she doesn't like the pressure she's felt when cooking. So the road trip was a good idea for her.
Jasper is sweet and charming, yet a little wicked and arrogant. He has sworn off women and hasn't had sex in nearly two years, after An Incident. He used to be a ladies' man, and he has the lasting reputation to prove it. But Jasper is so much more than that, and he wants to prove to everyone that he is so much more. He is intelligent and kind and chivalrous and driven. He has a bar and he's opening an eatery - Jasper is may be feeling lost, but he has a lot going for him.
Jasper and Rita's relationship evolves rapidly. Both of them do not open up easily, especially Rita. One will assume one thing, the other will assume another thing, and both will end up apologizing. I like that they both realize their mistakes as the story goes on (versus Jasper constantly being the only one apologizing, or vice versa).
The romance was very steamy! In classic Bailey fashion, there were tons of hot encounters between Jasper and Rita. I like that, despite writing so many romance novels, all of Bailey's steamy scenes are pretty different. But always fiery!
I also really like how this book is not just focused on Jasper and Rita's relationship, but also the relationship between the Clarkson siblings. Each sibling is so unique and complicated and dealing with their own mess and misery. I can't say I have a favorite Clarkson, because I genuinely like them all. And I like seeing how their relationships with each other and overall change and grow and improve as the story goes on.
The ending is PERFECT! I was hoping it would go this way and not the other... well, it was perfect. Love!
Anyway, overall I really enjoyed this book. There are a lot of things to love, and a lot of growth/development/emotion that add depth to the story. It's not just a steamy romance novel; it's a story of personal growth (in both Rita and Jasper) and familial growth.
What I Did Not Like:
I think this has more to do with me personally than the book (but maybe not, who knows) -- I didn't like how fast the romance occurred, how fast the feelings developed. Lust, okay. But feelings/love? I suppose it's possible, but it just felt very fast to me. Why I say this has more to do with me personally - I just read a book that pretty much took place over two days, in which the hero and heroine meet and fall in love in those two days (Chasing Lady Amelia by Maya Rodale, in case anyone was interested). Great book, but the romance felt fast. NOT undeveloped, but fast. If that makes sense? That is probably my only complaint (though it weighs heavily against the story). I like how drawn-out the romance/steamy side of things was, but realistically, the emotional side to this story occurred extremely quickly.
Would I Recommend It:
I mean, I'd probably recommend just about any of Tessa Bailey's books, if you're a fan of steaaaamy romance novels. Every time I read one, there is a new story, new characters, new steamy scenes. This novel is perfect if you like road trips, charming men, and a strong sense of family in a romance novel! And steamy romance, of course.
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. Like I've said, not my favorite Tessa Bailey book, but that doesn't mean it was bad or anything. I wasn't disappointed! I can't wait to read Too Wild to Tame - let's see what Aaron's story is all about!
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