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REVIEW: Too Hot to Hold by Stephanie Tyler

Too Hot to HoldDear Ms. Tyler:

I was quite excited to read this book after finishing the first in the series. Perhaps I expected too much, but I was seriously deflated upon finishing Hard to Hold to the point that I doubt I will read the finale to this trilogy. What were excusable irritants in the first book overwhelmed this story from the confusing sentence structure to the inclusion of too many characters and lack of attention paid to the main protagonists.

As the description says, “Nick Devane’s life is one big, classified secret.” It’s a secret of his own making. Nick is the lost heir of a Kennedy-esque family whom he decided to abandon when he was a teen. He was taken in by another family and the three boys form the basis of this trilogy.

The heroine, Kylee Smith, is a journalist but she’s really only a journalist when it fits the story because most of the time we see Kylee stealing cars, undoing her pants or running around Africa at the direction of Nick. Kaylee was supposed to be a world class journalist but she read more like a National Enquirer writer as many of her stories were about a missing heir of a well known family (aka Nick). But Smith being a journalist provides insta-conflict for a man whose life is built on secrets.

Kaylee finds Nick because he is on a list of men who her now dead ex husband had helped and now she wants Nick’s help.   Someone is calling her asking her to come to Africa with money. It sounds like her supposed dead husband.   Nick’s a SEAL and orders come down for him to keep watch over her.   The story treats Nick’s SEAL team as if they are a private security group that isn’t answerable to anyone.   But what’s realism in a story like this, right?

A major problem I had with the story involving Nick and Kylee was that Nick had issues with physical contact with others due, in part, to his not having been held as a child (I believe). Supposedly being touched triggers the fight or flight response although which response was triggered is never articulated, just that he has the response which he needs to “bite back”. Further, this fight or flight response does not inhibit his ability to have sex with several women at five hours or more at a time, just his ability to sleep with them (because being unconscious next to someone will trigger fight/flight?)    or have non sexual contact with them. And, of course, his flight/fight stimuli is suppressed when he is near Kaylee.

The matching is forced as well. Nick had a troubled childhood which included stealing cars. Guess what? Kaylee had a troubled childhood that included stealing cars. Nick has a secret life and Kaylee has a secret life. Together these crazy kids who enjoyed stealing cars as youngsters and have lots of secrets belong together, right? (The car scenes reminded me a lot of a Tara Janzen book).

The story takes us back to Africa but for what reason, I’m not entirely sure. At least the excuse given didn’t seem very plausible or reasonable, but it allows for a romance that was started in the first book to take center stage and come to a somewhat satisfactory conclusion. If that weren’t enough, we get yet another setup for yet another romance (that makes three if you are keeping count) with Nick’s adopted brother and a rogue FBI agent.

I also felt like this story was written with the assumption that the reader could make leaps as the characters’ internal dialogue jumped from place to place. At one point in the book, the two are making out in a Porsche:

"I’m not ready to go inside yet-‘I like being here, inside this car with you. Inside means serious business, more talking and what-ifs. But here, against the leather, sitting close to you, nothing’s a problem." Her fingers stroked the soft upholstery on the seat on either side of her thighs-‘her hair was loose around her shoulders and her cheeks slightly flushed. She looked vulnerable and hot at the same time and when she tugged at his arm he knew what she wanted. What he wanted.

Yeah, the headers in this car tended to do that easily enough thanks to the vibrations they created.

I get that the vibrations of the car are turning the two of them on, but that’s not what those two sentences exactly convey. The headers in the car do what? Know what the two of them want? Make her hot and vulnerable at the same time? Another passage that had me scratching my head:

"Car," Sarah called. It was moving down the rutted road slowly, and Nick lowered Kaylee to the ground as Sarah ran into the middle of the road by herself as if she was all alone-‘a woman in distress.

"She’s not going to kill the passenger, is she?" Kaylee whispered to him. He didn’t answer, because the answer would surely be: yes, if necessary.

"Nick, please, tell me she’s not going to do that."

There was no gunshot, only Clutch urging him and Kaylee to walk farther along the road, under the cover of the brush as Sarah walked away. "I’m not telling you anything, Kaylee. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s better that way. We need to get you to safety."

She folded her arms tightly to her chest as she began to walk again, in front of Nick this time and out to the road from where Sarah called to them.

There was no sign of the driver and Sarah didn’t say anything but "Get in" as they approached the old car.

Why was Kaylee not worried about the driver initially? Why does she worry that Sarah is going to hurt the passenger? Where’s the continuity? There were about 8 places in the book that had baffling passages not including the number of references to fight/flight that I did not fully comprehend.

So little time is spent developing Nick and Kaylee as characters or developing their relationship together. Instead the story is full of extraneous and uninteresting romances and an action plot that borders on the ridiculous. D

Best regards


This book can be purchased at Amazon (affiliate link), Kindle (non affiliate link), Fictionwise, or other retailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by either the author or publisher. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. May
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:29:53

    I say both thank you and damn it. I picked this up in a local Borders but put it back – I had a bad feeling and I had hoped you’d review it here. It’s too bad – but I thank you for saving me some $$.

  2. Sayuri_x
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:34:35

    I’m tempted to buy this, only so I can unravel the mystery of the vibrating car headers…..

    Also, confused Brit, headers are head rests, yes?

    I’m kinda gutted about this review cause I really enjoyed her Blazes.

  3. Jane
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:35:32

    @Sayuri_x I actually have no idea what headers are in a car. I just assumed it was something in the car that made people horny.

  4. Sayuri_x
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:37:50

    @Jane: Hmm. I wonder if they were included or if they had to pay extra for them….

  5. Jane
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:40:49

    @Sayuri_x I think that they are supposed to make the car vibrate. At least that’s what I am thinking but the sentences are so awkward, it could be anything like the gear shift up someone’s butt or something.

  6. Shannon Stacey
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:43:26

    Headers replace the exhaust manifold in a custom exhaust system for muscle cars. It’s what makes them rumbly.

  7. Sayuri_x
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 15:55:31

    @Shannon Stacey: @Jane:

    Ahh Thanks Shannon.

    I was scratching my head thinking, ‘How would vibrating Head Rests make you horny?’

    Obviously I need to take a car maintenence course or something….

  8. Stephanie
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 16:16:26

    Yes but should you have to take a car maintenence course to understand a book?

    I dont think so!

  9. Chinese Bakery
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 16:20:29

    Oh, thank you for that.
    I enjoyed ‘Hard to Hold’ so much I pre-ordered the follow-up immediately after finishing it, but it’s looking more and more like ‘Too Hot to Hold’ is doomed to end up in the DNF pile. The characters are so sketchy I just can’t get attached. It’s a bit odd, given the fact that the previous book in the series was SO INTENSE -probably too much so even- that this one’s so painfully tepid. Meh. And to think I was looking forward to this.

  10. TKF
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 16:56:16

    I’m sorry, but Nick is supposedly a SEAL (which means he's special forces and he’s had a full background investigation) and he’s supposedly disconnected himself from his rich and powerful family to the point that he’s a “lost heir”?

    I have to call bullshit on that.

  11. Ellie
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 17:41:14

    This is exactly how I felt after reading it! Actually, I couldn’t even finish it, and I won’t be reading Chris’ book either. I didn’t get why we should care that Aaron had a list, who was on it, etc. I just felt no urgency whatsoever in this book. And yeah, I always thought SEALs had an actual real job to do.

  12. Scorpio M.
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 18:47:38

    Subjectivity is the nature of reviews so I will respectfully disagree with the thoughts and opinions that differ from the ones I offer.

    I am writing this for those readers who enjoyed Ms. Tyler’s first book, Hard To Hold and was looking forward to book 2, as I was but may see the “D” rating as a major turnoff. Too Hard To Hold is not a “D” book, imo. It starts fast, stays fast and sets up for book 3.

    Nick & Kaylee are not a H/H pair that come together in a slow cerebral boil. Their coming together is shallow and lusty, plain & simple but they DO get deeper. There are emotions that get voiced and expressed. Perhaps, Ms. Tyler’s steam of consciousness prose doesn’t lend itself to that belief but all I can say is that it worked for me. Maybe my tastes aren’t as discerning but only you can judge.

    There are other subplots with secondary romances that serve as plot devices and to connect the trilogy ala JD Robb’s In Death series(?) but that is only my conjecture. It didn’t bother me because I wanted to know what happened to Sarah & Clutch anyway.

    Yes, there is a Porsche and there is the thrumming of the engine serving as a metaphor perhaps for the throbbing of their lust for one another. Maybe it was poorly chosen but I got the gist and it took up 2 sentences on one page. No car manual necessary.

    I had fun reading Too Hard To Hold. I enjoyed the fast ride with a hot guy on an exciting, improbable journey. Reading is often about suspending belief enough so that you can enjoy the journey with the characters. I was willing to do that for Nick & Kaylee and enjoyed it. I think a lot of other readers will too.

  13. Silver
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 19:31:43

    Interesting review. Actually, I got hold of the first book Hard to Hold, but I wasn’t able to get past Chapter Two. Reading (as well as reviews) is a subjective experience, that’s all I can say.

  14. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Too Hot to Hold by Stephanie Tyler | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary --
    Jan 13, 2010 @ 22:32:50

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  15. Diane
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 10:07:27

    I bought the first book after seeing it highly rated here and elsewhere, but like Silver I couldn’t get past the first few chapters and I had no intention of buying the second one. I’m always afraid I’m missing something great by giving up too quickly on a series, though, so I’m actually kind of glad you gave book 2 a poor grade. Now I’m sure I’m not missing out!

  16. Jana J. Hanson
    Jan 14, 2010 @ 18:06:16

    I finished Too Hot To Hold yesterday and while I don’t think it’s as good as Hard to Hold, it’s not a D book, in my opinion (I’d give it a C).

    Maybe the initial set-up between Nick and Kaylee isn’t as real as Jake’s and Isabelle’s. The chemistry between Nick and Kaylee is obvious, but I didn’t believe their pairing would be a HEA as I did for Jake and Isabelle. I thought they’d scorch the pages then walk away from one another.

    Were there too many secondary characters and too many POVs? Perhaps. The POVs certainly came fast and furious (and were over quickly) in the final third of the book.

    Clutch and Sarah are brought over from Hard to Hold and both have an important part to play for Kaylee and Nick *and* Jamie and Chris, plus I’m glad to know what happened to them.

    Adding Sophie’s/PJ’s POV was probably unnecessary, though I wonder if her inclusion means she’ll make a reappearance in Hold on Tight.

    As far as Jamie’s and Chris’s subplot, which felt more forced than Sarah’s and Clutch’s, I asked myself if I would want to read about their time together in Africa as a prologue of sorts in Hold on Tight, then be propelled forward so many months to the present to continue their story. I don’t really think I would.

    And I still say that “I got a phone call from a dead man” is a great hook.

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