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REVIEW: Turn It Up by Inez Kelley

Dear Ms. Kelley:

My feelings at the end of this book were ambivalent.  I liked a lot of it, but there were significant parts of the story that gave me pause.  Sebastian and Charlie have been best friends for six years.  They’ve seen each other through some difficult times and their friendship has never been stronger, but Sebastian is about to test their bonds by declaring his love for Charlie.

Turn It Up by Inez KelleyCharlie is a self proclaimed bad girl.  She glories in her sexuality and I loved that.  Sebastian is an emergency room doctor and they formed a friendship and partnership after Sebastian started guesting on Charlie’s call in radio show.  Their bit has become so successful that it is now a routine part of Charlie’s show called “Dr. Hot and the HoneyPot.”  The on air dialogue was snappy, funny, and steamy.  It sounded like a successful nighttime radio show:

“Hello, caller, you’re live on Let’s Talk about Sex with Doc and Honey. What can we do for you tonight, lover?”

“Can you answer something for me?” The rich masculine voice was softened in shyness, and Charlie cocked her head in curiosity.

“We can try. What’s your name?”

“Simon. I have never done oral sex. Not opposed to the idea, it just hasn’t happened. I’m not sure how. I mean, I’ve heard guys say write the alphabet with your tongue, others say it doesn’t work. Does it?”

Bastian chuckled and leaned forward. “Simon, if you’re concentrating on the alphabet, you’re thinking too hard. Forget what you hear in the locker rooms. Just listen to your partner, talk to her if you’re really unsure, find out what she prefers. There is no one technique. It’s what feels good to both of you.”

“Doc speaketh wisely, Simon, so listen closely. Think about it. What’s interesting about the letter K? Not a thing. Although the letters O and T are pretty nice, B, Z and H are a waste of energy.”

“You’ve thought about this a bit, haven’t you, Honey?” Bastian laughed

Bastian ups the stakes by announcing his desire to marry Charlie, on the air, and Charlie’s rebuttal is that she just wants to use him for sex.  The race is on then as to who gives in first.

Charlie, however, is deeply insecure about her self worth which I found terribly disappointing because it made her proud sexuality a facade instead of an internalized acceptance.  Her insecurity makes her believe she is not the type of wife Sebastian needs despite the fact that they’ve been friends for six years and Bastian exhibits no discomfort or embarrassment in her presence. For crying out loud, he’s been on air with her for six years talking frankly about sex and exchanging sexual banter.  If he has no problem with that, why would he have any problem being with Charlie?  Further, every action that Bastian undertakes seems to be viewed with suspicion, as a sign to Charlie that she isn’t good enough.

She had a lot of bravado but not much  self esteem.  This was so frustrating for me and at odds with her bold personality because she really wasn’t comfortable in her own skin and thus made her proclamations about owning one’s sexuality ring a bit hollow.  If she had more self esteem would the desire to be bold simply not exist?

Bastian refuses to sleep with Charlie until she can accept his feelings toward her. He knows that she uses sexuality as a shield against intimacy and doesn’t want to ruin a precious thing through physical consummation.  Conceptually, I liked this emotional conflict, I just wished it wasn’t Charlie was the one so insecure because I felt a lot of the subtext of this book is about embracing one’s sexuality and not hiding from it.

However, the sexual tension between the two friends is hotter than many explicit love scenes I’ve read and I almost felt like the consummation scene was a let down.

One of the things that bothered me throughout the story was the closeness that Sebastian and Charlie shared during several years in which Sebastian was married to another woman.  The banter on the radio show was sexually charged.  He would often find his way to Charlie’s place to shoot the shit. It doesn’t matter that these two professed to be only friends and Bastian’s regard for her grew into love only since his divorce. I call shenanigans. Bastian’s best friend should have been his wife, not some sex pot he exchanged quips with on the radio. Emotional intimacy is a betrayal and the failure to address this as part of the downfall of Bastian’s marriage was disappointing to say the least, particularly when the book was about how intimacy in relationships is not just sex based.

Bastian is infertile and apparently before the start of the book, he struggled with his own masculinity because of it but it doesn’t appear to be an issue that he deals with during the book.  Later the issue of children becomes important, not because it challenges Bastian’s masculinity, but because of how it impacts his relationship with Charlie.  However, much is made of Bastian’s longing to have kids. At one point, his brother suggests to Bastian’s ex wife that coming to his house with her baby is the akin to sticking a dirty, serrated knife in Bastian’s back and twisting it. Yet NOT ONE TIME is adoption mentioned as an option. I found this perturbing.  Bastian didn’t seem to be the type of guy who cared whether his progeny had to spring literally from his own loins.  I thought he had a bigger heart than that.

Putting those things aside, there is a lot to love about this story. As previously mentioned, the sexual tension is great.  Bastian is a wonderful hero and I loved Charlie.  There’s an interesting subplot involving Bastian’s complicated relationship with his younger, rock star brother who is a recovering drug addict.  Additionally, I thought the plotting was tighter and pacing was better in this book than it was in Sweet as Sin which I felt had a dozen different conflicts shoved into one book.   I waffle between giving this a B- and a C+.

Best regards,


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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. JL
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 12:52:01

    I liked the author’s voice and enjoyed the book for the most part. Unfortunately, it seemed like the author was pushing a premise that initially sounded good but ultimately was bound to fail. I had trouble believing that someone who talked sex on air with his best friend for six years waited that long to reveal his attraction to her, and then just ‘let it slip’ like that. The adoption issue was annoying, too.

    I just couldn’t root for Charlie. I downloaded the book because she was presented as a sexually confident heroine. I ended up feeling almost betrayed by her insecurities. And Bastian (hate that name! Literally cringed every time I read it) was a little too Marty-Stu for my liking. I find the whole ‘heroine needs to be virginal’ problem a reason why I don’t read much romance. I’ve yet to find stories that feature sexually active and confident women who aren’t slut-shamed for it.

  2. Christine M.
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 13:48:20

    “Bastian’s best friend should have been his wife, not some sex pot he exchanged quips with on the radio. Emotional intimacy is a betrayal and the failure to address this as part of the downfall of Bastian’s marriage was disappointing to say the least, particularly when the book was about how intimacy in relationships is not just sex based.”

    I love the trope, but IRL, my SO is certainly not my best friend, never has been and never will be. If they’re your best friend, who do you turn to when things go apeshit? My (male) best friend and I talk (quite frankly) about our sex lives, but there’s nothing hot about it. It’s about supporting each other.

    In any case, I personaly don’t see that as a betrayal (especially if they were ‘acting’ for the radioshow), but then maybe that’s just me.

  3. Kaetrin
    Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:40:52

    I liked this book quite a bit. My impression was that Charlie and Bastian met after he’d found out he was infertile and things were already going south for he and his wife and it was fairly shortly before their separation/divorce. I saw their friendship in that context, noted that it was a friendship only and that it wasn’t a secret and was okay with it. (I might have to go check the timing cause you’ve made me wonder now – but I thought he’d been split up with the ex for 5 of those 6 years).

    I didn’t have a problem with the no adoption discussion because the thrust (pardon the pun) of his problem was that he felt a lack of masculinity because he couldn’t father children. Adopting wouldn’t change that. Also, it may well be that his wife wanted a child of her own body (not uncommon) – as the book wasn’t about his relationship with his ex/wife, I didn’t have a problem with that not being explicitly dealt with in the book.

    I liked that Bastian had come to terms with his “masculinity” issues – he still wanted children but had learned to separate out that from the other stuff.

    I also thought that Charlie was very confident on her own terms – alone. Where she came unstuck was when dealing with relationships “forever” – something she had little confidence in – so I didn’t have an issue with that aspect so much either. I agree with you that the sub plot about her not being good enough was not believable, but I didn’t think her sexuality was bravado. It was intimacy she had problems with and I thought the book showed that quite well.

    What I didnt’ like, was the part toward the end where they didn’t talk to one another about stuff and it all blew up – this is so not what their relationship had been for the previous 6 years. Plus, I dislike the “big mis” anyway. There were some things that were, I thought, completely glossed over or magically fixed (why?), including how quickly Charlie changed her mind about something (trying not to give away spoilers here) near the end and I found that disappointing. I would have liked to have seen the subplot with his brother and Grace been expanded as that ending was pretty abrupt too. My own rating was a little better than yours – I gave it a B – which is way better than Sweet at Sin which was a DNF for me as I didn’t like the either of the main characters after the first 30 pages and gave up (although I haven’t ruled out trying again at some future point).

  4. Jane
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 07:21:30

    @JL It sounds like we had the same response. She was so sexually confident that it was sad to see it was just a front.

  5. Jane
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 07:25:35

    @Christine M. I guess I feel differently, particularly because the story was about intimacy beyond physical closeness. Bastian refused to sleep with Charlie because sleeping together would be too easy. It was coming together and acknowledging the strength and importance of emotional attachment.

    As for IRL, I am not sure how others conduct their married lives but I firmly believe in the spouse being one’s best friend.

  6. Jane
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 07:28:17

    @Kaetrin My recollection was that Bastian had been divorced and/or separated for 18 months and that he and charlie had shared this close friendship for a long time. I recall that he would stop over at her house after work and chat for hours.

    I felt like the adoption thing, the kid thing, should have been explained better particularly when it came to be such an important issue at the end of the book.

  7. Christine M.
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:26:47

    @Jane: Then we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ve known my best friend for 15+ years (I’m 28) and there’s never been any sexual attraction between us. I guess we were doomed from day 1. :)

  8. Jane
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:29:06

    @Christine M.: I never suggested that there was any sexual attraction between friends. I am talking about intimacy that goes beyond sexuality which was also a topic in the book.

  9. Amber
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 10:45:00

    I really enjoyed this one and didn’t have any of the problems you seemed to have with it.

    I might have to reread it (my recollection is a little foggy) but I felt like the marriage was in its death throes when the friendship between Charlie and Bastian began. That’s what made the platonic nature of the friendship unique.

    I also got the impression that it wasn’t just Bastian who was having issues with his infertility. Maybe I misread it (or read something not in the text), but it sounded as if his infertility was used by his wife as a weapon in their fights. And that wouldn’t have been an issue if adoption were acceptable for them both.

  10. Christine M.
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 11:43:16

    @Jane: My apology for misreading your comment in that case. :)

  11. Jane
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 11:44:50

    @Christine M. I just didn’t explain it very well. I thought perhaps if Bastian spent more time talking to his wife than to Charlie, maybe their marital problems could have been worked through (maybe not).

  12. JL
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 12:12:10

    It seemed to me like Bastian and Charlie were entering into their HEA with the same problems he had with his first wife. A huge lack of communication and uncertainty about their priorities. Even though I really liked the book and thought the writer had a fantastic voice, I had trouble believing the HEA. I love the friends to lovers trope, but the ‘big misunderstanding’ plot device kind of ruins it for me. I expected Bastian and Charlie to be above that kind of immaturity. It made me doubt the strength of their friendship a wee bit, too.

  13. Christine M.
    Aug 16, 2011 @ 13:15:05

    @Jane: Oh. I get you now. I totally agree with you then. Huzzah!

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