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REVIEW: Hot Finish by Erin McCarthy, an STC Pick

Hot Finish is a Save the Contemporary pick.   Go here to find out details on how to win an 8 GB iPod Touch.

Dear Ms. McCarthy:

I love this series and I particularly love this book.   One reason is because sarcastic, outspoken, irreverent and bossy Suzanne isn’t toned down when she gets her own book.   Previously Suzanne was the best friend of the female protagonists in the series. Best friends are allowed to be a little louder, brassier, maybe even more confidently sexy, than the heroines. I was worried that in order to make Suzanne palatable as a main protagonist that she would have to be watered down but, no, the Suzanne that you see in the previous two books is exactly who you see in Hot Finish.

“Do I seem like a woman who knows how to emotionally divorce myself from anything?   Imogen, I’m the queen of stuffing shit down so deep I need laproscopic surgery to pull it back out.”

Hot Finish Erin McCarthySuzanne Jefferson re-started a wedding consulting business because she is flat out broke and refuses to take money from her ex husband, Ryder Jefferson.   Ryder is a top driver for a stock car series (also known as Nascar in my mind but not in the books as that would be a trademark infringement and apparently while teaming up with vulgar but funny actors like Will Ferrell is okay but combining sex and Nascar is not, but I digress) and is serving as the best man to a wedding between fellow driver, Jonas, and a track bunny named Nikki.

Ryder doesn’t really know Jonas but has agreed to serve as best man so Suzanne can make some money. He worries about her, even though they are divorced.

Suzanne and Ryder married seven years ago and five years later, Suzanne walked out of their home and never came back.

She wanted to say something to defuse his anger, to finally, after two years, reach a real level of friendship with him, but she didn’t know how to do that.   She never had, and while she cared a hell of a lot about Ryder, the truth was, they didn’t seem to know how to be in each other’s lives.

After two years of separation and divorce, neither has really moved on with their lives and when Suzanne and Ryder find out that their divorce was never finalized, Ryder sees this as an opportunity to reclaim what they had once lost.

I loved Suzanne and what was more important so did Ryder.   Everything about Suzanne turned him on: her quick temper, her outspokenness, her adventuresome nature.   And through Ryder’s eyes, we see that everything about Suzanne is awesome to him. She can cut him to the quick and get him from zen to insane in a nansecond but the reader knows that Suzanne is the only woman the really does it for him. He thinks she is sexy in her puffy vest and in borrowed sweats, ordering cake, and basically, just by existing.

The thing I got about this book was that everyone is beautiful through the eyes of the one who loves them.   Nikki was a money hungry twig, the original Bridezilla but something about her made Jonas, her racecar driver catch, happy.

As with the previous books in this series, the dialogue is awesome.

“If you think this is awkward, you should have been in the car when Nikki was describing Jonas’s penis to us in great detail.”

Ryder felt his skin crawl.   “Damn, am I glad I missed that.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think we heard an ounce of truth, because if you listened to that girl, Strickland is as thick as a jar of pasta sauce and as long as a garden hose, both of which I’m pretty sure are physically impossible.   If he was packing the way she claims, he couldn’t climb in the car to drive.”

It’s funny, of course, but it’s also very authentic. I particularly loved the guy parts because they sounded like, well, guys.

Evan popped his head into the open door.
“I can’t believe you losers are leaving.”
“Yeah, well, someone has to take Captain Morgan here home.”
“Let this be a cautionary tale,” Evan said.
“Against rum?   Yeah, I’ll agree with that.”
“Against women.   Nothing but trouble.”
“Thanks for that, we’ll keep in mind when we’re having sex every night and you’re not,” Elec said.   “Catch you later.”   He put his boot in his brother’s gut and shoved.

The attempts at a guy’s night out that devolves into texting each other’s girlfriends was hilarious.

While other characters from past books make appearances, the story is really about Ryder and Suzanne who’ve never learned how to communicate with each other. Ryder, the more open emotionally of the two, never really understood the depth of Suzanne’s insecurity. Suzanne always felt that Ryder would never have married her if she hadn’t gotten pregnant. Her poor trash upbringing loomed too large in her mind for her to believe that Ryder, a wealthy, good looking man truly loved her. The two push each others buttons, knowing that they shouldn’t say the thing that is actually coming out of their mouths but seemingly helpless to stop it followed by internal recriminations.

He was going to sleep, and he was not going to do a damn thing about his prize boner, no matter how much it was demanding attention. Sullen masturbation was not his style.

Laying in bed staring at the ceiling and feeling sorry for himself was much more his style.

Feeling like a total dumb ass, Ryder stripped down to his briefs and slid underneath his sheets, feeling so surly he consciously skipped brushing his teeth, something he never, ever did.   Bad breath would teach her.

The real problem with Suzanne and Ryder is that they weren’t very good at communicating with each other and in the course of the book, they learn (and we readers get to see) them trying to talk to each other more about what they are feeling.   Ryder is much better than Suzanne because he comes from a safer and more secure place in his life whereas Suzanne always felt like she wasn’t good enough but he does things off hand, failing to make Suzanne really understand that he cares.

Hot Finish reminds me so much of what I love about contemporary romances. It is modern, of course, but it’s romance stripped down to its essentials: people who love each other trying to figure out how to make it last.   B+

Best regards,


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This is a mass market published by Berkley, a division of Penguin. Penguin participates in agency pricing.

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. Hannah
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 06:38:05

    I can’t wait to read this, but for some reason it’s not showing up in the Kindle store. Nor is the book reviewed below, Burning up.

  2. Carin
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 07:13:09

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book a few weeks ago and I LOVE it! There were several lines so funny that I texted them to a good book friend, just to make her laugh. I liked Suzanne and Ryder, too, and I liked seeing them slowly but surely work things out. A book that made me laugh and smile!

    I was happy to see that Erin McCarthy is writing more Fast Track books, too. It’s not just a trilogy!

  3. Jane
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 07:57:19

    @Carin I wondered what the winners thought of the book. I am glad you enjoyed it. I, too, thought the book was hilarious. Suzanne had some great lines. I also loved the gender flip in terms of how Suzanne kept everything bottled in but Ryder was more able to express himself but neither could really make themselves totally vulnerable for fear of being hurt.

  4. Jane
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 07:57:55

    @Hannah Apparently none of the Berkley MMPB books for August are available in Kindle. I’ve emailed to alert the Berkley folks of this issue. Hopefully it can be resolved soon.

  5. marniecolette
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 07:59:39

    Great review. I want to go out and read this now. I having been craving a good contemporary with a strong heroine.

  6. trish
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 08:19:13

    I’m looking forward to this one as well. Just to clarify though, NASCAR did/does have some sort of agreement with Harlequin for books set in that environment. IIRC Pamela Britton, Nancy Warren and others have written books with NASCAR settings (I haven’t read any of them myself) so that’s a reason why it’s not referenced by name in these books.

  7. Jane
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 08:26:11

    @trish Yep and in the agreement, sex wasn’t allowed. I don’t think you can describe the characters getting undressed. There were a few other restrictions that I thought were ridiculous.

  8. Carin
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 09:11:30

    @trish – That’s funny, because my friends and I call McCarthy’s books “The NASCAR Books” I hadn’t even noticed that they didn’t call it by name.

  9. Darlynne
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 09:53:00

    I enjoyed one of the previous Erin McCarthy books reviewed here and had no expectation of doing so. The series has been quite a surprise and I look forward to reading this one.

  10. Randi
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 11:29:59

    Wow, based on the review, this sounds like the best McCarthy book yet. When does it come out?

  11. Ridley
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 11:42:23

    You pointed out something I noticed and appreciated in the first two books – McCarthy writes guys differently.

    Lots of authors assign the same voice to both genders and just insert more boner thoughts into the guys’ POVs to set them apart. McCarthy, I noticed, has them not only speak differently but think differently.

    I can’t remember if it was book one or two, but there was a bit of hero POV where he mention the heroine taking off “some sort of girl pants that don’t go all the way to the ankle.” I couldn’t help but smile that he didn’t call them capris. It was authentic dude.

  12. Jane
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 12:12:02

    @Randi It’s out now. There is some problem with the Kindle link as Amazon hasn’t it activated yet but it is out today.

  13. Kaetrin
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 19:06:34

    I was one of the lucky winners and I did enjoy the book – but not as much as the first two I’m afraid. *hangs head and ducks behind the couch*

    I found Suzanne a bit abrasive and I didnt’ like her as much as I liked Imogen and Tamara. I thought Ryder was wonderful though (except that I’m not a fan of the hero calling the heroine a “bitch” – sexy or otherwise (in the book one of his pet terms for her – which she loves BTW – is “sexy bitch”) – but for me, that term just didn’t work. I do realise that that is purely me though!)

    I would have liked to have seen more of Suz and Ryder working on their relationship – I felt it was a bit glossed over and I wanted to go a bit deeper – I wasn’t convinced in the end that they had learned a new style of communication so I didn’t totally buy the HEA.

    I’m sorry! I feel guilty because I won the book but I can’t give it better than a C+. Tamara and Elec’s book is still my favourite of the series so far.

    I am looking forward to future books on this series because I really enjoy Ms McCarthy’s writing style and I like the setting – it will be fun seeing Evan get his!!

  14. Jane
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 19:09:32

    @Kaetrin I thought the term sexy bitch would be controversial but it worked for me because it worked for both of them. And again, I can see Suzanne being a bit abrasive, but I liked that. We don’t get many of her in the romance genre and I actually thought she was the perfect foil for Ryder. But all your complaints? I totally see them.

  15. Kaetrin
    Aug 03, 2010 @ 19:49:19

    thx Jane

  16. MikiS
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 01:32:58

    I’ve avoided this series because I really have no interest in NASCAR. How much is the racing a part of the books?

  17. Randi
    Aug 04, 2010 @ 07:14:16


    It’s there. It’s part of the atmosphere and could be described as it’s own character is the series (much like NYC was a character in Sex In The City). But I wouldn’t say that the racing stuff overwhelms the plot and relationships. I’m not a big racing fan myself, but I like this series a lot, and Erin’s writing is pretty fantastic. I’d suggest trying the first one. If you like it..Hooray! If the racing stuff really bothers you, then at least you can say you tried it.

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