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REVIEW: Sex by the Numbers by Marie Donovan

Dear Ms. Donovan,

book review A few weeks ago I reviewed a Kathleen O’Reilly Blaze book featuring an accountant hero. I made a little joke about how unsexy that profession is and was almost run over by posters quick to correct my view point. Wow, now I know to look beyond audits, tax forms and calculators to the hawt people behind the numbers. When I read the blurb for “Sex by the Numbers” and saw that your heroine is also an accountant I knew I had to see if lightning would strike twice.

Keeley has a past but it’s her current profession that’s needed when a multibillion dollar trust management firm discovers that somebody’s fingers have been dipping into the till. I love that Keeley is a self-made woman who’s put herself through school. I also laughed with the source of her referral. Binky Bingham, the firm’s owner and appreciator of all that is female especially if it’s wriggling past him in a G-string, is a character some might have problems with. But the man is upfront and honest about his love of watching strippers and never puts them down nor denigrates them.

Not knowing how she put herself through school or having ever seen her act, Dane Weiss sees Keeley as a bit dowdy when they first meet. Not that he doesn’t enjoy the offer she makes him.

He gestured at her pastry. "I see you like cherry tarts."

"Oh. Yes." No reason to get defensive. "They’re my favorites."

"Mine, too. I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and we have several cherry trees in the orchard. My mom makes the best cherry jam, pies, tarts, you name it."

"I don’t think I’ve ever had fresh cherry pie." She’d mostly grown up on snack pies her mother had brought home from the convenience store.

"You don’t know what you’re missing. The fruit explodes on your tongue, a bit tangy at first, but then mellowing into pure sweetness."

Keeley tried not to gape at him. My God, the man should be narrating erotica audiobooks. Cherries exploding into pure sweetness on his tongue? She really, really wanted to see that tongue in action. "You sound like you miss it. Would you like some of mine?" She pushed her plate toward him.

"Oh, no, I couldn’t eat your sweets on you."

Oh, yes, he could. "Really, go ahead. It’s a big tart." And so, apparently, was she. Old habits died hard.

He smiled at her the way he’d smiled at the teenage counter girl. Friendliness, but nothing more. "Just a small taste."

She didn’t want friendliness. She wanted him to feel the same achy awareness that he was stirring in her. And during tax season, of all times. "Take as much as you want. Big men like you have big appetites."

He gave a quick blink at that statement, but broke off half the tart and took a bite with white teeth that had obviously received above and beyond the recommended daily allowance of dairy products. "Mmmm, not as good as Mom’s, but still delicious."

"Isn’t it?" She swirled her finger through the cherry filling and slowly sucked it clean. He sipped his coffee, the only hint of interest a slight flaring of his nostrils.

Good grief, the only way she could be any more obvious was if she unbuttoned her boring, off-white blouse and flashed him her rack. But she did admire self-control. Such a rare quality in a man.

Dane Weiss is a lovely hero who always treats Keeley as a lady and who’s first thought – when all is revealed – is of her and how she feels and is being treated. I love that he’s another normal guy – not a PI, SEAL, secret gov. agency agent, whatever. He’s got some money but wears a suit and tie to work and works numbers for a living.

I’ve mentioned in past reviews how much I appreciate it when authors try and insert realistic ‘men’ scenes. This book has nice guy dialogue between Dane and his brother-in-law-to-be in a bar watching football. Adam gets a little linguistically gooey while talking about his upcoming wedding but Dane quickly nails him for it.

"Bridget will be glad you’re going to stay in Chicago for a while. You can help us plan the wedding."

"Oh, goody, can I?" Dane gave him a sidelong glance. It had taken some getting used to that his baby sister was living with and would be marrying Adam, Dane’s former bar buddy and champion chick-scoring wingman.

Adam cleared his throat. "After all, we want you to be my best man. You and your brother, that is."

"Colin and me? Are you sure you want me? After all, I did try to strangle you when I learned you were dating Bridget." More than just dating actually, but those events were better left unmentioned.

"Hey, what’s a little strangulation between brothers?" Adam joked, but his dark eyes were serious.

"Adam, ever since you and Colin were roommates at college, I’ve always thought of you as a brother. Marrying Bridget just makes it official."

Adam swallowed hard and clapped him on the shoulder. "Thanks, buddy."

"No problem." Dane nodded and slapped him on the back in return. Okay, big emotional moment over. Maybe they could catch the end of the ball game.

"You know, this engagement and marriage thing is pretty cool."

Dane gave a quiet sigh. Back to the emotional stuff. "Yep."

"I mean, after all these years of knowing you guys and knowing your sister and having it all come together so we’re all together-‘it’s pretty cool." Adam grinned like a goofball.

"Cool," he agreed. Cool, if incoherent. What inning was the ball game in, anyway?

"Now that you’re staying put for more than one week, maybe you can meet someone, too."

That got his attention. "Geez, Adam. Don’t go all squirrelly on me. I’m glad for you two, but now is not the right time in my life to go looking for anyone."

"Love comes when you least expect it," Adam intoned, the beige Guinness foam on his upper lip ruining the sentiment.

Thank you for having Lacey call Keeley on her cowardice and goosing her into telling Dane more about herself and into allowing him to explain his thoughts on her past. I enjoyed watching their sister relationship. I have a friend who’s life was maybe not quite as bad as theirs growing up but enough that I can understand them and sympathize.

I know this is a Blaze and the line is known for sex but I think there was not enough of a balance between that and the accounting aspect. I mean, Keeley is there looking at just a few suspects – that we see – for a few weeks. You show us a little of her on the job but a lot more of Dane and Keeley hot and at it with each other. Though you did drop enough clues throughout the book that the culprit wasn’t from left field. One thing I did notice is that the sex starts out bluntly Anglo Saxon then turns, as their feelings become engaged, to something deeper and more meaningful. Though still hawt.

I like that you take the buttoned down dowdy heroine trope and flip it a bit. Keeley dresses like a street ho for the part but then reveals her true self to Dane at home. Later during the confrontation scene – and I adored her in that – she’s strong, confident, not afraid of her past anymore and how it might hurt her or those she loves, and willing and able to tell off the thief. I’m stuck on accountant lead characters. Accountants are hot! B


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Alyssa
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 16:04:37

    I’ve got this one TBR. I really like Donovan’s writing–I especially like that she writes such different stories. They aren’t just do-overs, if you know what I mean.

  2. Karen Erickson
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 16:18:03

    I just finished this book and loved it. The characters were real — accountants are definitely hot. ;)

  3. Jia
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 16:27:43

    This sounds great. I read her last one, which was about the little sister Bridget. Now that I think about it — the heroine might have been in that one (it’s been a while since I read it) since Bridget was designing lingerie for strippers and I seem to recall one of them putting herself through school. I’ll have to refresh my memory.

  4. Jayne
    Jun 09, 2008 @ 20:31:32

    I’m sure it’s probably Keeley who was in that book then. At one point she mentions knowing Dane’s sister.

  5. che
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 13:38:08

    This sounds right up my alley, though I’m not really keen on a series. But anyhow, I must be the only one who didn’t understand this:

    …the sex starts out bluntly Anglo Saxon…

  6. Jayne
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 14:09:41

    che, I didn’t read the first book in the series and it didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book so don’t feel that you need to go back and read it.

    the sex starts out bluntly Anglo Saxon

    Sorry, what I meant by that phrase was that in the initial stages of their physical relationship (ie sex), they were using a lot of 4 letter words (old Anglo Saxon terms) to describe what they were doing. At that point, they were just enjoying the physical side. The emotional committment came later at which point the description was more about making love rather than f**king.

  7. che
    Jun 11, 2008 @ 15:33:33

    Thanks for the explanation. You also answered another question I’ve seen in a lot of romance novels- “muttered an Anglo Saxon word” or something to that effect. I always assumed it was the f word, but wasn’t sure. Anyhow, this book is going on my to buy list.

  8. GrowlyCub
    Jun 14, 2008 @ 00:34:55

    I went out and bought this and found the prequel Bare Necessities used. I read BN first and after finishing SbtN, I have to say I like BN much better.

    Donovan lost me with the second cherry scene. I’m all for hot sex, but I have this automatic turn off where food and female sex organs are involved. After that, the book went south for me and the relationship never felt convincing. There didn’t seem any real explanation on how they went from fuck buddies to lovers.

    SbtN was an enjoyable read, but it lacked the emotional connection I look for when I read and I felt that much more with BN than with SbtN.

    I liked it quite a bit until I got to the cherry scene though, so it’s entirely possible it just triggered one of my automatic icks.

    I’d definitely recommend BN, SbtN with reservations.

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