I’ve mentioned before that the contemporary romances that doesn’t feature vampires, campy vampires, werewolves, immortal peril, mortal peril, suspense out the wahoo, or extraordinary extraterrestrial extraneous circumstances seem to be fewer and far between. Every now and again I hear declarations that the contemporary romance is a dying subgenre and it’s harder and harder to find, and that if you’re not an established name, you’ll never get anywhere, because fewer people want to read contemporary romance.
So when Sarah and I read Flat Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy, we were both blathering to each other about how awesome it was and how refreshing to have actual conflict between people caused by realistic tension stemming from ordinary life experiences between two marvelous characters. Contemporary romance done right? More please! So, following this review, read more about a multi-level contest sponsored by Dear Author, Smart Bitches, Berkeley and Erin McCarthy, a contest we hope will be a semi-regular feature here and at Smart Bitches where we try to Save the Contemporary.
Dear Ms. McCarthy:
I have a confession to make and it might not be one you want to hear. I know that when you first started out, you wrote funny sexy contemporaries, then you branched out a bit and wrote funny sexy contemporaries featuring vampires. Then you branched out even more and wrote serious contemporaries featuring various immortal beings and those books, well, they just didn’t appeal to me as much as your light hearted contemporaries. So I admit that it was with some glee that I received Flat Out Sexy. I recall reading this book and thinking it was a lot of fun. I hadn’t thought about it again.
Then SB Sarah emailed me about the book with an “Ohmigod, this is great”, it began an exchange of “and wasn’t this a great scene when she wondered if she was a cougar?” and wasn’t it funny when Ryder told the two of them that he was running out of properties for them to have sex on? I ended up reading the book a second time and enjoyed it just as much as the first. Straight contemporaries seem to be a dying breed and I’m always glad to through my support behind a good one.
Tamara Briggs is a thirty-two year old widow with two small kids. Her deceased husband of a famous stock car driver who died in a crash. She’s still, reluctantly part of the racing scene, because her in-laws but if she remarries, it will be to a “man with a regular nine-to-five job, who came home for dinner, and who cut the grass on the weekend. A man who didn’t drive around the track at one hundred and eighty-five miles an hour every weekend, tempting fate.”
Of course, who would rev up her engine but young driver, Elec Monroe. Elec is younger than Tamara, and is the son of a racing legend, Elliott Monroe. He had been part of the racing scene since a youth. Initially, I think Elec is drawn to Tamara because of an aura that he thinks she exudes. He uses descriptions such as “classy, elegant, sophisticated.” I wondered if this was an early signal to readers to prepare them that Elec was going to be emotionally ready for Tamara because the reader has to overcome the suspension of disbelief that a young man who is living a fast and glamorous life would want to settle down with a woman six years his senior. It wasn’t hard to believe that Elec had fallen hard for Tamara. She was a great mother, a good friend, and a caring daughter. Plus, Elec was clearly over the moon in lust with Tamara. I appreciated that Elec was written with a youthful touch, that there wasn’t an attempt to make him sound older or more mature and that he still acted impulsively at times. It made their relationship more genuine and believable.
I know very little about Nascar other than having watched that bad Will Farrell movie, Talledega Nights and some special on RVs on the HGTV network which included a segment about souped up RVs for famous Nascar folks. There were enough details in the story to make it sound authentic to me but a Nascar fan might disagree. While the book doesn’t mention “Nascar”, I just inserted it automatically since it was about pro stock car racing.
It was great fun to watch the older Tamara run like hell after their one night stand and have to bluster about it not being a one night stand when called on it by Elec. In a nice role reversal, Tamara really does want to just have sex with Elec only he doesn’t want that and once he gets an inkling that is all she’s interested in, he takes the opportunity to set her straight.
I appreciated that Tamara’s former husband wasn’t demonized. He fit the stereotypical athlete but not in terms of womanizing. He was more addicted to the thrill and the fame and less addicted to his family. One element that wasn’t explored a great deal was why Elec was different; what was it about his personality or his upbringing or his past (which actually seemed very similar to the deceased husband) that made him less interested in the trappings of a successful race car driver.
Another element that didn’t seem to get adequate attention was the Hatfield/McCoy storyline that was raised between Elec’s family and Tamara’s inlaws, both racing powerhouses. The “secret” of the feud was never revealed. It was unclear why it wasn’t revealed either.
Probably the greatest strength of this book besides the sexiness (and yes, it is super sexy) is the humor, so I’ll end the review with a couple of excerpts. This is a scene from the morning after the one night stand:
She flushed, feeling the heat rise up her neck and into her cheeks. “It’s not what it looks like,” she said to Ryder, which was perhaps the stupidest thing she had ever said in her entire life.
That ridiculous lie in the face of the obvious seemed to break through Ryder’s shock. He burst out with a laugh. “Oh, I think it’s exactly what it looks like.” He grinned. “Guess Elec saw you home safely. Knew I could count on him.”
Ryder moved through the room to his closet, still grinning. “I hate to be the voice of reason-’I mean, when does that ever happen? But it’s damn near noon. I have to grab my uniform and head to the pre-race meetings with my team. I would imagine you have to do the same, rookie.”
Oh my God.
It was Elec. “I know you,” she said, struck dumb. “You were at a barbeque at the Briggses a long time ago. You got drunk on pilfered beer and took your daddy’s car and did doughnuts on the front lawn.”
Elec rubbed his chin and gave a sheepish smile. “Guilty as charged. But they shouldn’t have left the beer keg unattended. It was too much a temptation for a teenage boy.”
Tamara started to think she just might faint. Dear God in heaven, she had slept with a teenager. She was a molester. She scooted back on the mattress, trying to get off the same pillow as him, put some space, any space, between them. “You were like twelve then! How old are you now? My Lord, Elec, I’m old enough to be your mother!”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, not looking at all concerned that she had just done a Mrs. Robinson on him. He reached for her, touching her hip, hauling her back a little toward him. “That was more than ten years ago, I imagine. And if you’re old enough to have a twenty-six-year-old child, I’ll eat my car, part by part.”
“You’re twenty-six?” Tamara’s heart rate slowed a little. That didn’t sound quite as bad. She’d been thinking early twenties, but at least he was heading toward thirty.
“Well, almost. In a couple of months.”
“Oh, my God!” She panicked and ducked under the sheet.
The morning after scene is one of my favorites in the book even though the dinner with Elec, Tamara, her friend, Suzanne, Suzanne’s ex, Ty and his bimbo du jour is another priceless piece of entertainment and if a reader is interested in knowing what that scene reads like, well, she’ll have to read the book. B+
And Now: Buy a Contemporary, Save the World
Here’s the deal: we dig this book. We dig this book like damn and whoa, and we think you will too. So, in order to spread the word and the opportunity to read it we’re doing a multi-level giveaway in tandem with our reviews of Flat Out Sexy. Sarah and I are putting money where our mouth is by offering up a 1/3 of the prize money each. We coerced Ms. McCarthy to throw in some cash to the kitty and Berkley is adding 20 copies of the book.
Part the First: free books! Leave a comment, and you’re automatically entered to win a copy. We each have 10 copies of the book to give away, so drop a word Smart Bitches and here and double your chances. Comments will be open for 24 hours starting now.
Second: Spread the Word! Below is a Sprout widget about our campaign, and a simpler animated graphic. Right-click-and-save the graphic, or grab the Sprout for yourself (graphic at the top of the page), and put it on your site. Let us know that you’ve done so via email (sarah at smartbitchestrashybooks.com OR jane at dearauthor.com), and you’ll be entered to win a $100 gift certificate to Amazon.com, where you can buy this book, or many, many other books may suit your fancy. Spread the word, let us know, and you’re entered to win. That’s it.
The Spread the Word winner will be announced in 1 week, so tune in on Monday 27 October to see who wins a fierce Benjamin in our quest to Save the Contemporary.
Why? Because if there’s one thing that makes us sad, it’s the idea of contemporary romance dying out. So spread the word, buy a contemporary, and save the world.