Dear Ms. Dimon:
Hard as Nails is an anthology that takes place inside a house that is being rehabbed. The first story is an architect working on the project, the second is of the lawyer to the construction company and the third is the project manager of the rehabbing project. All three books feature smart dialogue and innuendo laden exchanges that are both funny and sexy. What I thought set the stories apart was how well the emotional conflict fit into the short story length.
This Old House
First up is “This Old House” wherein Cole Carruther’s is sent to roust a squatter from a new home that has been purchased to rehab. Aubrey Matheson isn’t really a squatter but she pretends that she can’t allow her aunt’s house to be sold on the grounds that the aunt is old and Cole took advantage of her. In reality, though, Aubrey is looking for something in the house. Cole is happy to keep Aubrey in the house while she explores so long as his body is on her map.
There’s a weird dynamic in this story as Cole puts on a hard pursuit of Aubrey while believing she is morally bankrupt. Having him call her on morality seemed particularly strange given that his intentions were seduction for manipulative purposes. Aubrey also made me cringe everytime she wielded her sledgehammer around the house which was on the National Historical Register. It’s not like it is so easy to find reproduction wood trim for those houses. C+
All About Adam
“All About Adam” is the second in the collection and was my favorite. I felt that there was a lot of story packed into just a few chapters. Adam Thomas and Becky Carter met at a convention about 8 months prior and spent 7 blissful days in a hotel room. Adam went out for coffee and Becky disappeared. Adam’s thought about her ever since and purchased this house that he knew would be attractive to a relative of Becky’s. He wanted Becky back into his life if for nothing else to ask her why she ran out on him. Becky finds it hard to resist Adam but she is convinced that if he knew the truth about her, he wouldn’t be interested.
There’s an interesting subplot about Adam and the reason he left the white collar criminal defense business he had built up. It provides a nice contrast to his “I’m all together” facade he presents and allowed Becky to stand on more equal footing. B
Man at the Door
Last is “Man at the Door” and it had elements that I really liked but it didn’t really deliver and part of that I blame on the short story format. Ray Hammond, very hot love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of guy, begins to develop feelings for the owner of the rehabbed house, Erin McHugh. They’ve flirted quite a bit and Ray wants to take it to the next level (read physical contact). Erin is tempted but she doesn’t really trust that Ray is interested in settling down and even if he was, she wasn’t sure she wanted a life with him. Ray is several years younger than Erin and while that topic is touched on, it’s not the overriding conflict to their consummation.
What I found a bit discordant in this story was Ray’s insistence that Erin trust him without having any background to give her the basis to trust him. Had their past encounters been detailed on the pages, maybe I would have been convinced that Ray was in the right, but instead, I just found him to be demanding without justification at times. B-
Despite my complaints, the stories are tightly written with great dialogue and that’s not easy to find in a lot of books these days. B- for the collection.