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REVIEW: Shaken and Stirred by Kathleen O’Reilly

Dear Ms. O’Reilly,

Shaken and StirredAs with the first book of your last trilogy, this one is a winner for me. Straight from the beginning and all the way through. I enjoyed all the characters in this book, the plot, the setting…in fact everything. At first I was a little leery about the setting. I mean, an Irish American family running a bar in NYC? And then the set up of the hero and heroine being maneuvered into living together? Cliched much? Oh yeah. But you’re Kathleen O’Reilly, and I trust you not to hurt me too bad. So I took a deep breath, flicked on my ebook reader and dove in.

And almost immediately you gave a standard plot new twists, took the story in directions I didn’t anticipate and made it a pleasure to electronically flip pages. The book heads in a different direction than I thought it would. I had expected a story of these two fighting off sexual feelings while living together in small apartment but this gets taken care of fairly early – I lmao at Gabe not liking being a ‘stranger’ to Tess during their hot encounters – instead it’s about Tess finding herself and gaining confidence to stand on her own and of Gabe deciding that love is worth making changes and waiting if you’re sure she’s The One.

I loved the great dialogue – both between Tess and Gabe and Gabe and his two brothers, Sean and Daniel. Wonderful ‘guy’ dialogue and thoughts. Yes, it is impossible for a man to regret any sex!

Gabe met Sean for racquetball on Friday morning. Playing racquetball with Sean was usually a pain in the ass, but in the end, Gabe had agreed because he had to talk to somebody about Tessa. Slowly, quietly, painfully, Gabe was going insane.

The challenge here was that Gabe would have to talk about Tessa in a way that Sean wouldn’t know Gabe was talking about Tessa, but Gabe figured he could handle that. He had to.

All due to this damned need of hers to pretend that Gabe wasn’t Gabe.

Yes, at first he thought it was hot. Every guy likes to think that his girl has an active fantasy life.

But every time? That sad truth wore a man down.

So on Friday morning, he was stuck in Sean’s high-dollar athletic club, which was filled with white-collar alpha males needing to assert their masculine superiority in a twenty by twenty room with no windows.

Gabe dressed in cut-offs and an FDNY Engine 31 t-shirt, which was his token effort to assert masculine superiority. He took in Sean’s tennis whites, and arched a mocking eyebrow. "I think I should call you Mortimer, or Preston, or something equally dweeby."

Sean shook his head, and pointed to the court. "Hello, my name is Sean O’Sullivan. You mock my clothes. Prepare to die."

Gabe followed him inside, slammed the door closed. Next he lifted his racquet, gave a cursory bow to his opponent, and then, the war was on.

Sean took the first game, fifteen to eleven. Gabe came back, perfecting his killer smash, and took the second game, fifteen to seven.

By the third game, they were both sweating like pigs, and the game had regressed to a primitive slog to the death. Never let it be said that an O’Sullivan wasn’t competitive. One long hour later, Sean took the match, fifteen to thirteen. Gabe didn’t mind because this felt good. Relaxed. Powerful. And his mind was completely Tessa-free.

Progress, definitely progress.

Besides, he’d whip his brother’s ass the next time. There was always a next time.

[The game ends and the two brothers start talking]

When the bartender shoved the glass of OJ in Gabe’s direction, Gabe sniffed, and then raised his glass. "To my brother, who has fallen far, far from the esteemed ideals that the O’Sullivan name has stood for through four generations. Juice? Juice? What is this?"

"I think it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Alcohol can be dangerous," Sean said, pushing back the hair from his eyes, trying to weasel his way into respectability.

"Sean, our family’s fortune was made on the ill-gotten gains of illegal alcohol. O’Sullivan’s started as a speakeasy. You can run to a career in the law, but you can’t hide."

"That doesn’t mean we can’t go straight."

Gabe downed the juice in one gulp. "Are you sure we’re related? You’re the brown eyed kid. Why brown? Did you ever think about that Sean?"

"Why are you here?" asked Sean, sipping demurely at his carrot juice.

Carrot juice? Gabe sighed, wanting to avoid this, but he couldn’t. This was important. And if he had to humiliate himself in front of his lesser-respected brother, then so be it. "I need to talk to you about a woman. You are still interested in women, aren’t you?"

Sean laughed, and appeared relieved by the change of subject, the flicker of humanity coming back into his eyes. "Desperate, aren’t you? Coming to the master."

"Don’t rub it in, this is hard enough. I can’t talk to Daniel, because, I can’t handle talking to Daniel about sex. That’d be cruel. I’m not cruel."

Sean tugged at the cuffs of his Brooks Brother shirt and studied Gabe like a scientist. "So, we’re actually having sex with this female? Are you sure this isn’t a case of "lusting from afar’?"

At that moment, Gabe wished he had a tie. Something silky, probably with a designer label. Preferably long enough that he could loop it around his brother’s neck and then pull. Tightly. He smiled at the thought.

"No, it’s not lusting from afar. But it would be a lot easier."

"That’s just sad, Gabe."

"Yes, yes, it is." He took a deep breath, and pitched his voice low, finally admitting the unsavory truth. "She likes to pretend, Sean."

"Pretend what?"

"Pretend that I’m not me."

Sean stroked his chin. "I see. So, she’s so revolted by you that she has to pretend you’re someone else."

"That’s not it," Gabe snapped, and saw heads turn with curiosity. He scowled back.

"It looks like it. Why else would she need to pretend? Unless you can’t satisfy her, of course."

"Of course I can satisfy her," answered Gabe, through gritted teeth.

"On the basis of the facts as presented before me, I’m thinking that answer is a big "no’."

"Screw you, Sean."

I loved the fact that Gabe is just a nice all around guy who worries about his female employees getting home from working at the bar, about his brother Daniel’s ‘anniversaries’ of his dead wife – I think I’ve seen his heroine already, yes? There’s no angst puppy whining at us throughout the book. He’s got normal family relationships, a normal job, a normal apartment and normal life. Normal guys deserve to fall in love too.

I like that Tess wanted to take charge of her life after her earlier failed relationship. I could see her falling for that jerk at a young stage in her life and it would be a hard lesson in life and one she heeded. It makes the conflict between Gabe and Tess realistic. He doesn’t see the need to wait and she feels she must in order to fulfill her need for independence. Only when she’s done that will she be able to settle down and risk a relationship again. And she finally gets a job that perfectly fits her and which it’s obvious she will excel in. Is all the NYC apartment information correct or did you just make it all up? I’ll admit to goggling at the information that she considers a 8×9 bedroom spacious. Ye Gods. And she wants a cat! I love my kitty.

I had wondered at the subplot of ‘longtime bar regular’ Charlie looking for the woman from his past but you fitted that in nicely as a way of goosing Tess to finally take a chance instead of the usual ‘putting the other lead character in peril’ to get the other to admit true love.

The scenes from the bar are fun without being impossible to believe. I hope Gabe and the brothers don’t drop too many bottles of booze trying bartender tricks – would get way too expensive.

I liked all the characters and was glad there were no villains or baddies. Even though I know you were setting up the next two books in the series, the inclusion of the heroes – and I think at least one heroine – was pertinent to this story and useful in moving it along to its conclusion. It’s also nice to see a book about regular, everyday Joes. In your last trilogy, there were a lot of famous people and rich people and people who were famous and rich while this series seems to be about average New Yorkers.

It’s not often that I jump through the hoops needed to be able to try and read a book electronically at work (and no, I don’t take my ebook reader with me). Usually I just don’t have time but with this book, I made the time. And then I kept pulling it up on my computer every time I had a spare minute and growling when real work pulled me away from it. I hate real work when it keeps me from reading a great book. I was lucky that day and the Work Gods smiled upon me, allowing me to finish my second A read of the year. Bring on Sean and Daniel’s stories!

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market 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.

18 Comments

  1. (Jān)
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 08:40:29

    Jayne, thanks for the review, especially the excerpts. This sounds like a book I’d really like. The characters sound like real people.

  2. Jia
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 08:56:40

    I finished reading this yesterday. I’ve read a few Blazes in the past and they unfortunately didn’t work for me, but I really enjoyed this one. Everything seemed so real and down to earth, so it was easy to identify with the characters. I really enjoyed the conflict between the heroine’s desire to improve herself for the future and the hero’s habit of doing everything right now. It was wonderful.

  3. sherry thomas
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 09:47:06

    Alright, Kathleen!

  4. Jayne
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 09:50:53

    Jia, I feel the same way as you about most Blazes I’ve tried – just haven’t worked for me. But these are blessedly free of the mistimed sex scenes and trite contrivances that have marred past attempst for me.

  5. Jill Sorenson
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 10:18:53

    Great excerpts! This one looks like a winner. I love regular guy heroes, and man-to-man banter.

  6. Sunita
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 11:13:57

    I’m on my way to the ebookstore for this. I rarely even look at the Blaze offerings (I know they are frequently very good, just usually not my cuppa). But this one sounds great. Thanks, Jayne!

  7. Jane
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 11:24:55

    I think this is a great book too. In part because the conflict was so real but also because I think O’Reilly did a great job of using the physical relationship to underscore and further the emotional conflict.

    I also liked seeing Tessa achieve her success and realize that she could have it all, both the great career and the great relationship and that didn’t mean sacrificing who she was.

  8. Devon
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 12:40:02

    This sounds like fun! I like books about regular NYers.

  9. Darlynne
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 19:03:36

    Color me surprised, but I am going to go out and buy this book because of Jayne’s review. I’ve never read Blaze and am looking forward to the others in the series as well. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  10. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 20:22:31

    Most of the info on NYC apartments is ‘relatively’ correct. I fudged a bit in some places to make it work, but sadly, NY apt life is a not even CLOSE to Friends or SATC. And no, Jayne, you did not see the heroine from Book 2. I thought about it, almost went there, but no, she was wrong for the part.

  11. Jia
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 20:39:45

    And no, Jayne, you did not see the heroine from Book 2.

    If I’m thinking of the same potential heroine that Jayne was thinking of, is there a chance we might see her in a future book?

    (Just curious. I liked her a lot!)

  12. Jayne
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 21:14:52

    I was thinking of the friend Tess set Gabe up with to get the apartment placement. The one who went with Gabe to get Daniel that night he got drunk. And I liked her a lot too.

  13. Devon
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 21:18:53

    Does anyone watch Project Runway? Did you see finalist Christian’s room? It’s like a little closet. He kept a pallet in the actual closet that he could pull out to sleep on. It seems like a badge of honor for New Yorkers–“I survived the tiniest apartment.” My sister has a 10 by 10 room and she was thrilled.

  14. Jia
    Mar 05, 2008 @ 22:23:39

    I was thinking of the friend Tess set Gabe up with to get the apartment placement.

    That’s the one.

  15. Jayne
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 05:06:01

    Does anyone watch Project Runway? Did you see finalist Christian’s room? It’s like a little closet. He kept a pallet in the actual closet that he could pull out to sleep on. It seems like a badge of honor for New Yorkers–“I survived the tiniest apartment.” My sister has a 10 by 10 room and she was thrilled.

    Ah – the truth behind the saying “The City that Never Sleeps?” Because they don’t have any room?

  16. Klee
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 12:01:18

    Relatively new lurker coming out of hiding to say I purchased this book last night after reading the review and it was a treat – truly deserving of the “A” rating. Lots of emotions, lots of humor, and complex relationships between all parties – not just with the main couple but amongst the brothers.

    Thanks for the great recommendation and I am eagerly awaiting other A reviews from the DA team!

  17. Jayne
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 19:13:25

    Great! Another satisfied customer.

  18. Kathleen O'Reilly
    Mar 06, 2008 @ 19:16:19

    I actually hadn’t thought about giving her her own book. Hmmm…. must think of the perfect man. :) Some apt owners will divide a bed-room into half into order to sell it as a two bedroom, which is why you get a lot of tiny, tiny spaces…. Devon’s exactly right.

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