REVIEW: Sizzling by Susan Mallery
Dear Ms. Mallery:
This is Book 3 in the Buchanan series and it features youngest brother Reid who happens to be a famous former baseball player who suffered a career ending shoulder injury the previous year. He’d rather be playing ball than tending bar at one of the Buchanan’s restaurants, but at least he can salve the pain with a bevy of willing women.
Reid loves women and they love him back or so he thought until one morning an apparently disgruntled female reporter does a personal piece on Reid accusing him of being bad in bed. His life goes down hill as every gossip and news agency in the country wants a piece of him. There is no way for Reid to rebut the reporter’s claim of his between-the-sheets ineptness without looking totally classless. He decides to go and hide out at his grandmother’s house.
Lori Johnston had been hired as the day nurse for his convalescing grandmother. Gloria Buchanan, the matriarch, is as cruel and hateful as they come. Lori is convinced that Gloria is lonely, needy, and just acting out. Lori also is unconnected to the sports world and thus knows nothing of Reid’s reputation and the current infamy. What she sees is that Reid is more interested in hiring busty nurses and making suggestive comments than he is in visiting with his grandmother which feeds into her belief that Gloria is misunderstood. Lori comes to learn that Gloria is both a victim and victimizer and helps Gloria make a change (almost too miraculous if you ask me) in her life.
Lori then becomes a challenge to Reid. She’s the first woman since he was seduced as a sophomore in high school not to offer herself to him. She’s not prone to flattering him and she doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him.
For her part, Lori recognizes how devastatingly attractive Reid is and she’s disgusted that she is attracted to him. She’s fairly rude to him to hide her attraction. In fact, Lori is so insulting to Reid at one point "She’d become someone she didn’t like and she didn’t know how to fix that."
For Reid, he begins to see himself through Lori’s prism and doesn’t like what he sees. He begins to recognize that his focus on playing the game meant that other areas of his life were shamefully neglected. Promises were broken by an inept agent; charitable donations were not handled correctly; people were being treated like crap — all by representatives of Reid– making it easy for the press to spin out the possible lies by one reporter into larger stories of Reid fitting the arrogant asshole famewhore stereotype.
Lori’s resistance to Reid, and part of her dislike, is her self image as someone not as attractive and not as desirable as other women. This is fed by Reid not having hit on her and due to Lori’s experience with her sister Madeline. Madeline has always been the beautiful perfect sister and Lori has always been less than. But Lori loves her sister and hates her both. It’s a complicated relationship that adds a nuance to the story not always represented in romances.
Reid’s story arc is his coming to grips with his seeming uselessness and Lori’s is one of recognizing that she has diminished herself because of Madeline. Watching Reid become the man he believes Lori can love is wonderful.
There was a great scene in the book where two women lie in wait in Reid’s bedroom right when he thinks things are going somewhere with Lori and he fears that any action he takes with the two women will have a negative outcome. The ingredients for a big misunderstanding cake is all there, but the outcome of this scene is different and very funny.
There is a lot of quiet good natured humor and a lot of gut wrenching scenes. I found Reid to be a very unique hero – a reformed dilettante into an honorable man. Lori’s transformation was less subtle. She transformed from suppressing her own beauty (she had given up next to Madeline), gaining self esteem and recognizing her flaws. While I didn’t love this one quite as much as Irresistible, I found it was a great way to end the Buchanan brothers’ books. B
Here’s a jarring note that is a bit of a spoiler for the series. Cal, the oldest Buchanan brother’s daughter is named Alison. A bit of a backstory here, Cal and Penny were married, then divorced, and then remarried. Their story is told in Delicious. Cal had a daughter with a girl named Alison when they were in high school and they gave the girl up for adoption. This is a line from Delicious:
“…Lindsey knows she’s adopted, but isn’t interested in her birth parents." Not that her birth mother cared. Alison had given birth, graduated and moved back east. Cal had never heard from her again and suspected she had no interest in the child she’d given away
So why then does he and Penny name their child Alison. That’s like bug fuck crazy, no? It bugged me the entire story.