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REVIEW: Talk Me Down by Victoria Dahl

Dear Ms. Dahl:

037377356001lzzzzzzzI kept meaning to read your historical books. Janet aka Robin wrote a wonderful reivew of A Rake’s Guide to Pleasure but I always feel compelled to read the new books with my free time. When your contemporary landed on my doorstep, I thought that I would break my Victoria Dahl cherry with this one and what a great experience for my first time.

Molly Jennings has decided to return to her small Colorado town, Tumble Creek, after some unpleasantness with an ex boyfriend/stalker in Denver. Her job as an erotic romance writer (epubbed if you are wondering) and the inheritance from her Aunt Gertie makes it easy for her to relocate. Molly also decides that since she is moving back home, she might as well see if Ben Lawson, star of many a late night fantasy for Molly, is available for making those fantasies a reality.

Ben Lawson and Molly haven’t seen each other for ten years, not since Molly caught Ben in a very compromising position. This scene created an indelible mark in Molly’s memory and actually became the source material for her very first novel. Ben, of course, does not know this. Molly was his best friend’s sister and she was always off limits.

When Molly returns, Ben is the Chief of Police of Tumble Creek. He had lived down a terrible scandal involving his father as a teen and has grown up to be a man of good standing in Tumble Creek. While he seems helpless within Molly’s gravitational pull, he knows she’s hiding something and secrets are something he doesn’t do. Still, Molly’s frank appraisal and obvious invitation for fun is something he can’t turn down.

Molly realizes she should have told Ben that he was the inspiration for her career, but as all secrets go, the longer that she doesn’t tell him, the more difficult coming clean will be.

Ben is one of the most fun, most adorable, but very sexy heroes I’ve read in a long time. He blushes! More than once! But it doesn’t detract from his manliness in anyway. Ben actually is a bit of a metrosexual in his habits: he drinks wine, tries to dress nice, and has a photography hobby. I think the fact that he is a big, god of man with a gun strapped at his side tends to diminish any effete thoughts. I loved Ben, his self deprecation, his healthy appreciation for women, and I hope to see more like his kind lurking behind those man titty covers.

There’s plenty of humor derived from small town situations and trying to have sex in inconvenient places (such as Ben’s patrol car). Every chapter that starts from Ben’s POV contains guesses as to what Molly’s profession is. This serves two goals: it’s hilarious and it shows that Ben actually thinks like a police person – gathering clues and ruling out possibilities.

This book is steamy. I guess the RT reviewer thought it was too, well, dirty, calling your heroine “a dog in heat.” I’m not going to even try to rebut it because that’s one of the things I liked best about this story. Molly is frank in her appreciation for sex and for her enjoyment of it. She’s not shy about telling Ben what she likes in bed which happens to turn Ben on. Molly is kind of a dirty talker (she is an erotic romance writer, after all) and after a bout of sex with dirty talking, Ben finds that he wants her to talk all the time.

Where I thought that the story faltered is in the light suspense sub plot involving a stalker terrorizing Molly. I also thought that given the gossip of a small town that these “stalker” incidents were underplayed by the town message machine. There were a few other plot holes, particularly in the end of the story, but it was so minor that it didn’t detract from my appreciation of the story.

The emotional conflict was so well done. When Molly’s secret comes out, Ben is understandably upset and Molly is understandably apologetic but the conflict and the resolution was realistic, humorous and endearing. The small town setting was well woven into the conflict. Mostly, though, I felt that the story served up heaps of freshness. Molly and Ben were different protagonists with Molly being the sexual aggressor from time to time. Molly actually makes friends with another woman. Ben isn’t a he-man but is instead dominant without being domineering. Altogether, it worked on nearly every level for me. B+

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased at Borders.com with $1.00 coupon (enter HAR1222D at the checkout) available now in pre-order, shipping January 1, 2009. The coupon is good from December 15, 2008, through January 15, 2008. January 1!!! I can hear you say. Well, wait for later today and maybe you can win a copy for yourself.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

28 Comments

  1. GrowlyCub
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 05:52:56

    I was really disappointed when I saw that there wouldn’t be another historical next, but this sounds very good!

    2009 is shaping up to be a good year between this and a new Bujold, Thomas, Beverley, Lee/Miller, the Balogh reprints and many other nice surprises I’m sure! :)

  2. Danielle
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 06:01:50

    Thanks for the review — now I need to add this book to my growing books to buy.

  3. chris
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 06:56:59

    She's not shy about telling Ben what she likes in bed which happens to turn Ben on.

    “Happens to”. Ha.

    Writers writing about writers can get kind of self-involved, though – you don’t mention this, so maybe it isn’t a problem.

  4. vanessa jaye
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 06:58:28

    I have a couple of books to buy this week, and this book just made the list!

  5. Tabitha C
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 07:13:44

    I have very few books to buy for January and now I have another one to read, yay!

  6. DS
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 08:56:11

    Healthy way of handling a negative review. I’ll buy it just for that.

  7. Jody W.
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 09:08:25

    I usually enjoy small town type books and nontraditional heroes. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

  8. Grasping for the Wind
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 09:09:10

    A Book Reviewers Linkup Meme…

    My list of fantasy and sf book reviewers is woefully out of date. I need your help to fix that. But rather than go through the hassle of having you send me recommendations or sticking them in comments, what you can do is take the following list and sti…

  9. Courtney Milan
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 10:28:02

    Wait, there will be no more historicals from Victoria? Really?

    I’m very much looking forward to her contemp, but I also love her historicals. :(

  10. Victoria Dahl
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 10:47:57

    My God, I’m so happy. And the AAR review somehow only makes this one better, so I’m even thankful for that today. I am drunk on SB and DA love, so don’t be alarmed if I hug every one of you and declare my tipsy, undying affection.

    But I’m still taking AAR off my Twitter. Don’t cross me, ladies, or you will feel my Twitter wrath.

    Courtney, it’s not true! I’m still writing historicals! In fact, I am up to my ass in deadlines right now. Historical novella out with Kensington this February. Full length historical out in August. Another novella in September. Then there is the 2nd contemp out in July. And a contemp novella in June. Basically, I’m trying not to go into the light at this point. *g*

    But one more time… THANK YOU, DEAR AUTHOR!!!

  11. GrowlyCub
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 10:57:57

    Hey Victoria,

    so it’s either love or hate, and not much in the middle, as far as reviewers go?!

    Interesting! I’d be interested to know ages on the reviewers and upbringing/political outlook to see if there’s a correlation.

  12. Robin
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 11:28:09

    Re AAR and RT: ARE THEY KIDDING??!!

    OMG I get so FRUSTRATED when a smart, sex-positive, well-composed book gets these kinds of reviews. And it’s not just the grades, either, but the rationale. *deep breath*

    Well, they’re wrong, wrong, wrong. WRONG (shakes fist and stutters in irritation).

    Oh, I so hope Dahl outsells all the 4 star DIK books either site reviews (well, except for the ones I like, too ;) ).

  13. katiebabs
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 11:37:33

    Would you say that Ben is a beta hero, or that he just likes to blush?
    I find that to be oh so sexy. :P

  14. Keira from LoveRomancePassion
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 11:43:52

  15. Courtney Milan
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 11:53:59

    Yay! Big sigh of relief here.

    Honestly, every time I see a review that is like, “F minus minus! The heroine LIKES SEX and KNOWS IT!” I want to immediately buy the book.

  16. LizA
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 14:48:45

    The book sounds fun, but I was flabbergasted that a hero who likes wine and photography is non-traditional and metro-sexual. WTF??? If he liked to drink Bailey’s and the like, maybe. But wine? it must be the cultural divide between the US and Europe. And photography? Since when is that a loaded hobby? Honestly, sometimes I feel sorry for the poor alpha heroes. They have more restrictions placed on them than heroines!

  17. Laura Vivanco
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 15:05:46

    Re AAR and RT: ARE THEY KIDDING??!!

    OMG I get so FRUSTRATED when a smart, sex-positive, well-composed book gets these kinds of reviews. And it's not just the grades, either, but the rationale. *deep breath*

    The rationale the AAR reviewer gave was that in her opinion the heroine is “Not only […] shallow, but she comes across as not very bright either.” When I read that, I assumed that the reviewer meant that the heroine was TSTL, which is a fairly common condition afflicting romance heroines. One of the examples the reviewer gave, of the way the heroine “accidently turns on [the hero’s] car’s siren” gave me the impression that perhaps the heroine was one of those clumsy heroines who keeps knocking things over, and that that was part of why she could be considered TSTL. You’ve read the novel, though, Robin and from what you say, it seems as though you think the AAR reviewer’s using the words “shallow” and “not very bright” as codes for something else. Is that right?

  18. Robin
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 15:34:41

    Yup, Laura, that’s exactly what I think. There seemed to be a lot of attention to Molly’s sexuality in the review, and a really patent dismissal of Molly’s character, and while I believe, absolutely, that the realm of taste covers an incredible amount of ground, I felt things were almost mis-characterized (yanked totally out of context, at the very least) in the review as a way to justify the dismissal.

    Because just to take the example of the siren — they were in Ben’s truck, and she was, well, in the throes, and I’m not sure how that scene could be chalked up to stupidity, unless we are in the habit of giving IQ tests in the midst of the big O. While you’re in a cramped truck. That has all sorts of controls for sirens and lights and you have two working arms. Anyway, I thought the scene was funny, and that it was intended to be funny. And that Molly’s general klutziness was in no way indicative of her intelligence or common sense (when did perfect coordination become indicative common sense?). I frankly expected the last line of the review to read ‘if Molly weren’t so sex-starved maybe she’d be smarter.’ JMO, obviously.

  19. JulieLeto
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 15:48:25

    If klutziness makes a woman too stupid to live, then someone dig me a grave!

    The scene sounds funny to me, too–and very believable.

    I think that TSTL label gets thrown around a whole lot more often than it should, IMO. If a heroine runs back into a burning building to save her Prada handbag and her Gucci shoes get caught in a grate, making the hunky fire-fighter hero attempt to save her, but she fights him off because his sooty hands will ruin her Caroline Herrera suit, then yeah, she’s TSTL. But honestly, if she’s running out of the burning building and her heel gets caught and she can’t undo the clasp on the shoe before she passes out from smoke inhalation, then no, she’s not.

    The fact of the matter is that women are bitches to other women. We judge each other much more harshly than we judge men, which is why this character’s sexual confidence is probably rubbing some reviewers wrong, IMO.

  20. Laura Vivanco
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 16:03:48

    “I felt things were almost mis-characterized (yanked totally out of context, at the very least)”

    So it’s rather more subtle than the RT comment Dahl reported, in which the heroine was referred to as “a dog in heat,” because someone who hasn’t read the novel isn’t going to know what is or isn’t being “yanked totally out of context.”

    I wondered how the reviewer had reacted to other books, but as I haven’t read enough of the same books, it’s not really possible for me to spot any patterns. I did notice that she didn’t much like Crusie’s Crazy for You and said that “I just did not get a feeling that Quinn liked Nick as a man – actually I didn’t think Quinn liked men as men. She just was not all that comfortable with ‘guy things’ like sports (come to think of it, all the men in the story who were involved in sports were real Neanderthals).”

    Molly's general klutziness was in no way indicative of her intelligence or common sense (when did perfect coordination become indicative common sense?)

    It isn’t in real life, but in romanceland I have the impression that a lack of perfect coordination sometimes gets used as a way of showing that the heroine is cute but/and needs someone to look after her, which sometimes ties in with her being TSTL and needing to be rescued by the hero.

  21. JulieLeto
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 16:30:41

    in romanceland I have the impression that a lack of perfect coordination sometimes gets used as a way of showing that the heroine is cute but/and needs someone to look after her, which sometimes ties in with her being TSTL and needing to be rescued by the hero.

    When I’ve read a klutzy heroine, I’ve seen it used as a way to show the heroine as real and human and not perfect and maybe a little uncomfortable in her skin. I wish I could think of a good example now, but my mind isn’t working. I personally have never written a klutzy heroine. But then, I don’t write humor.

  22. Robin
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 16:37:03

    in romanceland I have the impression that a lack of perfect coordination sometimes gets used as a way of showing that the heroine is cute but/and needs someone to look after her, which sometimes ties in with her being TSTL and needing to be rescued by the hero.

    Which is ironic, because Molly’s one of the most independent heroines I’ve come across in a long time. IMO you could argue that this trait gets her into a situation she can’t control (which is part of why I would give TMD a B+ instead of an A-range grade), but I have a really hard time seeing the TSTL argument for Molly. I like Julie Leto’s distinction regarding the woman and the burning building, because it highlights the difference between illogical idiocy for the sake of comedic effect or conflict and errors/mishaps/bad decisions that anyone can make given the right set of circumstances.

    There’s definitely a point in the book where I became frustrated with Molly’s stubbornness, and I can see a strong argument against this plot point. But what accounts for Molly’s shallowness in the AAR review? I get the sense that it isn’t really her decisions as much as her sexual forwardness and showy, sexualized exterior (and FWIW, Molly knows what she’s doing with that — it’s intentional, a costume, a shtick). It’s a bit ironic, really, because so much of Molly’s character is about (intentionally) daring people to see beyond the surface, lol.

  23. Laura Vivanco
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 17:41:12

    When I've read a klutzy heroine, I've seen it used as a way to show the heroine as real and human and not perfect and maybe a little uncomfortable in her skin. I wish I could think of a good example now, but my mind isn't working. I personally have never written a klutzy heroine. But then, I don't write humor.

    I know humour’s very subjective. I really don’t think I’d find it funny to read about someone who’s physically clumsy. In fact, I’d probably feel concerned rather than amused if someone kept tripping up or dropping things. If it came across as slapstick, however, it would neither make me laugh nor make the character feel real to me. It’s probably yet another area where different people can have very different reactions to, and interpretations of, the same scene, and a lot will also depend on an individual author’s skill and how they depict the character.

    (and FWIW, Molly knows what she's doing with that -‘ it's intentional, a costume, a shtick). It's a bit ironic, really, because so much of Molly's character is about (intentionally) daring people to see beyond the surface, lol.

    As you say, that does indeed seem ironic.

  24. Victoria Dahl
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 18:06:30

    Not sure if I’m supposed to be eavesdropping or not, but it’s too late now! Woot!

    I’m totally enjoying this conversation, because it never occurred to me that Molly was clutzy. And yet, of course, there are a few incidents of clutziness in the book. I think, for me, it’s more about her not being careful with herself, if that makes sense. She just goes all in, physically. (Though not emotionally.)

    Robin, what do you think?

  25. Jill Sorenson
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 18:27:35

    If klutziness makes a woman too stupid to live, then someone dig me a grave!

    Ha! Add one for me. I’ll fall in.

  26. Robin
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 19:00:09

    I'm totally enjoying this conversation, because it never occurred to me that Molly was clutzy. And yet, of course, there are a few incidents of clutziness in the book. I think, for me, it's more about her not being careful with herself, if that makes sense. She just goes all in, physically. (Though not emotionally.)

    Robin, what do you think?

    I saw it as distraction (total focus elsewhere, lol), but I get how someone can see it as klutzy because of the pseudo-slapstick quality to some of the moments.

    But in any case, it certainly doesn’t indicate lack of intelligence or shallowness to me. As Jane reminded me earlier, one of the reasons Molly’s driving her Mini around is that she’s waiting for the truck dealer to give her the deal she wants. And then, of course, once she knows Ben hates it, she kind of revels in it, lol. But again, IMO that comes from a kick-back response to those who underestimate her.

  27. Victoria Dahl
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 19:17:46

    saw it as distraction (total focus elsewhere, lol),

    Okay, I’ll have to give you that, as far as the scene in the truck goes. Though I would argue that she was both distracted and going all in. *snicker*

    And I forgot to mention. This:

    She's not shy about telling Ben what she likes in bed which happens to turn Ben on.

    “Happens to”. Ha.

    Is one of the funniest things I’ve read today. Poor Ben.

  28. Talk Me Down « Jorrie Spencer
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 10:19:36

    […] I began to notice buzz about Victoria Dahl’s Talk Me Down, probably first at Dear Author. So I picked it up and thoroughly enjoyed […]

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