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Harlequin-Blaze

REVIEW:  Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

REVIEW: Making Him Sweat by Meg Maguire

Dear Ms. Maguire,

I decided to read “Making Him Sweat” because I like to try new-to-me authors at Harlequin, I hadn’t read a Blaze book for a while, and I wanted to see if a book about boxers could hold my attention. I mean no insult to boxing but it’s not a sport I follow and my feelings about it mimic those of the heroine – I tend to watch it from behind my hand and through my fingers and I’d rather not think about the impact of the punches too much. I’m happy to say that I’d try another boxing book and given the popularity of MMA, I will probably have the chance.

The conflict between Jenna and Mercer is laid out from the beginning. She’s inherited the building that houses her deceased father’s Fight Academy – a man she never really knew since he didn’t bother to stay in touch with her after her mother bailed on the marriage and left with Jenna in tow – and her plans don’t include keeping it open past the specified time mentioned in the will. Instead she wants to make it the location of Spark: Boston – the newest old fashioned matchmaking business but in a franchised format. She’s smart enough not to get huffy or rude with Mercer – a man whom her father mentored and asked to manage the club after his death – though she’s a little hurt that her father seemed to be closer to this boxer and the other fighters there than he ever tried to be with her.

making-him-sweatAt this point I was expecting the usual clashes and sparks and snits that often initially accompany the beginning of a relationship between a hero and heroine with clear cut issues from the start. But lo and behold – Mercer is polite and Jenna returns the favor. She’s also willing to listen to his plans to try and financially turn the Academy around and finds herself touched, though still a bit resentful, when the fighters with whom her father spent so much time come to the Academy and stop by to offer their condolences to her. This is also when she begins to discover just how much her father loved her as the men tell her how proud he was of her and how often he mentioned her accomplishments. Jenna also doesn’t pratfall while around the boxing rings and equipment – something that happens so much in romance novels to build tension, sexual and otherwise, between hero and heroine.

Meanwhile, Mercer is astonished to learn how badly Jenna thinks of her dad. He’s only known the man who adored his daughter though Mercer wisely doesn’t force the issue. He also takes the limited time he thinks he has left at the Academy as a challenge to turn it around rather than an opportunity to make Jenna’s life miserable. Then given the fact that he’s been staying in the apartment above the facilities and Jenna decides to move into the second bedroom to save more money for her new business, they start to know each other a lot better. I expected a quicker move to sexual intimacy since this is a Blaze book and I wasn’t mistaken but it didn’t feel too rushed since both go into it with eyes open and not expecting anything long term. They are two adults, interested in each other who decide to go for it given the sexual heat between them and sell-by date they see on the relationship.

Well the sex is smoking and pretty soon its obvious that there’s more than mere chemistry going on between them. What is going to fill out the second half of the book?, I wondered. This is where it falters a bit for me. Jenna finally discovers the truth about how her father tried to maintain their relationship which leads to a crying jag which offers Mercer the chance to show just how much he feels for her – aside from him wanting to beat up any man in the future who ever makes her upset. But then this issue is (almost too quickly) laid to rest.

The remainder of the book ambles along as we watch Jenna and her new assistant work to set up Jenna’s business and plan the opening event, Jenna bite her lip with concern when it looks like the Academy will have to be closed regardless of anything Mercer attempts, and both of them reluctantly coming to accept the end of their time together. It’s not exactly riveting and certainly not as entertaining as it was watching Mercer and Jenna get some hot sex on. A last minute event saves the day but it’s more a quiet save than a dramatic one. Though Mercer does a spiffy job of telling Jenna that he’s going to propose to her and keep on doing that until he convinces her to say yes. I just wish the entire book worked as well for me as the first half did. C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Relentless Seduction by Jillian Burns

REVIEW: Relentless Seduction by Jillian Burns

Dear Ms. Burns:

I enjoyed your Harlequin Blaze release Relentless Seduction. It’s got just the right blend of humor, sex, mystery, and faux vampires. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I gotten to the last page.

Relentless Seduction by Jillian BarnesClaire Brooks has coke-bottle glasses, frizzy brown hair, no sense of style, a PhD in microbiology, and a best friend who’s gone missing in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Claire and her friend, Julia, have been best buds since third grade. They decided to come to the Big Easy to celebrate their last year of being in their twenties. Julia’s a wild and crazy girl and, over the years, she and Claire have drifted apart: Claire’s on the uptight side and is devoted to her job. But, years ago, when Claire needed support, Julia was there for her. Now that Julia’s in danger–Claire’s sure Julia wouldn’t have vanished on her–Claire is determined to find her friend.

Julia was last seen, 24 hours ago–via a cell phone shot she sent to Claire–standing in front of a purple neon bar sign in the French Quarter. The bar, called Once Bitten, is a vampire themed bar. It’s not the sort of place Claire would normally go within a mile of but the police have said it’s too soon for Julia to be declare officially missing and Claire is, as I said, determined to find her friend.

When Claire enters the bar, she’s completely unimpressed with all the vampire wannabes hanging about. When she sees the bartender, however, she’s pretty damn impressed.

The moment the man turned her way a quiver of desire shot through her. Slate gray eyes fringed with dark lashes bore into her, freezing her in place. His collar-length black hair wasn’t dyed, nor was the thick stubble darkening his angular jaw.

His grin softened as he leisurely replaced the tumbler on a shelf behind him before sauntering over to flatten his palms on the bar before her.

“What you need, cher? ” His voice was as smooth and as deeply southern as Spanish moss hanging from a Cypress tree. He wore a wide leather bracelet on his left wrist and a thick onyx ring—a bat with its wings wrapped around his right ring finger. She lifted her gaze to his hard chest outlined by a tight black tee.

Claire opened her mouth but nothing came out. “Have y-y— She felt her face heat and her throat close up as he stared at her expectantly. Two decades of therapy and determination to overcome her stutter destroyed in an instant of anxiety.

The hottie is Rafe Moreau and he’s not just the bartender, he owns Once Bitten. Rafe knows the seedy side of New Orleans well–he grew up dirt poor in the city and has been working at bars since he was fifteen. Claire asks him for help finding Julia and, initially, Rafe, not looking for trouble he doesn’t already have, says no. But, after Claire spills her drink on a instantly furious guy in a dog collar, Rafe steps in to save her and, from that moment on, he and Claire together try and figure out what the hell happened to Julia.

Relentless Seduction is a fun book. Claire and Rafe are an appealing couple. Rafe’s afraid to love–he had a bad childhood–and Claire’s uncomplicated desire and affection for him is just what he’s needs. Claire’s a nerd whose brain makes her happy but she’s never figured out how to enjoy her body and Rafe’s just the guy to show her what she’s been missing. (And, yes, in ways I liked, their relationship has overtones of the fabulous romance between Dennis Quaid’s Remy McSwain and Ellen Barkin’s Anne Osbourne in The Big Easy. When Rafe seduces Claire, I could just hear the whisper of the famous interchange between Remy and Anne: ” That’s OK. I never did have much luck with sex anyway.” ” Your luck’s about to change, cher.”)

The plot of this book steams right along–it’s scary and funny at the same time. The sense of place is strong and, whether you love New Orleans or not, it’s an interesting place to literarily visit.  It’s a challenge to write suspense, sex, and sly comedy all mixed together but Ms. Burns breezily pulls it off.

She also manages to get a bit of moralizing in as well and it’s done in a subtle, sweet way. Once Bitten isn’t really for those who want to be vampires, it’s for those who “don’t fit in, the individuals that society might call freaks can come to Once Bitten and know there are others like themselves, and not feel so alone.” In Relentless Seduction the message is live and let live. Or, as Remy McSwain says, “Just relax, darlin’. This is the Big Easy.”

I often like Blazes and I’ll add Ms. Burns’s name to Blaze authors I look for. I give this effort of hers a B.

~Dabney

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