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REVIEW:  Afternoon Delight by Anne Calhoun

REVIEW: Afternoon Delight by Anne Calhoun

Dear Ms. Calhoun,

I’ve read and enjoyed a few of your novellas in the past, so when an ARC of your new 164 page offering, Afternoon Delight, was made available to DA’s reviewers, I requested it. Afternoon Delight is set in New York City and features a hero whom readers of your novella Breath on Embers have met before.

AfternoonDelight-final-250x374Tim is a paramedic with the FDNY. Racing from one rescue attempt to another, he finds it easier to live life at a fast pace because it keeps him from feeling too much. Since he sees so much aging and death at his job, he is afraid to slow down and really feel. Casual hook ups fit his life and serious relationships do not.

So it’s a good thing that Sarah, a food truck chef Tim meets in the park one day, isn’t looking for a serious relationship. Sarah used to be just like Tim, footloose and fancy-free, until she cared for her dying aunt. That experience taught her to slow down and savor the moment. Before she died, Sarah’s aunt made her promise to go back and find the carefree girl she used to be.

Tim is a New York native while Sarah has only recently relocated from San Francisco. The first time they meet, Sarah and her business partner are trying new sauces, and Tim is willing to be her tasting guinea pig. The second time they meet, Tim asks her over and at his tiny apartment, they have hot, competitive and enthusiastic sex.

Tim loses a bet that he can keep from grabbing Sarah, and Sarah issues him a new challenge—if he can keep from getting off for a whole week, he can do whatever he likes to her when they meet again. The dinner Sarah cooks for Tim on that occasion is sublime, and as for the challenge, well, I won’t spoil it.

Sarah and Tim see each other while never officially dating. Tim shows Sarah New York’s sights, sounds and tastes and helps her learn to appreciate the city despite its frenetic page. Sarah begins to realize she is developing feelings for Tim, and Tim gets a glimmer of a clue that sex with Sarah is so hot because it’s more than sex.

But can Tim keep from slowing down and feeling if he and Sarah progress to a relationship? Can he overcome his fears enough to do so? And how will Sarah handle it if he tries to prevent the connection between them from growing beyond a simple afternoon delight?

Afternoon Delight is fun and well-written. There were many things I enjoyed about it, from the New York City milieu to the sex-positive approach to the story. Sarah was never slut-shamed or judged for liking sex—not by Tim, not by her friend and business partner Trish, and I never, ever felt the author was judging her. Thank you for that.

I also really, really liked that like Tim, Sarah could be playfully bossy in the bedroom. It is so nice to come across a heroine who isn’t a “natural submissive” but rather one who can enjoy both top and bottom. I wish there were more heroines like that.

Sarah was as a good sport, someone who knew how to have fun, but she could also be gentle and compassionate when a compassionate and gentle touch was needed. She was there for Tim when that moment came.

Another aspect of Sarah I enjoyed was her love of cooking and the way it was incorporated into the novella. Sarah’s awareness of good flavors and desire to savor each bite facilitated and enhanced Tim’s journey from speeding through life to slowing down enough to smell the coffee – or the split pea soup.

I thought the chemistry between Tim and Sarah was very nice but Tim was a harder character for me to connect with. I liked his attitude toward the guys he worked with and toward Casey, a new guy whom Tim was helping train on the job. Tim was a good guy down to his bones, so I couldn’t help liking him even with his approach to getting through life, from shoving food down fast to keeping his relationships simple. But his determination to speed through everything so as to feel nothing took me a long time to empathize with.

Tim saw a lot of death and suffering at his work but I think what tripped me up was that he hadn’t raced through life the same way in earlier years at the same job. For that reason, I expected there to be a revelation about an event that had caused him to choose to change his pace. There wasn’t any one thing that had caused that, it turned out. And when I think about his job and his past, his choice makes perfect sense, but I wanted that to be something I felt in my heart and not just understood in my head.

Even so, there was so much to like in this novella, from the fun challenges Tim and Sarah set for each other, to Tim’s relationships with his fellow paramedics and an elderly couple he got to know on the job, to Sarah’s relationship with food, and of course, Tim and Sarah’s journey to coupledom. I especially liked the last few scenes and the romantic gesture near the end. B-/B.

Sincerely,

Janine

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REVIEW:  Talk This Way by Dakota Cassidy

REVIEW: Talk This Way by Dakota Cassidy

Talk This Way by Dakota Cassidy

Dear Ms. Cassidy:

I didn’t think I could be surprised by an author.  Oh, I’m well aware of the idea that authors can be good at multiple things and write in a variety of styles.  However, I’ve only known you as being the queen of the sexy, outlandish and dirty-mouthed passion.  And yet you absolutely and totally blew me away with your contemporary novella, “Talk this Way.” It’s a prequel, of sorts, to “Talk Dirty to Me,” which will be covered in another review.  I have to say that I was delighted, in some of the best ways, by the thoughtful and sensitive writing combined with page-blazing sexiness.

Catherine Butler is a woman on a mission to get her mother the best medical care possible.  There’s only one teensy, tiny problem – she has abysmal luck keeping jobs – and men.  If she doesn’t get bored with them, something happens that just ends things.  The latest job slides through her fingers thanks to handsome, charismatic and occasionally clueless Flynn McGrady.  Flynn’s mother is in the same exclusive rehabilitation facility as Cat’s – and he’s livid with her for giving his mother a smutty romance novel (oh, the irony!).  Not only that, but Cat’s the darling of the facility, taking time to get to know all of the patients and to do something a little special for each one of them every day.  With the help of Landon, one of the younger patients at the facility, Cat’s able to land a job that will keep her mother in the facility and her out of the poorhouse.  There’s just one small catch – it’s managing a phone sex operation!  Cat has to not only reconcile with her new career, but also telling Flynn before it’s too late, all while caring for the group of operators under Landon’s care, a motley collection of “companionators” and outcasts who’ve been given another chance at a great life.

All I can say is that this novella was absolutely luscious.  I loved Cat.  I love the way she gives to everyone she meets and stands up for the underdogs.  In a world of quirky heroines, she stands out to me simply because she –gives-.  Even when she has nothing, she has a smile for Flynn’s mother, who’s had a stroke.  She has a cupcake for someone who was having a birthday.  She organizes “you’re sprung” parties for those going home.  No, she’s not one of those perfect heroines who has everything together and doesn’t need anyone.  Cat’s flawed – and so is Flynn.  And that’s quite alright.  Part of Cat’s charm is that she’s not found the place to settle down yet.  In a world filled with pressure to be good at just one or two things – work, motherhood, relationships, fifty-yard-brownie-dash – Cat’s a Renaissance woman, the total package.  For me, Flynn is a little lackluster.  I wanted a bit more from him – he comes across as a little sweet, a little fumbling, but mostly the sexy man candy for Cat to booty bounce on.

Now, before you go thinking that this is going to be some “Pretty Woman” schmaltz, let me clarify something.  All of the women Landon has taken in are strong, beautiful, powerful women in their own right – survivors.  They may not look or act like typical heroines, but each one of those ladies has a story to share – and they do, in an amazingly funny, non-preachy way.  And some of them are also going to be getting their own books!

My absolute favorite character, however, is Landon.  Slowly throughout the novella we find out bits and pieces of this man’s history.  He’s in his 40s, gay, rich, and has a penchant for collecting stray people to him.  I’d say he collects people like stray kittens, but most of the people he collects could more appropriately be termed stray tigers.  The progression of character growth centered on him astounded me.  And yes, by the end of the book, I was sobbing and frantically searching Amazon for more.  I wanted more and I wanted it RIGHT NOW.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this book.  It was a decided departure from the “Accidentally” series and everything else I’ve read of your backlist.  It showcased a softer side of Dakota Cassidy and felt a bit more tightly structured than other books, less…slapdash isn’t quite the right word.  It’s more like, in your paranormals, characters tend to be rushing headlong into things at an almost frantic pace.  This one, though, had a more relaxed air.  I know that works set in your Plum Orchard universe have come before – and they’re new to me.  I’ll be slowly adding them to my Kindle – after I tear through everything else I can find in the “Talk…” series.  B

Dearly Wishing to find Her Landon,
Mary Kate

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