Cover comment: Cute and appropriate
Setting: Contemporary Seattle, mainly taking place in the lavish home where the hero’s grandmother is convalescing and where the heroine is caring of her.
Main characters: Lori Johnston, take charge, practical nurse, and Reid Buchanan, retired as a pro pitcher, but on active duty as a ladies’ man. His family owns 4 well known restaurants in Seattle.
Plot: Straightforward romance plot (no spies, blackmail, or paranormal elements).
Distinctive features: Subplots involving organ donation and an alcoholic in recovery.
My take in brief: This is an adequate contemporary. It reads very much like the kind of solid series romance for which the author is well known. It started out very more promisingly than it ended, thanks to the sanding down of the main couple’s interesting edges, and the number of wholesale character conversions the reader has to believe to get through it.
Word on the Web: Positive.
Jane, Dear Author, Grade: B
Renee Reads Romance, Grade: B-
Lea, AAR, Grade: C-
The Romance Reader, 3 hearts
Sandy, TGTBTU, Buchanan Series Review, with Sizzling earning an “A”
Amazon, 4 stars after 17 reviews
Audible, 3.95 stars based on 112 ratings
I listened to the Audible version of Sizzling, which can be an author’s best friend or worst enemy. This narrator was quite good, although she made almost no effort to differentiate the voices of the characters, so it was sometimes hard to tell who was talking.
An injury forced Reid to retire from major league baseball, and while he is nominally employed in one of his family’s restaurants (a sports bar, of course), he has been essentially drifting. We’ve met Reid in the previous Buchanan books and we know he loves women and doesn’t take anything seriously, especially sex. Reid never (to our knowledge) had a serious relationship. He has slept with hundreds of women, and is proud of it, but a newspaper article written by a former lover questioning his sexual prowess and commitment to his fans and the ensuing press interest sends him running for cover at his grandmother’s house, while prompting self-reflection on his wild ways.
Lori is a mousy looking nurse with a braid, glasses, and scrubs. Raised in a trailer by an alcoholic mother whose irresponsibility forced her to grow up too quickly, she has a beautiful younger sister whom she loves and envies in turns. Lori’s determination to be financially independent and her sense of herself as less worthy than her lovely sister have led her to avoid romance.
Lori and Reid were introduced in the previous book in this series, when he interviewed her for a position as his grandmother’s nurse. My feeling about that interaction, as well as their early interactions in Sizzling, was that Lori behaved unprofessionally, immediately engaging in sarcastic and judgmental “banter” that may have been understandable after a few meetings but not so early in their acquaintance. (would you say to your employer, your very first time seeing him in your work setting, “Don’t you have anything better to do than show up and annoy me?”).
Despite this, the set up is perfect. Lori is immediately attracted to Reid, which she hates, and her internal monologues attempting to get her libido in line with her principles are terrific. For her part, Lori gets under Reid’s skin, puncturing his devil-may-care bubble of irresponsibility, holding him to higher standards than does anyone else, and he hates that.
For the first few chapters, this was a truly delightful read. Here’s a snippet of Lori and Gloria’s first meeting, taken from Susan Mallery’s website, where you can read a long excerpt.
Now this was a level of crabby Lori could relate to. She smiled as she crossed the room to the bed. “Here’s the thing. I have an ambulance waiting right outside. There are a couple of burly guys who are going to drive you home. At your house, there’s a bed waiting downstairs, food and privacy you never get in a place like this. Why don’t you wait until we’re there before firing me.”
That’s fantastic isn’t it? Like SEP or Crusie fantastic.
I’m not sure what happens, but by midpoint in the book, three of the important characters have undergone radical, and, to my mind, not entirely believable, conversions, and the tension between the leads pretty much evaporates. What serves for dramatic tension after that point is the deteriorating health condition of Lori’s sister.
Reid is never going to stop being a babe magnet with an encyclopedic sexual history (some of it really gross, like his sleeping with the other two nurses he hires — during their interview. Let me tell you, I felt a wave of relief every time he put that condom on.), and the problems an insecure woman who believes that sex and love should go together can have falling in love with a stud are not going to disappear when he says “I love you”, yet they do.
For Reid’s part, I guess it wasn’t really clear to me what attracted him to Lori. Sure, she tells it like it is, but so does his family, and so, for that matter, did the reporter. And she’s quite judgmental and critical of Reid, not only at the start but well into the novel (which verges on hypocritical when she begins shagging him while on the clock!). I’m thinking of other stories where the gorgeous guy falls for the no nonsense plain girl, like Cal and Min in Crusie’s Bet Me, and it seems to me that the gradual transformation in the hero’s eyes of the heroine from invisible, to interesting and attractive, to sexual crack, wasn’t as believable here.
I think my Mallery glom has come to an abrupt conclusion, although I do have lingering interest in younger Buchanan sister Dani’s fruitless (so far) quest to find her soul mate, so we’ll see.