Why I read it: I got an ARC from NetGalley and I really enjoy Dahl’s contemporaries in particular.
What it’s about: Jamie Donovan is the “family screw-up” and he can’t seem to break free from that label. Each time he tries, he’s knocked down but he’s determined to give it one more go. He has plans to turn Donovan Brothers Brewery into a brewpub – serving good food to complement the various beers instead of just the current pretzels and nuts on offer. He’s taking classes at the university to help him put the proposal together before he takes it to siblings and co-owners, Eric and Tessa. Olivia Bishop is Jamie’s instructor (but as she’s 35 and he’s 29 and the class is an ungraded community class, it’s not the least bit icky) and there’s instant chemistry between the two. Olivia has been divorced for a year from one of the professors at the uni and feels dull and boring and she thinks Jamie can help her learn to have fun. Turns out that Olivia actually is fun – it was her crappy ex-husband who had sucked all the fun out of her. Jamie does help her though, by taking out for some adventures but also by liking her just as she is. We also find out more about the Kendalls and in particular, what really happened the night Jamie took Monica Kendall home. Let me just say – what a cow!
What worked for me: I really loved Jamie and I liked Olivia quite a bit too, but, for me, this was Jamie’s story all the way. I found it quite compelling and I was a little bit heartbroken for Jamie in a few bits. Like most people are, Jamie is more than just one thing and he’s far more than just a “screw-up”. I really enjoyed him standing up for himself, the smart changes he made to his life and the way he was with Olivia. I devoured this one in a day and stayed up late to finish it.
Also, there’s hot tub sex.
What didn’t: I got tired of the fighting between Jamie and Eric. I gather that by the end of the series, the siblings will largely have made their peace with each other, but I would have liked to have seen more of that in this one. Really, Eric was a prize asshole in this book. Because of that, I didn’t totally buy his turn around at the end – it was just a little quick for my belief-meter.
Also, I did think that Olivia’s continued belief that her relationship with Jamie was just a no strings “arrangement” was held a bit long; clearly Jamie was really into her.
What else: I’m actually thinking that the prequel novella helped me quite a bit – if not for it, I would have been totally turned off Eric on account of his asshat behaviour in this book. However, as I got to know him just a little in the novella, I have enough sympathy for him to want him to get his HEA in Real Men Will (which I’m currently reading). Although, I am hoping that he stops with the asshattedness. Also, without reading the novella, I wouldn’t have got the Eric jokes, so that’s a plus.
Overall: A very good, sexy (oh boy howdy was it sexy!) story with depth and a good man in a kilt. What’s not to love?