Down and Dirty by Christine Bell

Why I read it: I received a review copy from the publisher.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  He was a dare she’d never been able to resist…Cat Thomas has never been the kind of girl to stick. A self-professed infatuation junkie, she latches on the newest, hottest guy on the block, then finds a reason—real or imagined—to dump him. When she accepts a dare to rekindle her high school flame and jump in bed with her brother’s best friend, Shane Decker, she knows she’s in trouble. She can’t resist the man, even after all these years apart, and that just won’t do.Shane has come back to town for a couple reasons. The biggest one? He’s tired of living away from those he loves, including Cat. But now she’s spooked and will do anything to drive a wedge between them, including trying to fix him up with other women through an online dating service.What does he have to do to make her see that settling down doesn’t mean settling, and he’s ready to spend a lifetime proving it?

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Down For The Count – I liked the author’s style so I expected I’d like this one.  I did, but with some qualifications around story and characterisation.
What I did like was Cat’s sense of humor.  Cat is unlucky in love – mostly that’s okay because she is comittment phobic (which is more typical of a romance hero actually).  Cat’s mother was a virtuoso violin player but gave it up to be a stay at home mother.  Cat believes that her mother compromised herself too much.  She believes that the compromise (especially from the female and most particularly from her) necessary to have a successful relationship is too high a price to pay.  She has had a series of disastrous relationships and some of her reasons for dumping the guy of the moment were very funny.

“Whoa, wait a second. Who could date Griff longterm? He used the phrase ‘That’s my motto’ like five times a day. ‘Go hard or go home, that’s my motto.’ ‘You only live once, that’s my motto.’ ‘Shoot for the stars and you’re bound to hit one, that’s my motto.’ Jesus, Griff, pick a fucking motto, am I right? It was ridiculous.”

Cat’s sense of humor is revealed in other ways too.

Her skirt was so short that Cat caught a flash of rhinestones that were either appliquéd onto the front of a flesh-colored thong or part of the girl’s attempt at vajazzling. Cat’s professional curiosity required her to investigate further—even if she didn’t design underwear—so she squinted hard, half-tempted to squat down for a proper look. If she eyeballed the girl’s lady parts any harder, she was going to feel obligated to buy her dinner or something.

Shane has had a thing for Cat since they were teenagers.  He’s back in town and eager to pursue a relationship but Cat’s not biting, even though she has a thing for him too.  Shane’s plan is to make Cat a little jealous and he enlists her aid in joining an online dating agency and screening potential dates.  Some of Cat’s vetos are surprising (or not, considering how she feels about Shane).

Courtney was quite the looker. Long, honey-blond hair, wide-set hazel eyes.

“Nope.” Cat shook her head, and moved to close the photo. He covered her hand with his to stop her.

“What’s wrong with this one?”

“Vapid. You can see it in the eyes. Dull. Not quite focused. If I were to guess what she was thinking right now, it would be ‘I like turtles’ or ‘I wonder what Kim Kardashian is doing right now’ or something.”

The conflict keeping this couple apart is Cat’s fear that her life will be subsumed by her partner’s.  Given that, it bothered me to see this from Shane.

“I was just waiting for you to grow up and realize it, too.”

Shane is all knowing and knows best.  He’s just been waiting for Cat to catch up.  Sometimes this can be endearing (my own husband had to wait for me to catch a bit so I know of what I speak, although our circumstances were very different and it was more a case of he knew how he felt and was prepared to wait, knowing that I was a little gun shy rather than him being omniscient).  In this case however, it rankled.  Cat wants to make her own decisions.  She wants to be treated as an adult who is in charge of her own life.  She doesn’t want Shane to fix things for her or make decisions for her.  She doesn’t want Shane to think for her.  But, by his attitude, Shane is headed well on his way to doing just those things and that was never resolved to my satisfaction.

My other complaint is that I didn’t really see these two fall in love.  It was more a case of each of them having feelings for the other for years and finally acting on them but the courtship aspect of the story felt largely absent to me.
The story ended somewhat abruptly and I’m not sure I was entirely satisfied that Cat’s concerns had been dealt with sufficiently well and that she didn’t in fact compromise too much.
But, it was otherwise an enjoyable read and Shane was fun apart from his “I know best” attitude (which would grate under any circumstances but did so particularly here).  The sex scenes were hot and the scenes where Cat and Shane were bantering were a lot of fun.
Grade: B-
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