Her Sexy Challenge by Sarah Ballance

Shirtless firefighter in turnout gear (from the waist down) holds a woman in jeans and long shirt up in the air, her hands on his shoulders.Why I read it:  This is one I bought recently for 99c.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  She might be the one fire he can’t put out…

Caitlin Tyler doesn’t do bridges—she just doesn’t know it until she lands her dream job and freezes halfway across her new town’s towering death span. Cue the cocky, infuriating fireman who goads her off the bridge. He’s hot, but he’s also exactly the kind of guy she wants to avoid…which she manages to do for a whole four hours.

Lt. Shane Hendricks is only two weeks away from leaving Dry Rock. He sure as hell doesn’t need to get involved with a woman he has to rescue twice in one day. The fact that she’s clearly annoyed by him doesn’t deter him from throwing down a challenge—one that proves hard to resist for all the wrong reasons.

They’re moving in different directions. Leaving should be easy, but falling for Caitlin might be the one fire he can’t put out…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’ve heard many good things about Sarah Ballance’s writing and I’ve bought a few of her books when they’ve been on special but this was the first one I’ve actually read. Overall, I enjoyed the story but there were a couple of things which bothered me a little. Nonetheless, I have high hopes for the other Ballance books on the TBR of Doom.

Caitlin has a number of phobias. She is afraid of rushing water and of bridges, she’s afraid of heights and she’s not all that keen on enclosed spaces either. She first meets Shane when he comes to “rescue” her from the middle of the bridge which separates what passes for downtown in Dry Rock, Colorado and the suburban area where most of the residents live. He believes she’s a jumper (she’s not the first) and approaches her in that vein. She’s certainly not contemplating jumping. She can’t actually move, she’s so frozen in terror.

After Caitlin gets off the bridge, with Shane’s help, it becomes clear that there is a scorching chemistry between them. However, Shane has only two more weeks in Dry Rock and then he’s headed to Denver to his dream job in an urban fire station where he hopes to have more opportunity to fight fires and less incidence of rescuing cats. He has no intention of staying so there’s no point in starting anything up with Caitlin.

Unfortunately, he finds he can’t really stay away.

As a person who has a severe arachnophobia, I have experienced people laughing at me for my fear and thinking it is all a huge joke. I’ve also experienced people playing “pranks” on me where they show me pictures of spiders or throw a rubber spider in my direction just for laughs. I can tell you, it’s not funny. I know it’s not rational – it is a phobia; by their very nature they are not rational fears. I’ve challenged people who have laughed at me or teased me about my phobia and asked them whether they think it would be funny to lock someone who is claustrophobic in a cupboard. There are, of course, scumbags who would actually do something awful like that, but most people would not.  Which brings me to Shane. He does laugh at Caitlin’s fears. He doesn’t share them and he doesn’t understand them. He also decides he’s going to help her get over her fears and at first, he does this without asking her if she’s on board. While he doesn’t do the latter for laughs, he does the equivalent of throwing a rubber spider at her (if she were me) in a form of “exposure therapy” in order to help her conquer her fears. Later, she does ask him for his help and it is at that point I was okay with his actions but before then I thought they were a bit shitty, frankly.  Shane did have one point I agreed with however; why, if Caitlin was so frightened of bridges and rushing water, did she move to a town where between her business and her home was the very thing which scared her witless – something she’d have to cross at least twice a day?  I’m not sure the narrative had a satisfactory answer to that question.

Unlike me, Caitlin has a good reason for her fears. But ultimately, a phobia is not a punchline and I had some discomfort about it being one in the story albeit only for some of it.

There were also some editing problems in the book. There were a few missing words and sentences which didn’t quite make sense – like this one for example:

He stood still, watching her, completely unfettered that she’d called him out for walking away.

I think it was supposed to be “unfazed”?

What else? However, there was also a lot to like in the story and as I only paid 99c for it, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep about the errors I encountered.

Shane and his friends do make Caitlin welcome in town and I enjoyed the banter they shared with each other and the burgeoning friendship between Lexi and Caitlin. I also liked the connection between Caitlin and Shane. The story is about category length, or perhaps a long novella but I didn’t feel shortchanged on the romance and I did buy the HEA.

Shane’s reasons for wanting to leave Dry Rock were complicated and deeply personal and it made sense to me that he had to work things out for himself. Even though everyone he knew was telling him the same thing, he needed to sort it out for himself.

Her Sexy Challenge was a fun sexy story of opposites attracting and, apart from a few misgivings, I liked it quite a bit.

Grade: B


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