Hot Under Pressure, by Kathleen O'Reilly

>> Monday, October 19, 2009

TITLE: Hot Under Pressure
AUTHOR: Kathleen O'Reilly

PAGES: 224
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Blaze

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Category romance

REASON FOR READING: Everyone seems to love O'Reilly's Blazes, and I had great luck with trying Sarah Mayberry, another author beloved by those who were recommending O'Reilly.

Boutique owner Ashley Larsen hates flying. Especially when there's a sugar-fueled little hellion on board. But then David McLean (sexy!) sits next to her, and suddenly Ashley finds herself hoping the delay will last forever—and that David won't notice her comfy pink bunny slippers (sadly, the opposite of sexy).

David does notice Ashley, and when the flight is delayed overnight, they can't get to the airport hotel fast enough. Off with the slippers and in with the zing! Fortunately, America is filled with cities—L.A., New York, Miami—and nothing says "smoking-hot passion" like an intercontinental affair!
Chicagoan Ashley Larsen and New Yorker David McLean meet when they sit next to each other in a crowded plane that is going nowhere. After flirting for hours and really connecting while waiting for the plane's mechanical issues to be sorted, their flight is finally cancelled and the two waste no time heading to a hotel to indulge their attraction.

They don't intend to have more than a one-night-stand, but they are so incredibly good together that it's hard for them not to want to keep the affair going. Ashley owns a chain of boutiques and often has to travel on buying trips, while financial advisor David is constantly visiting companies in other cities. Turning the one-night-stand into an intercontinental affair is a no brainer. Until, of course, they start feeling more than they were supposed to feel.

I really wanted to like this, but I'm afraid I didn't. I had plenty of niggles, but even with them, this would have been a definite B grade, if it hadn't been for the big problem I had with O'Reilly's writing. Her voice just didn't work for me. At all.

So what was the problem with it? Well, it's always hard to describe why an author's voice works for a reader, but the one thing I can identify is that I got a "trying very hard to sound cool and hip" vibe from it. That doesn't sound like much, but it annoyed me, it kept kicking me out of the story, and it even meant that I just didn't connect with her characters at all. And I got very, very irritated by Ashley's constant (and I do mean constant) mental conversations with her sister. This conceit would have been bad enough on its own, but it was even worse because Ashley's mental interlocutor is presented as a sort of "voice of reason", but in reality, her sister is a bit of a wreck.

It's a shame, because I liked the idea of the story, and I even liked the basic characters and would normally have been interested in their issues. Ashley has a problematic family, living with a sister who's a recovering alcoholic and who seems to put a great deal of the responsibility for staying sober on Ashley. This presents the obvious problems when Ashley begins to have other priorities in her life, and she (and David) start resenting having to come to her sister's rescue whenever she's done something else stupid. David, meanwhile, has issues with his own brother... quite understandably, since he slept with David's ex; in fact, she left David for his brother, and they are now married. Part of David misses his brother, who was always his friend, but he can't seem to make himself forgive him. These issues were dealt with quite well, but my annoyance with the writing style didn't allow me to enjoy them.

There were a few "whoa there!" moments, though, in addition to the writing. There's a scene where Ashley and David go for dinner to his brother's house. It's a very uncomfortable situation, because . As they get out of the car in front of the car, Ashley takes a look at the very modest house in the slightly shabby neighbourhood, and thinks that the woman was just plain stupid. This is exactly how she puts it, and no, she's not saying the woman is stupid to leave David just because he's so wonderful that it would be stupid to leave him for any man. She clearly states she's stupid for leaving a man with a high powered Manhattan finance career for a man who works as an electrician. I found that just offensive, and even worse, inconsistent with what we'd previously been told about Ashley.

In general, there were several of those, where the characters reacted in surprising, illogical ways, inconsistent with what we knew. I really shouldn't have been surprised, because I've read one of O'Reilly's historicals (Touched By Fire) and had the very same experience.

MY GRADE: A C, but this is one most readers might actually like. If the story sounds interesting, give it a shot. Most people clearly aren't bothered by the writing style, and odds are, you'll be one of them. And BTW, If you liked the idea of the plot and would like to read what I thought was a much better version of it, I'd recommend another Blaze, Scent of a Woman, by Jo Leigh.


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