>> Sunday, April 18, 2010
TITLE: Start Me Up
AUTHOR: Victoria Dahl
SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: 2nd in the Tumble Creek trilogy.
REASON FOR READING: I can't remember now exactly why I went for this one. I know I've been hearing the buzz about Dahl's contemps for a while now, and I think I went for this one, book 2 in the series as my first, because someone mentioned Quinn was a bit of a nerd.
Lori had always planned to get out of tiny Tumble Creek, Colorado, but when her late dad left her his beloved auto body shop, she'd stayed. Now, according to her crazy best friend, Molly, what Lori needs is some excitement, in the form of hot, no-strings-attached sex…and lots of it.In addition to having a nerdy hero, Start Me Up had the bonus of having a plot I like very much: hero and heroine decide to have an affair that is just about sex, but then he wants more.
Quinn Jennings has buildings on the brain—not love and romance. A serious architect, he's delighted to discover that Lori is willing to skip dating protocols and head straight for the sheets. And aided by the steamy books on Lori's bedside table, he's busy indulging both of their wildest fantasies. But when life in Tumble Creek takes a dangerous turn for Lori, Quinn's protective instincts kick in.
Suddenly he cares. More than either of them ever expected…
Lori Love is, despite the incongruous name, a small-town mechanic. She had completely different dreams for herself growing up and was well on her way to achieving them when her father was injured. He was left in a coma, and Lori had to take over his garage to make sure he had the best care possible. Her dad has now passed away, but although Lori tells herself she needs to start making changes in her life, she finds herself strangely reluctant to do so and remains stuck in a rut.
That rut includes an extremely boring love life. Now, that Lori is ready to change, and with the help of her friend Molly, she decides to have a hot summer fling. They'll start by getting Lori some new, more feminine clothes, and then worry about who the fling will be with.
Lori and Molly's first shopping trip works brilliantly but in an unexpected way when they run into Molly's brother, Quinn. Before this meeting, was already aware of Lori as a beautiful, sexy woman, but after seeing her all pretty he can't ignore that anymore. And his request for a date, through some misunderstandings on Lori's part, ends up with him volunteering to be Lori's summer fling. Only after getting to know Lori, he wants more than that.
Much as I like it, it's not a particularly revolutionary plot. What's different about Start Me Upis the delivery. Dahl's voice is very unique (and after reading a few of her historicals, I must say it works much, much better in a contemp). Her writing is funny, modern and a bit snarky. Her dialogue, especially, was wonderful. Lots of witty banter, and not just between her hero and heroine. These characters also feel more modern and genuinely like people in their 20s than you get in most romance novels, and I loved that.
I really liked the romance. Lori and Quinn were interesting and unique (although I was a bit disappointed to see that Quinn's nerdiness, which was so funny and endearing at the beginning of the book, quickly disappeared completely and he turns into a perfectly normal and eligible bachelor), and they felt real.
I've read comments from people who feel there's too much sex in Dahl's contemps. SMU was certainly steamy, but I felt all the love scenes served to develop the romance, and the characters, and none felt gratuitous. I thought, for instance, that it said a lot about how much Lori and Quinn clicked that they felt comfortable enough to play a bit in bed even in their first encounters. The only one that didn't work for me was the one where Quinn spoke in Spanish. The things he says are just so ungrammatically corny that I couldn't stop laughing. I don't know if it was that Dahl was doing a quick and dirty word-by-word dictionary translation, or that she did it on purpose to show Quinn's Spanish really sucked, but it distracted me quite a lot.
I've mentioned SMU is part of a series, and I'm glad to say there's no irritating series-baiting here. The bits about the previous and future protagonists are well integrated and add to the story. Molly, especially, was great. She really is strange, as Lori tells her, and what I saw of her made me want to read her book.
MY GRADE: A B+.