Taking the Heat (Jackson: Girls' Night Out) by Victoria Dahl. Harlequin. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.
The Plot: Veronica Chandler is "Dear Veronica" for the Jackson, Wyoming local paper, the voice of wisdom offering funny and on-target advice for young and old, on everything from family relationships to sex.
The thing is, she's hiding something -- she feels like a big fake. Yes, she has common sense, a sense of humor, the research skills and writing skills that make "Dear Veronica" such a success. What she doesn't have, well, is the real-life experience everyone thinks she has.
Everyone thinks that she's the local girl who went to New York City and came back full of wisdom and experience. What they don't know is that NYC was nothing like Veronica had dreamed it would be. What they don't know is she came home because she had no where else to go. What they don't know is she's never been in love. What they don't know is she's a 27 year old virgin.
Gabe MacKenzie is the hot new guy in town. He's the new librarian, and while he's originally from New York City he's not a big-city guy. He loves that his new job allows him plenty of time for rock-climbing and hiking. He doesn't love that it's only for a year: family obligations are pulling him back to New York. He's not looking for anything long term or anything serious. And then he meets Veronica.
The Good: This is the most recent book in Dahl's Girls' Night Out series, and it's the third in that series to feature a librarian. Since it's set in a small town (well, small when it's not tourist season) it makes sense that the library is an important place in the lives of the members of the small town.
Familiar characters from the other books make appearances, but this story is all Veronica's. There are many, many things I enjoy about Dahl's books and this one doesn't disappoint. The characters are interesting, real, and complex. Veronica isn't a virgin for reasons of religion, morality, or desire -- it's just that her timing has never been right. In high school and college she was concentrating on grades so that she could get a job in NYC; and then NYC let her down. She returned home to discover that what she wanted in life was what her home town had to offer.
And the sexytimes are terrific, as well as what leads up to it -- Veronica revealing her big secret to Gabe is one of my favorite scenes.
Gabe, as I said, is in Wyoming for a year; Veronica doesn't know that, and I like that the tension between the two of them was Gabe keeping this secret from her. And that his motivations for this were explored -- how his desire to be a "nice guy" by not bringing up a possible conflict was itself problematic. That "protecting" someone by not mentioning something was not protecting at all.
Also good were both Gabe's and Veronica's family situations. As I said, Gabe's family is the reason he has to return to NYC and his situation was believable and sympathetic with a good resolution. Veronica's father is a gruff, distant, and demanding man -- I need to go back and reread Flirting with Disaster (Jackson: Girls' Night Out Book 2)
to remind myself of how others saw and interpreted these two. While at times I wanted to throw things at him, I found his actions, and his daughter's reactions, realistic.
Bottom line: It's Victoria Dahl. If you haven't read her books, start now, and honestly you can start anywhere with any title. The books may be interconnected but they are not dependent on each other. The only problem you'll have is the problem I face: the desire to read them all at once balanced against wanting there to always be a new-to-me Dahl book around when I need one.
What else? It's a Favorite Book of 2015, needless to say. And under "readalikes" I think this one may work for New Adult readers. While Victoria is older than most NA heroines, she is negotiating those things that NA is about: trying to establish her career, not sure what to do about career or life, trying to get independence, and love and sex. It's just, for reasons, those things happen a bit later for her; and, again for reasons, people looking at her think she has her act together when she hasn't. Or, rather, she thinks she doesn't have her act together.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy