Good Girls Don’t
Stephen King once wrote “Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.” Ms. Dahl’s latest heroine, Tessa Donovan, is a liar Mr. King would recognize. Tessa so loves her two older brothers — the three were orphaned years ago — she lies to them constantly, about important things, all in an effort to hold their family together. One of her larger filial deceptions is that she’s a good girl, sweet, and (at 27) pure. This particular lie becomes impossible to maintain the minute she lays eyes on Detective Luke Asher.
Good Girls Don’t is the first of three books about the Donovan siblings, all of which are being released this fall. The three siblings run Donovan Brewing Company; Tessa is the youngest. Her older brother Eric is the overly responsible workaholic who runs the brewery; her middle brother Jamie is the hottie who manages the adjacent bar. The two men routinely are at odds with one another over the family business and Tessa sees herself as the one who, at all costs, must keep their unit together.
The book begins with a break-in at the brewery. When Tessa arrives to “manage” the situation, she finds Jamie there with Luke Asher, a detective with the Boulder Police Force. Jamie and Luke went to college together and are, nominally, friends. Tessa takes one look at Luke and her libido kicks into overdrive. She pockets his card and, a day later, calls him up and asks him out. Luke is at first inclined to say no — Jamie noticed the heat between Tessa and Luke and told Luke in no uncertain terms to stay the hell away from his little sister. However, Tessa is sexy and persuasive and despite Jamie’s threats, Luke finds himself saying yes, repeatedly, to Tessa.
It’s easy to understand Tessa’s attraction to Luke. He’s hot as hell and he comes with handcuffs. He and Tessa burn up the pages when they hook up — the sex scenes in the book are so sizzling I found myself breathing heavily as I read! Luke is a good guy who treats the women in his life with honesty and respect. He has a caring relationship with his female partner who is pregnant — everyone thinks by Luke — and with his mother. He is honest with Tessa about what he wants from her and what he thinks he can give. He solves the not very interesting mystery around the break-in with clever panache. He’s working on overcoming his past — he had a very painful divorce — and is determined to be a stand-up guy for the next woman he loves.
Tessa, on the other hand, is for most of the book less admirable. She is unable to confront the truth that Luke and ultimately her brothers can see: Lying to people you love is more about controlling them than connecting with them. As I read this book, I wanted Tessa to intuit the insight on a poster my high school boyfriend had on his wall in 1977: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” At times, Tessa’s manipulation of her brothers is so wrong, she does far more damage with her well-intentioned lies than she ever could have had she told some difficult truths.
I liked this book — especially the smokin’ relationship between Tessa and Luke — but I didn’t buy into its premise. Tessa’s deceptions are often mind-boggling. Her brother Jamie is in and out of women’s beds all the time and yet he believes his adult single sister is a virgin. Really? She’s a hot blonde, with a great body, and a wicked sense of humor. It seemed unlikely to me. The mystery around the break-in is tied into a plot line about a merger between Donovan Brewing Company and a local airline. Tessa tells so many lies to so many people in an effort to make the merger happen I couldn’t believe she wasn’t caught a third of the way through the book. Everyone in her life accepts both her lies and the inevitable epiphany she has about them. I realize this story is supposed to be a fun contemporary romance — and it is! — but I found its dénouement naive and implausible.
That’s OK, though. Not every book is a DIK and this book, despite its wobbly underpinnings, is a very enjoyable read. I can’t wait to read the next book, Bad Boys Do, about Jamie Donovan. I’m sure he’ll be as babelicious as Luke Asher. I foresee more heavy breathing in my future!