Harlequin Blaze’s Do Not Disturb miniseries suffers its first misfire with Debbi Rawlins’s Hot Spot. For a book that takes place at a sex-themed hotel, it’s strangely lacking in heat. Even worse, it’s really boring much of the time.
The story not only continues the mini-series, it’s also a sequel to a previous Rawlins title, Good to Be Bad. The heroines of both books are friends who had their fortunes told by a psychic at a party. The previous heroine had her fortune of finding love come true. Now it’s Madison Tate’s turn. Madam Zora said she’d get involved with a man with whom she works. But Madison’s a freelance photographer who doesn’t have any regular male co-workers, so she dismisses the prediction as nonsense. Then she begins working on an assignment for Today’s Man magazine, photographing a layout for their “Sexiest Men” issue. If she can get one of her photos chosen for the cover, it could push her to a whole new level professionally and mean the end of struggling to get by on freelance assignments.
Jack Logan is a morning show anchor on the verge of signing a lucrative new contract, but he wants something other than money. While he started out as a serious reporter, his current job has him relegated to reading fluff pieces and exchanging lame banter with his co-anchor. Aware that he’s considered nothing more than a pretty face, he wants to get back into covering real news. He agreed to the photo shoot as part of the contract negotiations, but he’s not going to reveal too much skin and play into his “sexy” image. Of course, the whole point of the shoot is that he’s sexy, so Madison is just as determined to get him out of his shirt and into poses that show off his body.
This book can be summed up in one word: blah. The underlying story concept is reasonable, but the execution falls flat. The initial conflict is too thin to sustain the first half of the book. He doesn’t want to take off his shirt; she wants him to. Yawn. It doesn’t help that the pace is very slooooow. When Jack arrives for the first shoot, they start out on the roof. They talk and take some pictures. Then they go down to a room Madison reserved. He orders coffee from room service. They talk and take pictures. Then they go downstairs to the restaurant to eat. They talk more. They go back upstairs. She gives him a massage. It’s just this long string of boring scenes, one right after another. Jack arrives for the shoot in Chapter Four and they don’t end for the day until Chapter Ten more than seventy-five pages later. That’s seventy-five pages filled mostly with tedium. After a while, I honestly groaned, “Is anything ever going to happen?”
I have no problem with series books where the characters talk a lot and get to know each other. Rawlins’s A Glimpse of Fire was like that and I enjoyed it. But that approach only works if the conversations they have are interesting or funny or charming. Here, they’re not. It doesn’t help that the story isn’t sexy. I’ve enjoyed Blazes that haven’t been all that hot because they at least had an interesting story. Here, the story was so dull the low sensuality was impossible to ignore. For more than the first half of the book, there’s no sex and little to no sexual tension. They exchange a heated glance or two. Jack gets an erection during the shoot. She gives him the aforementioned massage. Overall, the sensuality level never rises above tepid. In the second half, there’s finally some sex, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me. The scenes are relatively short, and the first half had already lulled me almost to sleep. I haven’t even mentioned the psychic angle, with takes up way too much space and is beyond boring.
It’s a shame because I liked some of the underlying ideas. The story does improve in its latter stages once the conflict between their respective career goals is developed more and inevitably clashes. Jack and Madison are barely developed, but they’re both pleasant enough in an inoffensive way. The book is not poorly written; the author’s prose is smooth and sharp for the most part. I also was sure there was a big misunderstanding coming which never materialized, for which I was grateful.
If only it weren’t so dull for much of the story. Hot Spot isn’t a terrible book, but it kept me bored for too long for me to call it anywhere close to a good one.