Hot Under His Collar
Andie J. Christopher’s Hot Under His Collar begins with event planner Sasha Finerghty in St. Bartholemew’s Catholic Church, making sure the wedding she’s coordinated is proceeding as planned, and mooning over Father Patrick Dooley. Sasha is the disappointing daughter in her family because she has yet to get married and start a family of her own, so she accepts a date from one of the groomsmen (who doesn’t turn her on) because she’s trying to distract herself from her attraction to Patrick.
Then funding is cut for the church’s pre-K program, so Patrick asks Sasha and Hannah, her business partner/best friend/heroine of the previous book, whether they can save it. They decide on a big bake sale fundraiser, but this means Patrick and Sasha have to spend some time together because she brings in cakes for him to try. And when she goes on the date with the groomsman, she takes him to the bar the Dooleys own, because Patrick helps out there. So now she has even more chances to think about how hot and yet unavailable he is.
Patrick is likewise bowled over by her, and any time the story switched to his point of view, I braced for the mental lusting. Unfortunately, while there are many ways to make me care about a heroine, telling me about her glossy hair, perfectly manicured hands, “fresh minty breath”, “elegant back” and “cherry-colored nipples” is not going to do it.
Like Sasha, Patrick is gorgeous, so she’s constantly turned on by his dimples, his green eyes, the way he grunts, and so on. He’s also completely non-judgmental about divorce, LGBTQ rights, and abortion, but there is no indication that this is because he’d gone through seminary, studied Catholic teachings in depth, and had come to his own conclusions. Instead, it’s because he is the hero of a modern romance, and no modern romance hero would hold the wrong views on those issues.
As for his bouts of horniness, while he feels periodically guilty about them, he doesn’t do much to keep himself from being led into temptation. He invites Sasha for drinks in private, winks at her, and fans the flames until they finally have sex in a scene where he asks her to touch herself while he watches. By then I was so uninterested in these two that I felt like a voyeur. And when she masturbates, he begins “chuffing”, which made me imagine him as Thomas the Tank Engine.
That said, the breezy style leads to some amusingly snarky moments. And then there is this great scene when a nun talks to Patrick about the paths not taken in life, and confides that before she took her vows, she was in love with a woman. She also tells him how she found meaning in the choice she made even though she recognizes the Church’s flaws.
“The institution itself is a false idol. But I also take comfort in the fact that it is ancient. There will be women after me who take vows and teach children and take care of the sick that no one else will touch.”
Patrick understood what she was saying. Human beings were wired for ritual, and he’d found purpose in being the conduit for the ancient. In the liminal spaces—especially the ones between life and death—he felt purpose.
This was exactly what I was hoping for when I picked up the book. I wanted this sort of well-written, evocative reflection and understanding. It’s a pity that 1. It happens more than two-thirds of the way through the book, and 2. It takes place between Patrick and the nun, not Patrick and Sasha.
Hot Under His Collar should appeal to readers who enjoyed the other stories in the series, since the hero and heroine of a previous book are prominently featured here. But for me, it was a tedious read, with no real conflict other than Sasha and Patrick going back and forth regarding his vow of celibacy. I guess when I want to read about a hot intelligent priest and some use of Catholicism other than it being the sole reason the hero and heroine aren’t tearing each other’s clothes off in the first chapter, I’ll stick with Tiffany Reisz.