I don’t know what it is about Julie Garwood that keeps her at the top of my eagerly awaiting list. Her heroines typically are gorgeous and naïve, but with an optimistic outlook on life. Her heroes are handsome alpha males and possessive. I would compare her writing to a recipe that includes many of the staples in a pantry. When the ingredients are listed individually, they seem rather bland and are typically included in numerous other recipes in the cookbook. However, when they are all mixed together there is a resulting dish that tantalizes the taste buds and has the diner coming back for seconds. Simply put: Julie Garwood always makes me smile at the end of the book and Hotshot is no exception.
Finn MacBain is the eldest of three brothers and was the bane of his parents’ existence as a child. He was constantly in trouble and anytime a neighbor came to call, they automatically assumed there was trouble afoot and Finn was the cause. When Finn was 14 and their new neighbors brought their daughter Peyton to the door, Mr. and Mrs. MacBain assumed that Finn was once again in trouble. They were shocked and relieved to find that Finn had just rescued 6-year-old Peyton from drowning and literally saved her life. That experience seemed to be a turning point for Finn and from then on out, he excelled in everything he did: Olympic swimmer, law school and his current occupation of FBI agent.
Peyton Lockhart is the middle child of three sisters. After Finn MacBain saved her life when she was a child, she started a ritual that she would carry on throughout the years. Each year on her birthday she would write to Finn and thank him for saving her life. The age difference discouraged a true friendship, but that contact kept them connected over time. As an adult, Peyton is still trying to find herself in love and in her career. After working in restaurants during college she discovers a love for cooking. A grant rewards her with a stint in France as a culinary student and she is determined to become a chef (much to her parent’s chagrin). When an opportunity to work for a cooking magazine in Minnesota arises, Peyton packs up her beat up Toyota and leaves Texas behind. Unfortunately things do not go well with her new job and in less than a month she finds herself back in Texas and the target of a would be murderer. With Peyton in danger, she calls on Finn to come to the rescue.
I really liked both Peyton and Finn. Peyton could have easily devolved into a bit of fluff as a character, but Garwood infused her with enough humor and practicality to rise above the naïve ingénue. She felt realistic, even as some of her individual characteristics did not. As did Finn, despite his almost godlike attributes. He has some baggage and while frustrating for both Peyton and the reader, the baggage is believable. After a broken engagement, Finn has decided that marriage and children are not for him. When Peyton’s troubles bring them together there is an instant attraction, but his lack of trust makes him run hot and cold in their relationship. His fear of commitment was frustrating but did not quite reach the level of wanting Peyton to hit him in the head with one of her non-stick pans. While we do have a “lust at first sight” scenario, the relationship still seemed to grow organically in spite of this.
What kept this book from DIK status for me was there was just a little too much going on. After leaving her job at the magazine, Peyton and her sisters become involved in the running of one of their uncle’s resorts in Florida. A cousin is brought in as another evil character and she may have been just one evil character too many. They are coming out of the woodwork in this book. I think this made the storyline just a little too jumbled especially since the real evil character was never really in doubt. There are also just too many setting changes. We have Texas, Minnesota, California, Washington D.C., and Florida and none of them place the hero and heroine in the same state. Despite these quibbles, the book works. Overall Hotshot is an enjoyable read that I would recommend to Garwood fans and is probably one that I will read again in the future.