It's a Wonderfully Sexy Life
Historical author Hope Tarr makes her contemporary debut with It’s a Wonderfully Sexy Life, the third of Harlequin’s Extreme Blazes. This holiday-themed tale makes a few missteps, but overall it’s an enjoyable read.
Baltimore cop Mandy Delinski doesn’t think she has much to celebrate this Christmas. It’s starting to look like she’ll never make detective, her figure’s much curvier than she’s comfortable with, and thanks to an ex-boyfriend who lost all her money in an investment scheme, she had to move back in with her parents. Then, while working a museum security job on Christmas Eve, she meets sexy bartender Josh Thorner. They end up talking for hours over coffee, but though the chemistry between them is scorching hot, she declines his offer to go back to his place. Instead, she gives him her business card and wins a promise that he’ll call her. Things are definitely looking up…until the next morning, when she gets the call that her business card was found on a dead man, and she arrives at the morgue to find a very dead Josh lying on the slab.
Josh, real name Josh Thornton, was a protected witness scheduled to testify in a mafia trial in the New Year. If only Mandy hadn’t left him, he might still be alive. One miserable week later, she makes a wish on New Year’s Eve for a chance to go back and make everything right. It seems impossible, until she wakes up the next morning to discover it’s Christmas Eve all over again. As the day repeats itself, she finds herself meeting Josh. This time, rather than bidding him good-night after coffee, she demands he take her back to his place, where they share the passionate night she dreamed about for a week. But keeping him from being killed that night doesn’t erase the threat to his life, forcing Mandy to think of more ways to keep him close to her.
In most cases, the success of a romance novel hinges on the characters and their relationship. That’s certainly true here. Mandy and Josh are genuinely likable people, and though Josh isn’t as vivid a character as Mandy, I liked them together. It’s one of those seemingly too-rare romance novel relationships where the people involved truly seem to like one another and feel right together. It’s a love story that should appeal to fans of plus-sized heroines and the heroes who worship them. Mandy is the typical self-deprecating heroine, and Josh makes it clear he likes her just the way she is and doesn’t like her putting herself down.
Admittedly, this particular paranormal premise, going back in time for a “do over”, is a favorite of mine, and I enjoyed Tarr’s take on it. Unlike some historical authors, she has no trouble with the contemporary style, delivering a story that feels as modern as a Blaze in particular should (although there were times I wished someone had inserted paragraph breaks into some of her very long paragraphs, which would have made for easier reading). The sex is as red-hot as it should be for a Blaze.
There are some weaknesses though. Each of the chapters begins with an excerpt from Mandy’s diary, a touch I could have done without. It seems too derivative of Bridget Jones, adds nothing to the book, and a few times spoils what’s about to happen in the chapter. There are some minor logistical issues in the plot that don’t add up and are best not examined too closely. Late in the book, there’s also a Big Misunderstanding that tested my patience. More specifically, the heroine’s reaction to said Big Misunderstanding lowered my opinion of her. Later, the hero makes an absolutely braindead move strictly for the purposes of the plot (it certainly doesn’t make any sense otherwise) that had me sighing again. I was starting to think the book was making so many missteps it was about to do a complete faceplant, but fortunately it was over soon afterward before it could aggravate me further.
In spite of those annoyances my overall impression of It’s a Wonderfully Sexy Life was a positive one. Though far from perfect, it’s an enjoyable romance with a good couple at its center, which made the rough spots easier to overlook.