Marie Harte is a romance author who has been around since the mid 2000’s, publishing a wide variety of romance books in the paranormal, erotic and contemporary sub-genres. With over one hundred titles released, she clearly has a winning formula that draws readers to her time and time again. Roadside Assistance is the second story in the Body Shop Bad Boys series, a spin-off of her sexy and fun McCauley Brothers series. Those books were my first introduction to Ms. Harte’s writing and the series is one of my favourites. I’ve bought some of the titles in digital and paperback and then went on to acquire more of her backlist. The Body Shop series focuses on the four ‘bad boys’ who work at Webster’s Garage – Johnny, Foley, Sam and Lou. They are all well built, handsome, hardworking men, some with more issues than others. Johnny got his happy ever after in Test Drive, and now it’s Foley’s turn. Del Webster, the heroine of What to Do with a Bad Boy, runs Webster’s Garage with her father Liam and that’s the setting for this story.
The garage sits nearby a lovely little coffee shop run by Cynthia, her brother Mike and his wife Nina. Clients (and the employees) of Webster’s Garage come in for coffee from time to time and they have an overall positive working relationship. Cyn has noticed the guys before, but it’s Foley that really catches her eye. Still, she doesn’t take flak from anyone and when one of the shop’s newer employees parks a bunch of cars on the coffee shop’s lot by mistake, she’s quick to show her displeasure. Foley approaches the shop – and Cyn – with an eye on fixing the mistake, and on convincing Cyn to consider a date with him. Cyn’s not interested – after several disastrous relationships she’s sworn off men. But Foley’s charming smile and blunt honesty make him hard to resist. When he later rescues her after a car mishap, she reluctantly concedes that she is a little bit lonely and some friendly companionship wouldn’t be all that bad. But no sex! She’s firm on that one. Foley agrees. He’s interested in the whole package, not just getting her into bed, and if being friends is what Cyn needs, then so be it. But things escalate quickly and before you know it they are having a hot and heavy affair though not without conditions. Cyn makes it clear to Foley that she doesn’t do casual sex and sleeping together means they are in a dating relationship. It’s exactly what Foley wants to hear. But when their feelings for each other get stronger, will Cyn be willing to make the leap?
This story is all about relationships. The family kind, the work kind, the romantic kind – they all get fairly equal page time. Cyn is a smart, university educated businesswoman, running a successful coffee shop. She is a six-foot-tall, voluptuous red-head whose fiery temper is matched by her no-nonsense attitude. She’s a prickly sort, downright bitchy sometimes (her own words), a consequence of being raised in a volatile Italian family. While Cyn has a positive relationship with her father and brother, with mother it’s a different story. She constantly finds ways to scratch away at her daughter’s self-confidence, and while Cyn knows her mother is not trying to be deliberately cruel, it still hurts. Comments about her weight, her eating habits, her clothing, her choices in men and so on, ones she’s heard since she was little and grew into a tall and not very model thin woman are ones that Cyn finds hard to ignore, no matter how hard she tries. She doesn’t see herself as beautiful, though others around her definitely think she’s very attractive. The men she’s dated have all wanted her to change for them too, and it’s left her decidedly wary of new relationships. Foley will have to convince her that he’s different if they are to have a chance at a long lasting relationship.
Foley has a much more positive relationship with his mother than Cyn does. He was raised by her after his father passed away. Foley’s friend Sam (now a co-worker at the garage, and Foley’s roommate) became a fixture in their lives at a young age when his mother gave Sam a safe place to stay when needed. Her example is one Foley took to heart, and he’s known among his friends as a guy they can count on, someone who will always be there to help them out. He takes his job seriously and prides himself in his work – it may not be brain surgery but he’s confident in his mechanical skills. There are several scenes involving the guys from the shop either at work, or socializing together. Their language is pretty much what one might expect from blue collar guys with badass reputations (deserved or not). Lots of swearing, lots of crude comments about sex, lots of joking around. It’s the type of conversation I expect and while it might not be to everyone’s tastes it feels true to their characters. At the same time Foley cuts short any kind of disrespect towards Cyn. She’s not just a hookup for him and he makes sure the guys know this. Casual sex might have been his modus operandi before, but not anymore. Foley fits the part of the tough guy, in word and deed. He’s not above using his physical strength to protect someone, or make it clear that there will be consequences if someone he loves gets hurt. This applies to everyone in his life.
Foley no more wants to change Cyn than he’d want her to change him. He’s blunt, to the point of putting his foot in his mouth sometimes, resulting in their first date ending rather disastrously. But with that honesty comes the ability to apologize and mean it. Cyn knows he’s not just saying that he thinks she’s gorgeous and he backs it up with some searing sexual desire that leaves her feeling wanted and appreciated. It’s hard to say no to a guy who puts your pleasure first and clearly appreciates all your assets – brains included. The sex between them is hot and addictive. I have a small issue with the condom use in this story. I think by now it’s common knowledge that ‘pulling out’ is not a viable birth control method and I cringe when I read scenes where the condom goes on late (or not at all). These two aren’t teenagers, and while the discussion of STDs (‘ I’m clean, are you clean?) is perfunctory, the spectre of a surprise pregnancy would have me taking more care than these two do.
The conflict in the story is minimal and comes mostly from the different interpersonal relationships and not from any external troubles. The story moves at a good pace with lots of dialogue and is really a snapshot into the daily lives of this interesting group of characters. With some sexy scenes and a couple who seem well matched, Roadside Assistance is an enjoyable and entertaining story.