In many ways, Thrill Me is the kind of Harlequin Blaze I most enjoy, but too seldom find. Two likable characters meet, have hot sex, and fall in love. That’s it, plain and simple. There’s no moralizing, no extraneous silliness and nothing offensive about it. The chemistry between the characters is strong and believable, and the sensuality is at the promised level. While the story does have its flaws, I liked it enough to give it a qualified recommendation.
May Ellison arrives in New York for one week of wild passion. Her longtime boyfriend recently dumped her because of a lack of excitement in their relationship. Soon thereafter, she met a new man, Trevor Little, when he visited the Wisconsin college where she works. After emailing each other and exchanging phone calls for a while, he invited her to spend a week with him at the posh Hush Hotel, renowned as a playground for lovers. She jumped at the chance for the kind of red-hot experience she’s never had before. But when she gets there, she discovers a message from Trevor informing her that he won’t be able to make it. Even worse, she learns from the hotel staff that he’s married, and that she’s far from the first woman he’s brought to Hush for a week of sex. He has the whole thing down to a science, using the same romantic gestures and canned moments on every woman he brings there.
May’s ready to pack it in and head home when she meets bestselling author Beck Desmond. He’s staying at the hotel while he finishes his next book, which is set there. Beck is having a tough time with this particular manuscript. Sales of his books featuring man’s man Mack Adams are slipping, and now his publisher wants him to add more emotions to his stories and give Mack a love interest. Beck is doing his best, but his love scenes read too much like a male fantasy. He needs a woman’s perspective on sex. When he strikes up a conversation with May in the hotel bar, there’s a clear attraction between them, and it soon becomes clear they can help each other out with their respective needs.
Thrill Me is the second book in the Do Not Disturb miniseries, which began with Jo Leigh’s Hush. It’s a standalone book and doesn’t require you to have to read the first. Isabel Sharpe’s entry in the series is a light, very fluffy read. It’s not exactly going to change anyone’s life or anything. But it’s well-done fluff, delivering what a Blaze should. It’s frothy and fun rather than lame and annoying, with a nice fantasy feel and a nonjudgmental attitude toward the sex. It pushes the envelope a little, as with one scene of voyeurism where May and Beck find themselves watching another couple have sex and get turned on by the show.
This is a very simple story. There are no subplots and it’s entirely character-driven, focusing solely on these two people and their slowly-unfolding relationship. May and Beck aren’t deep by any means. Their characters are clearly defined in the first chapter, and we don’t learn too much about them beyond those initial impressions. But they’re both likable and sympathetic, and the author tries to give a sense of that they’re growing as people over the course of the story. Shy, conventional May tries to step out of her box and be stronger and more daring. Beck has never really had a long-term relationship with a woman, and his growing feelings for May force him to examine that. I liked the way his relationship with May is reflected in his book. The story builds to a sweetly romantic conclusion. Granted, this is a short book and the relationship unfolds over the course of week, but the author makes it as believable as it likely could be.
Now for the caveats. The pace is often leisurely and there are plenty of long narrative sections where it felt like the writing could have been tightened. More than once I wondered what it might have been like if had it been published as a Temptation (the last book published for this line was also released this month). On the downside it would probably lose some of its more risqué scenes, but at the same time, a shorter length would have made for a tighter, faster read. Certain aspects of the premise also seemed far-fetched. It also seemed odd that the hotel would be so thrilled to be the setting of a serial killer tale where people are being murdered there. Is that the kind of publicity a hotel geared toward lovers would really be glad to attract? “You’ve read the book about people dying in our hotel. Now come have sex here!”
On a minor note: May shares a story about her parents that she considers incredibly romantic, but which rubbed me the wrong way. When her mother was a young woman, she came to New York to fulfill her dream of being a dancer. Then one day May’s father arrived in New York and came to one of her shows. Afterward he “told her to pack her bags, that now she’d gotten adventure out of her system, they were going back to Wisconsin to get married.” I think we’re supposed to get the sense that her mother was tired of the city and was swept away by him coming all the way to New York to claim her. To me, that didn’t come across as romantic at all. He sounded overbearing and pushy, and I couldn’t help thinking she should have told him to take a hike and not tell her what to do.
But then, everyone has their own idea of what’s romantic and what’s sexy. I found Thrill Me to be a sweet story. It’s nothing too deep or challenging, just a light, fun, and, even with the weaknesses, satisfying read.