Desert Isle Keeper
Too Hot to Handle
After I had finished reading Too Hot to Handle by Nancy Warren, the word that seemed best to sum up my impression of the book was adorable. It is funny, sexy, and romantic. And it combines the glamour of the 1940s with a firm grounding in today’s world. I loved it.
Alexandra Drake is a rising jewelry designer in New York and owns her own workshop in SoHo. One day, an extremely attractive man comes in and flirts with her only to divulge that he’s looking for an engagement ring. Lexy is understandably miffed, but this is nothing to her feelings when that same night, she discovers the man stealing an extremely valuable emerald and diamond necklace, which had been commissioned for refitting by Lexy, from her safe. While she confronts him, the workshop is broken into by another lot of burglars, meaning business, and minutes later Lexy and the attractive stranger are on the run together.
The stranger is Charles Pendegraff III, scion of a very noble New York family, and his agenda in trying to steal the emeralds is, of course, not quite what it seems. He kidnaps Lexy to his lodge in the forests, but when she finds out soon after that her workshop was burned down and a body found in the ruins, she agrees to join forces with him to find out what is really going on.
What I loved about this book: Nobody is a tortured soul. Charlie has made some dubious choices, but he isn’t berating anyone for this; he has found a niche that suits him and is happy there. Lexy adores her profession and is unabashedly and blithely ambitious to become a top designer. No soul-searching, no shadows of the past. What we get instead, and what I found far, far more moving, is Lexy’s very real pain in seeing the ruins of her workshop for the first time, and the horror and anguish of Lexy’s assistant Amanda when she believes her employer murdered.
The characters feel grounded in the early 21st century. They use the technology, and act like our contemporaries might. At the same time, the novel’s structuring is very reminiscent of 1930 and 40s screwball comedies: The dialogue is snappy, and several scenes work as that kind, stemming from theatrical comedy, where more and more characters enter the room, each divulging a further part of the puzzle.
I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Lexy and Charlie. Both are (and act) mature, both are a product of their upbringing – Charlie upper crust, Lexy working class – and both show it and show themselves willing and able to grow beyond that. Although they are strongly attracted to each other from the minute they meet, they hesitate long to act on that, seeing as they are in the middle or a murder investigation. So while the sex scenes are hot and deeply satisfying, they tend to be shortish and don’t dominate the plot. The secondary romance doesn’t quite develop according to romance scriptbook either, which only enhanced its charm for me.
Too Hot Too Handle is a very quick read, partly due to its pacing, and partly due to the fact that I really didn’t want to put it down once I had started it. It has placed Nancy Warren firmly on my must-read-more-by-this-author list, and confirmed my impression that if you want to read romance with a contemporary feel, you are well advised to try the Harlequin Blaze line.