Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sex, Straight Up by Kathleen O'Reilly ****

This is the second in the "Sexy O'Sullivan" brothers trilogy. I originally became interested in the series because of the review I had read at Dear Author for this particular book. One of the reasons it interested me was that it addressed 9/11 - Daniel's wife Michelle died in one of the Towers where they both worked, and Daniel wasn't at work yet, so he was spared.

Except now that I re-read the review, that 9/11 connection isn't even mentioned so now I have no clue where I first read it. Something about the review made me want to read the book - about how he couldn't get past her death. Maybe it's because I read the first page somewhere, maybe on the author's website. Hmmmmm...

Ooops. It seems it was the Smart Bitches Trashy Books review that was my inspiration to find and read this book. Go figure.

OK, on to the synopsis. I've already covered how Daniel's wife died - but it's been 7 years, and he's still being faithful to her. Still wearing the wedding ring. Still keeping her photo next to the bed. His brothers Gabe and Sean think it's about time he consider moving on - or at least getting laid, so they arrange for him to go with a group of Sean's coworkers to a house in the Hamptons for a 3 day weekend.

He goes, reluctantly, and hates every minute of it, until he meets the woman in the house next door, Catherine. They don't exchange much information - basically, he just wants to sort of hide out on her deck, away from the playboy mansion-esque house party going on next door. Catherine is quiet, shy even, but attracted - she invites him to sleep in one of the extra bedrooms for the last night. They spend some time talking and getting to know one another over a glass of wine, and then... well, sleeping isn't exactly what either one had in mind after that.

The next day, Daniel's filled with guilt over his actions, and as he prepares to go, pulls out his wedding ring. Catherine sees it, jumps to all the wrong conclusions, and he leaves without setting her straight. Easier that way, he figures.

Catherine works for the family business - an auction house run by her grandfather. The board of directors has uncovered some information that her grandfather may be cooking the books, so they hire an accounting firm to do a thorough audit. Did I mention Daniel's an accountant (see review of Shaken and Stirred)? Well, guess who the firm sends out... Yep. Now Daniel and Catherine have to work together - and it's a compromising position because it may be a conflict of interest. They discuss it briefly and decide it's not, because there is no relationship between them, even after he admits to her he's no longer married, but widowed. She knows, because of what little he does share, that his heart belongs to Michelle, and that he will never love Catherine.

But there is still the attraction between them. It's a Blaze, after all, and so Daniel pursues Catherine, after hours, because he can't seem to help himself. She's starting to fill the hole left by Michelle's death, even though Catherine is nothing like her. He even manages to share a few details about his life and open up a little. And he's driven to push her sexually, mostly in places you wouldn't suspect.

The audit doesn't go well - the evidence against her grandfather is very damning, and they work together to see if they can figure out who is behind it. She's convinced her grandfather is being framed; Daniel's the accountant - he's just uncovering facts, and the facts all point to grandpa cooking the books.

I enjoyed this story, but I'm surprised that even though I got the trilogy for this story, I liked Shaken and Stirred better. I did feel for Daniel - his angst, his inability to move on with his life - but somehow not as much as I felt for Tessa and Gabe. Actually, the whole "conflict of interest" thing did sorta bother me, and the fact that they were discovered in a compromising position at the office during the audit really didn't make me any more sympathetic to their situation.

Also, in a shorter category romance like this, there isn't the word-count required to get deeper into the suspense element, but I was confused and not satisfied with how the suspense element was wrapped up (the whodunit part). In addition, I felt Catherine came across a little - maybe pathetic is the word I mean. I didn't feel much sympathy for her character. How did she get to be such a wimp with 2 strong role models, her mother and grandfather? There was some character growth for her, but I felt like she let her mother and coworkers push her around too much.

But enough quibbles, I did enjoy the story, and I'm so glad Daniel was able to move on with his life at last! 4 stars.

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