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Book CoverShannon C’s review of Too Hot to Handle (Romancing the Clarksons, Book 1) by Tessa Bailey
Contemporary romance published by Forever on 17 May 2016

I wasn’t sure how well I would get along with my first Tessa Bailey book. I’ve had the first in her Line of Duty books on my TBR for a while, but most of what I’ve heard is that her books feature dirty-talking alphas. No mention at all of the heroines or whether the alphas in question have anything else going for them aside from dirty mouths. Being first and foremost a heroine-centric reader, this… does not help me very much. However, the premise of Too Hot to Handle was interesting, so I snagged it, determined to see where I would fall on the Tessa Bailey hype bandwagon. Continue reading to see how it worked for me and then stay for the gratuitous Hamilton references.

Miriam Clarkson’s dying wish was that her four children, chef Rita, politician Aaron, gruff and broody Belmont, and Peggy should travel together across the country to jump naked into the Atlantic Ocean. She’s hoping it’ll be a bonding experience, because the Clarksons have all drifted apart.

Rita, our heroine for this adventure, is all in. She’s inherited the restaurant her mother managed, and it’s burned down, which means the albatross of her mother’s expectations is no longer around her neck. She figures she’ll get a chance for a new start in New York, doing anything but cooking, at which she has become a spectacular failure thanks not only to the fire at the restaurant but also a viral video of her attacking a fellow reality cooking show contestant with a knife. She’ll just do this one thing for her mother, suffer the company of her siblings, and then go back to school.

Things don’t go as planned, though, of course, and the Clarkson siblings soon find themselves stranded on the side of the road with a broken-down car near the town of Hurley, New Mexico. Luckily, Jasper Ellis, Hurley’s resident bad boy, shows up on his motorcycle in time to rescue them. Jasper is drawn to Rita, and he wants to prove to someone somewhere that he’s not just the town’s resident man slut, and he’s drawn to Rita’s snark as well as her vulnerability.

Too Hot to Handle is a delight from start to finish. As an oldest sibling myself, I could relate to Rita’s struggles to meet her mother’s expectations and her worries that she would always be a failure, no matter what she tried. I think Jasper’s desire to be more to someone than just a quick no-strings fling is an interesting point of conflict for the two of them, and I love how he struggles against doing what he usually does with women and doesn’t always succeed. And, yes, there is dirty talk, and it is smoking hot. I also adore every scene Rita’s siblings are in, and I love how Rita slowly mends her relationships with each of them. In fact, if I’m being honest, the sibling stuff is more of a draw for me than the romance, so good on Tessa Bailey for creating some compelling sequel bait. (I’m especially intrigued by silent, brooding Belmont, who I imagine is going to be the last sibling to find his HEA.)

My problem with Rita and Jasper’s romance is that it all happens too quickly. They spend about four days together, and, by the end of that time, they’re exchanging “I love yous” and planning for the rest of their lives. I wanted to see a few more meaningful conversations and quiet moments that aren’t fraught with angst. I also think the resolution of the final black moment is a little too pat, and I needed Jasper to relax a little and possibly learn about the wonders of Skype and
Facetime. I don’t think they’d earned the intensity of their HEA, and I’m hoping maybe Rita and Jasper will discover Skype and Facetime after the events of the story, so we can check up on them in the other books in the series.

I love Ms. Bailey’s voice. There are many laugh-out-loud funny moments, especially between Rita and her sister, Peggy, and it feels, for the most part, like a believable contemporary. There’s a moment where the girls are discussing the TV show Golden Girls that made me smile. To that end, despite the fact that the romance is a little too cheesy and full of instalove for me, I’m looking forward to Aaron’s book, which comes out in September. I’m sad I don’t have access to it now, but I suppose that just means I have to wait for it.

Shannon's iconGrade: B

When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .

The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where,
New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn’t seen in years. When rescue shows up—six-feet-plus of hot, charming
sex on a motorcycle—Rita’s pretty certain she’s gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .

Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he’s about to be sorely tempted. There’s
something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn’t just for tonight—he’s forever.

Read an excerpt