I love all things Tessa Bailey, and TOO HOT TO HANDLE kicks off a brand new series for us to love! Check out my review and an excerpt from her first Romancing the Clarksons novel!
Too Hot to Handle (Romancing the Clarksons #1), by Tessa Bailey
Publish Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Forever Romance
Format: e-ARC, provided by Inkslinger PR
Genre: adult contemporary romance
To Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Rating: 4 STARS
(Synopsis) 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.
After Rita Clarkson's life goes up in flames in California, she decides to fulfill what she thinks is her mom's dying wish in New York. Her three siblings and she climb into a beat-up Subaru and start the trek across country, only to get to New Mexico before they break down. Help shows up in the form of Jasper Ellis. And Rita gets more help from him than what she bargained for.
Jasper was a fantastic character. He's the town's reformed manwhore, but he can't seem to shake the moniker. And that bugs him, because he is ready for people to take him seriously. I love that about him. He's really trying to move forward in his life and grow up, but the people in his small town are having a hard time allowing him to do that. It sucks, and Jasper seems about ready to throw up his hands and slide back into the image they've all formed for him.
Rita, on the other hand, seems to be running away from who she is. She has incredible talent in the kitchen, but doesn't believe in it after growing up in her professional chef of a mother's very large shadow. So, she's giving up on that path and plans to do something completely different after reaching New York.
To be honest with you, Rita wasn't my most favorite character ever. I didn't like her attitude about her life, her siblings or Jasper most of the time. She's very cynical and just generally angry and unhappy in her life, and that seemed to shine through in how she talked to people and in her actions. She and Jasper seemed like complete opposites, and I didn't really feel their connection at times. There's no doubt that Jasper and Rita were good for each other, though, and I did love watching them try to bring the other out of the shadows in which they lived.
This sibling relationship book isn't typical in that Rita and her three siblings don't seem to really like one another very much. They're not close, and they're all very different. When Rita's restaurant burns down, they're not terribly concerned or comforting. They were sort of jerks to each other, so while I get that they might want to go on this road trip together to try and get closer together, I also found myself annoyed at them often, because it seemed like Rita was the only one trying most of the time.
In typical Tessa Bailey fashion, the best part about Too Hot to Handle is the romance between Jasper and Rita. I might not have always got it, but that didn't make the sexual tension and the sweetness between them any less awesome.
It's clear that the rest of the Romancing the Clarksons books will be about each sibling in this somewhat broken family. There are indications about what each sibling's book might be about, and I'm intrigued to read their stories. And, I'm really hoping that when we get to the last book that the siblings will all come back together and be stronger because of this road trip experience.
He dipped down until they were nose to nose, saw the rush of thought going on behind her eyes. It was pretty damn breathtaking up close. “Mind cluing me in as to what’s going on in there?”
“If—if—we need to stay overnight—”
“—then I might see you at the bar.” She wedged a hand between them and separated their bodies. “I’d rather see someone’s worst than their best. Saves time.”
Jasper heard the tow truck pulling into the garage parking lot and cursed. Not even remotely confident that his first attempt at polite conversation with an available woman had been successful, Jasper walked her backward until they were hidden behind a rusted pay phone. She’d broken away from his touch, so he was careful to respect that. He dropped his mouth to an inch above hers and said, low, “I didn’t get near enough time with you, Rita. If you don’t show up tonight, don’t be surprised if I come looking.” He laid his palms against the warm building, above her head, watched her gaze dip to his stomach. His lap. “And if I have to come looking, I’ll be twice as determined to get that kiss.”
Her head came up. “W-what kiss?”
Jasper lowered his mouth until their lips brushed. He listened to her breath accelerate, watched her wet her lips. “The one I want to give you right now.” He allowed himself to linger another few seconds, then, with the effort of ten oxen, Jasper stepped back. “Tonight, beautiful.”
On his way to his bike, Jasper tipped his hat at Rita’s gaping siblings.
Tessa Bailey is originally from Carlsbad, California. The day after high school graduation, she packed her yearbook, ripped jeans and laptop, driving cross-country to New York City in under four days.
Her most valuable life experiences were learned thereafter while waitressing at K-Dees, a Manhattan pub owned by her uncle. Inside those four walls, she met her husband, best friend and discovered the magic of classic rock, managing to put herself through Kingsborough Community College and the English program at Pace University at the same time. Several stunted attempts to enter the work force as a journalist followed, but romance writing continued to demand her attention.
She now lives in Long Island, New York with her husband of eight years and four-year-old daughter. Although she is severely sleep-deprived, she is incredibly happy to be living her dream of writing about people falling in love.