Reviewed: January 26, 2012
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Donovan Brothers Brewery, Book 2
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 384 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by HQN Books publisher Harlequin via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
After divorcing a man who had crushed her spirit and cheated on her, Olivia Bishop is determined to get herself a life. When her attempts have her crossing paths with the good looking and charming bartender Jamie Donovan, she throws caution...and maybe even a little good sense...to the wind and makes a trade with him.
The quintessential bad boy will show her how to have fun and she'll help him, teaching him all she knows about how to effectively start and manage a restaurant. That's what she does, she teaches business classes at the university. One of which, a non-credit course, Jamie attends religiously.
Not that his brother and sister know that. No. Jamie Donovan has long since given up hoping either of them will take him seriously about anything he does or any plans he has for their brewery. Not that he blames them, really. His past hasn't been exactly problem-free. Still, he's grown up more than they will ever give him credit for, especially his brother.
Maybe that's why Olivia seems like such a breath of fresh air to Jamie. She's all kinds of sexy and sophisticated, and at a few years older than Jamie, she's got an air of maturity that he finds very appealing. And she takes his dream for expanding the brewery seriously. Takes him seriously.
Teaching her to have fun serves them both, because being with her makes him happy in a way he's never felt before. Problem is, on a personal level, she's not looking for anything beyond the fun they're having, and for the first time in Jamie's life, he is.
I have to admit, I wasn't a fan of the characters in Good Girls Don't. I couldn't stand Tessa and felt only slightly more charitable towards Jaime than his brother Eric did. Despite Dahl's unquestionable writing accumen, that book didn't work for me because of it. And for the record, you could've heard the emotional whiplash I was getting as I read this book. I loved it. Not only did I love it, but I gained a whole new level of respect for Dahl. I've admired several of her books as the light, sexy reads they are, but she really struck a chord with me in this one, a chord much deeper than I was anticipating.
Parts of this book were gut wrenching. The confrontations between Jaime and Eric just killed me, and Jaime's insecurities because of his guilt and his helplessness over the brewery were written with such poignant realism that it grabbed me by the throat and squeezed. For all the surrounding lightness and fun of the romance, there was a plethora of significant and painful issues that touched me deeply.
And okay, as much as I loathed Eric for his...well...Eric-ness, I can't help but think back to how I felt about Jamie after the first book. Given the lack of info Eric has, I can sorta understand his feelings. I still think he was a jackass, and out of line more than once, but I understood his motives. This is one deeply wounded family still carrying a tremendous burden over the death of their parents. It fractured them on a fundamental level and Dahl has proven brilliant in the deft portrayal of the many faces of grief.
But lest I give the impression that this book was all weighty, emotional issues, let me assure you - most of it was just flat out fabulous, flirty, sexy romance. Olivia and Jaime were three dimensional and very believable, and their chemistry was wonderful. Part of that chemistry was built around each individual character's quirks and peccadilloes, so it all felt very organic and natural, realistic and believable. Their relationship maintained a unique blend of innocent fun and seductive intensity that both charmed and thrilled me.
I absolutely fell in love with Jaime. He was such a great character. Sexy, sure, charming, absolutely, but his quirks and insecurities added depth and made him three dimensional. It gave him an often nebulous sense of genuine human appeal I've often felt lacking in the characters of lighter-themed modern romance. He was mature, which was a pleasant surprise, and intelligent, and he had an open, honest nature that I liked and admired. I found him thoroughly entertaining and endearing.
I also liked Olivia very much, even though her behavior was suspect in a couple of places. She, too, was a character to whom I could relate. Olivia's latent insecurities and the scars she bears from her past define her character but didn't limit her ability to reach for happiness. Just her willingness to trust that it would last. I got that. I understood her, and more, I respected how she behaved late in the book following the ubiquitous relationship conflict between her and Jaime. I do think she got off a little easy for all she said to the man, some of which was pretty harsh, but that is literally the only niggle of the entire book for me.
I'm still a little stunned by the complete about-face I felt between the first book and the second, but I'm going to try not to dwell. I'm just going to savor the read, content in my respect for Dahl and my appreciation for her touching, poignant, heart-felt...and yes, fun, flirty, and sexy romance. I can't wait to see what she does for Mr. Uptight himself, Jaime and Tessa's brother Eric.
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