Tessa Hart moved to New York four years ago after a bad break-up. Gabe O'Sullivan gave her a job as a bartender, and has been a good friend who always looks out for her well being ever since. The experience with her ex made Tessa want nothing more than to be completely independent, so that she never has to rely on a man again. She's been attending college to get a degree in finance, but unfortunately, it hasn't been going well. Tessa also just lost her apartment, and isn't sure where she's going to live until Gabe steps in.
Gabe O'Sullivan is the owner of Prime, a bar that has been in his family for generations. He adores Tessa, so when he finds out that she's going to be out on the street soon if she doesn't find a place to live, he doesn't hesitate to offer his guest room. The only problem is that Tessa is attracted to Gabe and suspects that he may feel the same, so she knows it's only a matter of time before them being roommates would turn into something a whole lot more. Tessa doesn't want to ruin their friendship, not to mention, she has no intention of letting a man get in the way of her plans for her future independence, but it seems she may not have a choice.
I had read two books by Kathleen O'Reilly (coincidentally the first two she wrote) late last year, both of which ended up on my keeper shelf, so I was anxious to dive into her backlist. Unfortunately, Shaken and Stirred just didn't grab me in the same way that the other two books had. Chick-lit is not one of my favorite genres, and in my opinion, this story had a very young, hip, chick-lit vibe to it, with a twenty-six-year-old heroine who is struggling to be independent and find her place in the world against the backdrop of the urban jungle. Never having visited New York City, much less lived there, I'm not sure if the apartment buildings that were mentioned are real or not, but the cultural feel of the city was definitely genuine, albeit a bit overwhelming for a now-western girl like me who grew up in a small mid-west town. With the hero and heroine both being bartenders (the hero actually owns the bar) there is a lot lingo involving various alcoholic beverages and such. Neither of these are quite my thing, so at times, I felt a little lost. However, readers who enjoy the club scene and/or the big city would probably enjoy it.
Gabe was a very nice guy, but a somewhat bland hero for me. He has known since he was a kid that he wanted to run the bar that's been in the family for generations, and he is working diligently to restore the establishment to it's original state. He is a great brother, making time for a traditional weekly poker game with his two older siblings, Daniel and Sean. Gabe is also there for Daniel when he's going through a crisis, and in fact, seems to be the type of guy who's probably there for anyone who needs him, especially Tessa. The only problem is she doesn't want to need him. The one thing that gave me pause about Gabe is that he dragged Tessa away from a party where she was so drunk she was hitting on every guy in sight, and dancing on the table, only to make love to her in that condition himself. Granted Tessa seemed to sober up really quickly which was one of many inconsistencies I found in the story. However, it initially made me a little uncomfortable because it seemed out of character for him. Overall, I thought that Gabe was a good hero who could have been a great one if just a little more depth and dimension had been added to his character.
Tessa was a heroine that I had a hard time relating to. Even though she and Gabe had been friends for a long time, she seems to treat him pretty coldly when they first start talking about becoming roommates and even after she moves in with him. I think it might have helped to have more background information on her sooner rather than later. It took a while before I started to understand that she had previously given up her career plans for an ex who had unceremoniously dumped her, leaving her without means to support herself. She was now adamant about being independent and never allowing herself to rely on a guy again which made sense to some extent. Unfortunately, she was so stubborn about it, I thought it made her seem unappreciative of Gabe, and like she didn't really trust him. I wasn't exactly able to comprehend that mentality, because Gabe was always supportive of her seeking a career. He just wanted her to do it while she was comfortably ensconced in his apartment and his life. In general, I thought that Tessa treated Gabe rather badly, expecting him to answer her booty calls while patiently waiting for her to get her life together no matter how long it took. I couldn't have agreed more when Gabe finally told her that he was tired of playing second-fiddle to everything she wanted. I definitely felt like he was there for her much more than the other way around. Tessa finally had an epiphany, but never really apologized for her behavior toward Gabe, and by then Gabe had already decided he couldn't live without her and would wait as long as it took, which made me loose a little respect for him. Overall, I think these two could have been a great couple if they had just communicated better and worked as a team, rather than Tessa keeping Gabe at arms length for the whole story. In spite of all their arguing, they did finally have a happy ending, but it felt like more of an HFN (happy for now) than an HEA (happily ever after). I just wasn't 100% convinced that they could make it for the long haul, but maybe their relationship will be solidified in one of the other books in the series. I can at least hope.;-)
Shaken and Stirred wasn't a bad book, but there were times when it felt like something had been edited out and/or moved around without checking for continuity errors. As I mentioned above, I found several inconsistencies in the story and a few things that just didn't quite make sense. (eg. In one scene, Tessa and Gabe argue about her moving in with him. She never does acquiesce, but in the next scene, it's a done deal. Or, in one of their later love scenes, Tessa muses that they haven't made love in a bed before, but there were definite implications early in the story that they had.) Other times I found myself with all sorts of questions, such as why Tessa chose to move to New York in the first place, how she and Gabe met and how she came to work in his bar, why she lost her apartment, etc. There were just lots of little details missing that kept the story from flowing well for me. I'm still not entirely sure if it was weaknesses in the writing or the editing that was to blame for these things. There were a couple of other things that I thought could have been better too. While I did like that Gabe and Tessa had been friends for a few years, I wished that their friendship had been explored in a little more depth. As written, the first love scene seemed to come from out of nowhere with minimal emotional connection and sexual tension leading up to it. Also, the love scenes in general were decent, but not quite as detailed and steamy as I would expect from a Blaze novel. Aside from a couple of titillating things, such as mention of a vibrator and the couple making love in a deserted movie theater (ie. semi-public place), which perhaps very mildly bordered on erotic, these scenes, in my opinion, weren't any hotter than other typical mainstream romances.
Shaken and Stirred is the first book in the Those Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy, with each book featuring one of the sexy O'Sullivan brothers, co-owners of the bar, Prime, as the hero. Readers are given a good introduction to Gabe's siblings, Daniel and Sean. I developed an immediate liking for Daniel, an accountant and widower who lost his wife on 9/11. He is the most serious and brooding of the three, making me interested in reading his book, Sex Straight Up. The jury is still out on lawyer, playboy, Sean, who will literally sleep with anything in a skirt. His "man-slut" ways didn't exactly endear him to me in this book, but I'm willing to give him a chance to charm me in his own book, Nightcap. Shaken and Stirred may not have been a stellar read, but I would characterize it as worthwhile. While not really up to the standard I had come to expect from Kathleen O'Reilly after reading her first two novels, it wasn't a chore to finish either. In spite of some weaknesses in this volume, I do plan to continue the trilogy and hope that the next two are a little tighter in plot and have more likable heroines.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook