Daniel O'Sullivan lost his beloved wife on 9/11, and to deal with the grief, he poured himself into his work as an accountant. He hasn't been in a relationship or even casually dated another woman for the past seven years. When one of his brothers talks him into spending a weekend at a time-share in the Hamptons with a bunch of his colleagues, Daniel reluctantly agrees, but his first day there, he is miserable and just wants to get away from the wild partying. He decides to "hide out" on his neighbor's beach hoping for some peace and quiet.
Catherine Montefiore is an art appraiser and amateur artist who is spending the weekend at her grandfather's beach house. She can't believe her eyes when she spots the gorgeous Adonis who just took up residence on her stretch of beach, but immediately sets about watching him from afar and covertly sketching him. When he returns the next day, Catherine can't help striking up a conversation with him and discovers that she understands his need for solitude. She offers to let him stay at her house instead which leads to an unforgettable weekend of passion. Even though she wishes things could continue between them, it is obvious that Daniel is emotionally unavailable, and Catherine has resigned herself to it being just a fling. However, when her grandfather's auction house is cited for price fixing, and Daniel is on the accounting team called in to investigate, the couple find themselves unexpectedly thrown together again, and this time, fate has other ideas about how things will end for them.....if they can only open up their hearts.
Even though the first book in Kathleen O'Reilly's Those Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy was just OK for me, I was looking forward to trying the next book, Sex, Straight Up, mainly because I thought the concept of a hero who had lost his wife on 9/11 was a very unique one that would probably make a great story. Unfortunately, it turned out to be even more of a yawn than the first one which was extremely disappointing to me, as I've liked some of Ms. O'Reilly's other work very much in the past. In my opinion, she spent too much time on the details of the hero and heroine's professions, that of accountant and art appraiser respectively, which are rather snooze-worthy jobs to begin with. She also had a tendency to meander off onto various little rabbit trails that didn't really directly impact the couple's relationship. All of this felt like a whole lot of filler when I thought she should have been building their connection and developing their emotions on a much deeper level. Instead it seemed the hero and heroine were just wandering around from scene to scene with very little purpose or direction except trying to clear the heroine's grandfather of any implication in a price fixing scheme. That part of the story resolved itself a little too quickly and easily as well with Daniel figuring out who really was responsible while in the midst of a drunken stupor and the "bad guy" being the one person who logically should have been able to cover his tracks, all of which lacked credibility.
I really felt like both Daniel and Catherine had great potential as interesting and likable characters, but just never lived up to the inherent possibilities. I would normally love a quiet, brooding hero who is mourning a lost love, and I did adore Daniel for being so devoted to his wife, so much so that he had remained celibate for the seven years since her death. When we first meet Catherine, she seems like a very nice person too. Her artist's eye instantly recognizes the loneliness in Daniel, and being a fellow introvert, she also understands his social awkwardness and need to be alone. There seems to be some underlying hurt in her life as well that came from her desire to be an artist, but at the same time, feeling she could never quite live up to her grandfather's exacting standards either in art or business. Unfortunately, this is as far as these two characters were developed, and I never felt like they blossomed through these adversities in the way they should have. Everything simply stayed on a superficial level with them which made it very difficult to relate.
Being an introvert myself, I typically love introverted characters, but Daniel and Catherine just seem to lack basic communication skills. Generally, they only talk to each other in as few words as possible and never about the really difficult stuff which made them seem very closed off and emotionally distant from one another for the entire book. I got very frustrated with both of them, because Daniel just went around pining for his wife and feeling like he's cheating on her without ever explaining his feelings and reasons to Catherine. For her part, Catherine knew the score on Daniel still being attached to his first wife, but then got kind of snippy, refusing to share personal stuff about herself because Daniel wouldn't either. Then on the rare occasions that he did try to open up a little, she usually cut him off and wouldn't listen because she's afraid of what she'll hear. This couple were such poor communicators, I just never felt a true emotional connection either between themselves or with me as the reader, and consequently had a very difficult time investing myself in what the outcome would be for them. I've read other books with a widow/widower character who was pining for a lost spouse that were done so much better. I felt like what was truly missing here was a willingness on Daniel's part to express himself and an equal willingness from Catherine to be understanding of his feelings, as well as a strong differentiation of their relationship being something new, unique, and different from what he had in the past, but every bit as fulfilling. Instead, all I felt from the pair was pure lust but never a true love connection.
Considering that this was a Blaze novel, I was at least expecting some hot love scenes to liven things up, but even that expectation was dashed. Daniel and Catherine do get it on a number of times, but surprisingly some of the scenes are closed-door, others are barely there (without any foreplay and over in a mere paragraph or two), and the ones that are a little more detailed were still not anywhere near as vivid and passionate as I would have anticipated from a book of this type. In fact, I think it was perhaps the tamest Blaze I've read to date. Again, I thought there was some definite lost potential here, because Catherine is an artist who enjoys sketching nudes, but usually relies on paintings and sculptures instead of real models. She did convince Daniel to model naked for her a couple of times, but instead of it being the exquisitely sensual experience it could have been, the scenario was initially rather academic and then led to one of those barely there love scenes which was quite frustrating. It wasn't just the love scenes that were dull either. A large part of the prose was rendered very simplistically in a passive voice with too much repetition for my taste, while much of the dialog was stilted. The whole story was simply lackluster with no zing or excitement to really pull me in and keep me reading. If the book had been any longer than it was, I probably would have had to lay it aside for something else. Even though Sex, Straight Up didn't catch my fancy, I still plan to finish the trilogy for the sake of completeness, and because I already have the third book on my TBR pile and need it for a reading challenge in which I'm participating. I just won't be expecting much from the upcoming book, based on my experience with the first two and the fact that the soon-to-be hero hasn't particularly endeared himself to me yet in those stories either. Sex, Straight Up is the second book in the Those Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy. It is preceded by Shaken and Stirred and followed by Nightcap.
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