Someone at City Hall seems to have it in for Prime, the O'Sullivan's bar that has been in the family for generations. After two years of holdups on building permits to expand the bar to its original size, now suddenly half the offices in the New York city government have undeservedly cited them for violations. Attorney, Sean O'Sullivan, isn't about to let them get away with it when he and his brothers have done nothing wrong. He's going to take his complaint straight to the lovely deputy mayor.
Cleo Hollings carries the weight of responsibility on her shoulders for not only the city but a sick mother as well. When Sean walks into her office demanding that she do something about the citations against his family's bar, Cleo doesn't need one more thing on her plate. She can't deny that Sean is sinfully sexy though, and she knows he's just the kind of guy who would be willing to end her sexual drought without expecting anything in return. Cleo doesn't have time for a real love affair, much less a relationship, so what on earth is she to do when the man she thought would never make a commitment says he wants her for keeps?
The entire Those Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy got off to a weak start for me, and I'm sorry to say that it never recovered. In my opinion, Nightcap suffered from some of the same issues that the other two books in the series did. It focused a bit too much on the hero and heroine's professions complete with political and legal jargon that I believe was sometimes meant as light banter and other times as some sort of explanation of events, but in neither case did it do anything for me except put me to sleep. There was also a lot of repetition in the writing style as well, and I couldn't help feeling that if both of these things had been pared down there would have been more space in the word count for relationship and character development. Many of the authors sentences are very simplistically rendered, lacking details, while others are rambling, run-on sentences which interrupted the flow of the story. There were even a couple of places where a character's name changed, and the excerpt in the front of the book was nowhere to be found in the actual story. Overall, I thought that the book was rather poorly edited, and when I spend a large part of my reading time, correcting mistakes in my head, it tends to diminish my enjoyment of the novel.
Aside from the writing issues, Nightcap had the unfortunate luck of containing none of my favorite romance tropes, but having three of my least-favorite: casual sex as basis for a long-term relationship, love at first sight, and an alpha heroine. I do try to go into reading every book with an open mind and have sometimes been pleasantly surprised by how well I can enjoy a book even with a theme I usually don't care for, but in this case, it did not work for me at all. The author simply did not give enough meaningful introspection for me to understand why Sean and Cleo fell for one another or were even attracted to each other beyond the physical. I felt like she was telling nearly the entire story rather than showing the supposedly deep emotions these two felt for each other. Both characters are essentially married to their jobs and families and start off quite literally wanting nothing more than to scratch an itch, but within a matter of days Sean knows that Cleo is the one for him. Cleo follows along in pretty short order, not only with her declarations of love, but also with a complete change in attitude from her "I am an island" stance at the beginning which totally lacked credibility for me. In my opinion, Cleo was probably the worst of the pair, but both characters are pretty emotionally aloof for most of the book. Except for a couple of scenes, I felt no real connection between them at all, which made it almost impossible to buy the idea of an HEA.
As I mentioned before, Cleo was really not my kind of heroine. She is a hard-nosed alpha female politician with an abrasive personality who turned me off right from the start when she only seemed to want Sean for a quick fling to satisfy her sexual urges. I understood that between her demanding job as deputy mayor and caring for her ailing mother, she had limited time for dating, but I could barely believe that she thought even foreplay was a waste of time and had herself trained to orgasm in two minutes flat. I'm afraid that's just a little too OCD for my taste. I wanted to have sympathy for Cleo because of her mother's illness and her ex leaving her because of that complication in her life, but it just never gelled for me in the way I hoped. I did admire her on some level for wanting the best care possible for her mom and also for wanting to spend as much time with her as she could before it was too late, but was frustrated by how demanding she was of her mom's caregivers almost to the point of being completely unreasonable. Having been in a similar position myself, I couldn't help but feel that if she had lightened up a bit, rather than running herself into the ground and always having to be in control, that she could have relaxed and simply enjoyed life and the time she had left with her mother more.
Sean, for his part, had not really caught my fancy in the two previous books of the series, but I was willing to give him a chance. I've seen authors redeem playboy heroes by making them irresistibly charming or by giving them a good reason for their behavior such as low self-esteem. Sean certainly had no lack of confidence, but he also didn't start to work any real magic until quite a ways into the story when he threw a "party" for Cleo and her mom just to show how much he cared. There was also a little rabbit trail about him tricking a girl in college into going out with him and then taking her someplace where she got an "ugly" award. Even though he felt bad about it, the incident was so callous, it made me deduct points from my opinion of him. Quite frankly, I don't even know what the purpose of that little side-plot was anyway. In my opinion, it didn't really add anything to story but detracted instead. I was also annoyed with Sean for investigating Cleo mere days after they met, when she refused to tell him why she couldn't go out with him in the evenings. In my opinion, if he truly loved her, he would have gently tried to get the truth out of her and trust her enough to wait for her to tell him, and if he was really concerned that she might be lying about being married, he shouldn't have been involved with her in the first place.
As readers can probably tell by now, I was pretty disappointed in this book. The only memorable scene besides the "party" was a steamy love scene involving crème brule. Otherwise, I thought the sex was still pretty light for a Blaze. There were also a couple of long-term series story arcs for which I had been eagerly awaiting the resolution. One was the reason someone at City Hall seemed to have it in for Prime, which I felt was resolved too easily and with little fanfare. The other was the relationship of Gabe and Tessa from the first book, Shaken and Stirred. While things did eventually work out for them, it was too little too late for me, because Tessa was still fighting Gabe's marriage proposals in this book which didn't do anything to further convince me of a true HEA for them. In addition to Gabe and Tessa, Daniel and Catherine (Sex, Straight Up) also appeared. The author did include a brief epilogue for the entire family, but it was little more than a recitation of what happened to the couples and their offspring many years into the future. Nightcap is the third book in the Those Sexy O'Sullivans trilogy. It is preceded by Shaken and Stirred and Sex, Straight Up. After being blown away by Kathleen O'Reilly's first two books, I can't begin to express what a let-down this trilogy has been. I'm sad to say that Ms. O'Reilly has gone from favorite author status for me to being placed on the back burner for the time being. Since I had started collecting her backlist and now have several of her books on my TBR pile, I'll likely give her another chance to wow me again sometime in the future, but for now, I'm definitely ready for a break from her writing.
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