Noah Harper is a successful businessman who runs his family's upscale restaurant, but he works for his grandmother, Agatha, who is a difficult and manipulative woman. Noah is an illegitimate grandchild, and Agatha only begrudgingly took him in, when his father died, leaving her without an heir. Agatha schemed to arrange a marriage between Noah and Kara, a local socialite and daughter of family friends. Noah thought that they could make it work, but he and Kara were never really in love with one another. When Noah finds Kara in bed with another man just one month before the wedding, he is actually relieved, but when Noah agrees to save Kara's reputation by not telling their families about her lover, he ends up taking the brunt of his grandmother's ire, getting himself disowned.
Based on the synopsis and other reviews of Too Much Temptation, I thought that it was likely I would thoroughly enjoy it. Ultimately though, it did not fully engage my attention, and I had a difficult time becoming emotionally involved with the characters. I think this was due to a minimalistic plotline and inconsistent, underdeveloped characters. Nearly all of the characters changed their minds and/or their basic characterizations so frequently that I felt like I was watching a tennis match. For example: Grace begins the story content to have a just-sex relationship with Noah, then yearns for more, and then says she's content with just sex again; Noah seems to despise his grandmother, and then he says he loves her and seems to admire her; the grandmother, Agatha, seems to be a menacing shrew and then she is an amusing old lady. This type of back-and-forth was happening with all of the characters and in multiple ways. There were just so many instantaneous changes going on, I never felt like I truly got to know any of the characters. There were no absolutes in this story, which left me feeling that there was no stability and nothing to grasp onto to help me fully understand anyone's motives. I also was never able to become fully immersed in Grace and Noah's love for each other. They had known each other for years, so I was not put off by their sudden intimate relationship. However, I just didn't feel that the author gave me enough background information on their previous acquaintance or developed them and their relationship sufficiently throughout the story, to make their love believable to me. The author also frequently changes point-of-view, not only between the protagonists, but also the secondary characters, and sometimes these transitions were not very smooth, in my opinion. There were also many times that I thought the author's word choice could have been much better, as there were just certain words or phrases that jolted me out of the story because they simply didn't seem to fit. Unfortunately, I felt that the narrative just didn't have the polished flow of many others I have read.
I can't really say that I liked or disliked, Noah and Grace, the hero and heroine. I commend the author for writing a fuller-figured heroine and a gorgeous hero who loved her just the way she was. However, Grace's constant put-downs of herself over her weight became a bit tedious. I understood her self-consciousness without her saying that she was fat every other page. She was also one of those virgins who turns into an instant sex kitten which is always a little hard for me to swallow, and also goes back to the inconsistencies I mentioned earlier. In my opinion, Grace's best trait was her loyalty to those she cared about, and I thought that her protectiveness toward Noah was sweet and admirable. Ultimately though, I just never felt like I truly knew who she was, as very little background information was given on her. Noah had an angst-ridden past which is a characteristic I usually love in a hero, but in this case I felt like it really didn't have any bite. It was as though the author rattled off a list of facts about his life, but never really told me how he felt. It is extremely frustrating for me as a reader to not be able to get inside a character's head (especially a main character), and understand what they are thinking, how they are feeling, and what makes them tick. I think Noah's best trait though was his willingness to accept Grace for who she was and not expect her to change in any way, physically or otherwise.
Several of the secondary characters actually played fairly significant roles in this story owing to the author giving them their own point-of-view scenes. I liked Noah's brother, Ben, and thought that he was quite possibly the best character in the book. He was very down-to-earth and was probably the most consistent and likable character, in my opinion. I thought that Noah's grandmother, Agatha, came off as being completely shallow and clueless, in addition to being throughly manipulative. I had a hard time liking her even when she made a turn-around at the end, and started expressing herself a little better. Even then, I still felt like she was trying to be the master, in control of everything. I think that perhaps this and a few other parts of the story were meant to be humorous, but even though I tend to have a pretty good sense of humor, it was for the most part lost on me. Noah's ex-fiancée, Kara was another character who was simply too shallow for me to really care about. I guess I tend to be a tad jealous too, and didn't really appreciate her being such a large part of the story. I know that she and Noah never really loved each other, but they had shared intimacies, so it just seemed strange to me, for her to be in the spotlight so frequently. In addition, several people kept saying how nice she was and even Grace felt sorry for her, but I don't consider a woman who would cheat on her fiancée to be a particularly nice person, even if the cheating led to a positive outcome for all involved. She also was just too weak and whiny for my taste, refusing to stand up for herself. All in all, I really think the story would have been better if more time had been devoted to developing the protagonists and less time had been spent on the supporting players, who I felt, didn't really add much to the story anyway.
Even though Too Much Temptation, in my opinion, had many weaknesses, there were a few things to like about it, aside from those mentioned earlier. There were a couple of scenes that actually had me feeling like cheering, one in which Ben puts Agatha in her place and another in which Noah puts Kara in her place, but they were far too short-lived. Also, the love scenes are very hot, steamy and creative, pushing the envelope quite a bit without fully crossing over into erotica, so if this is something that readers enjoy, then Too Much Temptation should be a worthwhile read. While I did like these scenes, I thought that they would have been so much better and more thoroughly romantic if that all-important emotional connection had been made. Too Much Temptation is the first book in The Brava Brothers series, followed by Never Too Much, which features Ben as the hero, and The Christmas Present, a short story from the anthology I'm Your Santa. This was my first book by Lori Foster, and although she didn't wow me this time around, I liked Ben well enough that I will probably read his story at some point and will keep an open mind about trying her other works in the future.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook